Mother Teresa on Our Respond selected by Brother Angelo Devananda
The following passages are taken from the book, “Contemplative at the Heart of the World,” selected by Brother Angelo Devananda and published in 1985.
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46).
An M.C. (Missionaries of Charity) must be an M.C of joy. By this sign the world will know you are M.C.s.
The spirit of our Society is one of total surrender, loving trust and cheerfulness as lived by Jesus and Mary in the gospel.
1. Total Surrender
Our total surrender to God means to be entirely at the disposal of the Father as Jesus and Mary were. In giving ourselves completely to God, because God has given Himself to us, we are entirely at his disposal,
—to be possessed by Him so that we may possess Him,
—to take whatever He gives and to give whatever He takes with a big smile,
—to be used by Him as it pleases Him without being consulted,
—to offer Him our free will, our reason, our whole life in pure faith, so that He may think His thoughts in our minds, do His work through our hands, and love with our hearts. (57)
2. Total surrender consists in giving ourselves completely to God. Why must we give ourselves fully to God? Because God has given Himself to us. If God, who owes nothing to us, is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves? To give ourselves fully to God is a means of receiving God Himself. I live for God and give up my own self and in this way induce God to live for me. Therefore, to possess God, we must allow Him to possess our souls. How poor we would be if God had not given us the power of giving ourselves to Him! How rich we are now! How easy it is to conquer God! We give ourselves to Gods then God is ours and there can be nothing more ours than God. The money with which God repays our surrender is Himself. (57)
3. Our total surrender will come today by surrendering even our sins so that we will be poor. “Unless you become a child you cannot come to me.” You are too big, too heavy; you cannot be lifted up. We need humility to acknowledge our sin. The knowledge of our sin helps us to rise. I will get up and go to my Father. (58)
4. It must have been so hard to have been scourged, to have been spat upon. “Take it away,” Jesus prayed during his agony. His Father didn’t come to him directly and say, “This is my beloved Son,” but He consoled Him through a creature. Let us pray that we will fill our hearts with Jesus’ surrender, that we will understand total surrender.
We should not be concerned with the instrument God uses to speak to us, whether the pencil writes in blue ink or green, but with what God is saying to us. Let us pray to understand what it means to be at his disposal. (58)
5. God’s tender love for us is great. We receive so much. People give to us so abundantly. Our answer to God for his tremendous love is total surrender…. He can do with us whatever He wants. Once the Cardinal of St Louis asked me to write something for him in his breviary. I wrote, “Let Jesus use you without consulting you.” He wrote back, “You don’t know what YOU have done to me. I examine my conscience every day and ask. ‘Did I allow Jesus to use me without consulting me?” (58)
6. Our vocation is the conviction that “I belong to Him.” Because I belong to Him, He must be free to use me. I must surrender completely. When we look at his cross we understand his love. His head is bent down to kiss us. His hands are extended to embrace us. His heart is wide open to receive us. This is what we have to be in the world today. We, too, must have our head bent down to our people—–to the school where we are teaching or to the sick and dying destitute that we are helping. This is Jesus in his distressing disguise. Whether in the school or in the slum, it is the same Jesus. He said very clearly, “You did it to Me. I was hungry.. . I was naked.. . I was homeless.” Let us not make the mistake of thinking that the hunger is only for a piece of bread. The hunger of today is much greater; it is a hunger for love, to be wanted, to be cared for, to be somebody. (59)
7. There is such a beautiful thing in India—–the red dot on the forehead. The meaning for the Hindu is that his whole thought and attention, everything must be concentrated on God. For the married woman it is the same. The red marking along the part in her hair means that all her thoughts are for her husband. We, too, must be fully for Jesus, giving him that undivided love. (59)
8. Loving Trust
One thing Jesus asks of me: that I lean on Him, that in Him and only in Him I put complete trust; that I surrender myself to Him unreservedly. Even when all goes wrong and I feel as if I am a ship without a compass, I must give myself completely to Him. I must not attempt to control God’s action; I must not count the stages in the journey He would have me make. I must not desire a clear perception of my advance upon the road, must not know precisely where I am upon the way of holiness. I ask Him to make a saint of me, yet I must leave to Him the choice of the saintliness itself and still more the means which lead to it. (59)
9. We need to trust our poor people. The greatest injustice done to our poor is that we fail to trust them, to respect them, to love them. How often we just push and pull. (60)
10. Total surrender involves loving trust. You cannot surrender totally unless you trust lovingly and totally. Jesus trusted his Father because He knew Him, He knew of his love. “My Father and I are one.” “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” “I am not alone, the Father is with me.” “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” Read St. John’s Gospel and see how many times Jesus used the word “Father.” Jesus came to reveal the Father. In the time of the Old Testament, God was known as the God of fear, punishment, and anger. The coming of Jesus reverses this picture completely. God in the New Testament is the God of love, compassion, and mercy. That is why we can trust Him fully—–there is no more fear. This loving trust implies that we know the love of God and that we proclaim this love, compassion, and mercy everywhere we are sent. Today we reveal Him. (60)
11. God will never, never, never let us down if we have faith and put our trust in Him. For the very first time one week we had no rice to give the people. We were feeding four thousand people each day and these were people who simply would not eat unless the Sisters fed them. But we had nothing. Then, about 9:00 AM on Friday, two truckloads full of bread arrived. It was more bread than these people had ever seen in their lives.
The schools had been closed unexpectedly and the bread that would have been used in the schools that day was sent to the Sisters. So, you see, God is thoughtful. He will never let us down if we trust Him, even if He has to play a trick on people and close down the schools. He will always look after us. So we must cleave to Jesus. Our whole life must simply be woven into Jesus. Jesus in the Mass, Jesus in my Sisters, in the poor, at adoration. It is the same Jesus. Just as the wine and the grape are one; just as the branch fits so tightly into the vine—–so we must be completely one with Jesus. (60)
Joy is indeed the fruit of the Holy Spirit and a characteristic mark of the Kingdom of God, for God is Joy.
Christ wanted to share his joy with his apostles ‘That my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Joy is prayer,
—the sign of our generosity, selflessness and close and continual union with God.
Joy is love,
—a joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love, for she gives most who gives with joy, and God loves a cheerful giver.
Joy is a net of love by which we can catch souls,
—a Sister filled with joy preaches without preaching. Joy is a need and a power for us even physically, for it makes us always ready to go about doing good.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. (61)
13. Persuaded of our nothingness and with the blessing of obedience we attempt all things, doubting nothing for with God all things are possible. We will allow the good God to make plans for the future, for yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come, and we have only today to make Him known, loved, and served. Grateful for the thousands of opportunities Jesus gives us to bring hope into a multitude of lives by our concern for the individual sufferer, we will help our troubled world at the brink of despair to discover a new reason to live or to die with a smile of contentment on its lips. (61)
14. We do not allow ourselves to be disheartened by any failure as long as we have done our best, neither do we glory in our success but refer all to God in deepest thankfulness.
With Jesus our Savior, “the Lamb led to the slaughter,” and with our poor we will accept cheerfully and in the spirit of faith all the opportunities He makes especially for us—–those of misunderstanding, of being look down on, of failure, disgrace, blame, lack of virtue, and correction. (61)
15. Like Jesus, who submitted Himself to the common law of labor and the common lot of the poor, we will
—not seek any special privileges or treatment for ourselves, but be happy to be treated as one of the poor, ready to be insulted, ill-treated, refused, blamed falsely, or put to all kinds of inconveniences. We shall not seek to defend ourselves, but leave our defense to the Lord.
—we will not worry about tomorrow but will live the present moment intensely, with complete trust in God. (62)
16. Free means: Joyfully and with eagerness, fearlessly and openly, giving freely what we have freely received without accepting any return in cash or kind, reward or gratitude. (62)
17. Cheerfulness should be one of the main points of our religious life. A cheerful giver is a great giver. Cheerfulness is a sign of a generous and mortified person, who, forgetting all things, even herself, tries to please Cod in all she does for souls. Cheerfulness is often a cloak which hides a life of sacrifice, continual union with God, fervor and generosity. (62)
18. Joy is one of the most essential things in our Society. An MC. must be an MC. of joy. She must radiate that joy to everyone. By this sign the world will know you are M.Cs. Everyone in the world sees you and remarks and speaks out about the M.C.s, not because of what they do but because they are happy to do the work they do and live the life they live. “That My joy may be in you,” says Jesus. What is this joy of Jesus? It is the result of his continual union with God, doing the will of the Father. This joy is the fruit of union with God, of being in the presence of God. Living in the presence of God fills us with joy. God is joy. To bring joy to us, Jesus became man. Mary was the first one to receive Jesus: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt with joy because Mary carried Jesus to him.
In Bethlehem, joy filled everyone: the shepherds, the angels, the Kings, Joseph, and Mary. Joy was also the characteristic mark of the first Christians. During the persecution, people used to look for those who had this joy radiating on their faces. By that joy, they knew who the Christians were and thus they persecuted them. St Paul, whom we are trying to imitate in our zeal, was an apostle of joy. He urged the early Christians to rejoice in the Lord always. Paul’s whole life can be summed up in one sentence, “I belong to Christ.” Nothing can separate me from the Love of Christ, neither suffering nor persecution nor anything. “I live, now it is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.” That is why St. Paul was so full of joy.
Joy is love, the normal result of a heart burning with love. Our lamp will be burning with sacrifices made out of love if we have joy. Then the Bridegroom will say, “Come and possess the Kingdom prepared for you.” It is a joyful Sister who gives most. Everyone loves the one who gives with joy and so does God. Don’t we always turn to someone who will give happily and without grumbling? “Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.” Because we are full of joy, everyone wants to be with us and to receive the light of Christ that we possess. A Sister filled with joy preaches without preaching. Daily, we pray, “Help me to spread your fragrance,” yours, Lord, not mine. Do we realize its meaning? Do we realize our mission of spreading this joy, of radiating this joy daily as we go about our lives? (63)
19. April 1964
Joy is not simply a matter of temperament. In the service of God and souls, it is always hard to be joyful–—all the more reason why we should try to acquire it and make it grow in our hearts.
Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which we catch souls. God loves a cheerful giver. She gives most who gives with joy. If in the work you have difficulties and you accept them with joy, with a big smile—–in this like in any other thing—–they will see your good works and glorify the Father. The best way to show your gratitude is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.
Joy is a need and a power for us, even physically. A Sister who has cultivated a spirit of joy feels less tired and is always ready to go on doing good. Joy is one of the best safeguards against temptations. The devil is a carrier of dust and dirt—–he uses every chance to throw what he has at us. A joyful heart knows how to protect itself from such dirt: Jesus can take full possession of our soul only if it surrenders itself joyfully. St. Teresa was worried about her Sisters only when she saw any of them lose their joy. God is joy. He is love. A Sister filled with joy preaches without preaching. A joyful Sister is like the sunshine of God’s love, the hope of eternal happiness, the flame of burning love.
In our society, a cheerful disposition is one of the main virtues required for a Missionary of Charity. The spirit of our society is total surrender, loving trust, and cheerfulness. That is why the society expects us to accept humiliations readily and with joy; to live the life of poverty with cheerful trust; to imitate the chastity of Mary, the cause of our joy; to offer cheerful obedience from inward joy; to minister to Christ in his distressing disguise with cheerful devotion. (64)
20. Missionaries of Love
We must not be ashamed to love Christ with our emotions. A woman loves her husband with her whole heart. In her autobiography, the little Flower tells about a relative who came to see her. This woman was always talking about her husband about his long hair, his beautiful eyes, and so on. She expressed her love for him so beautifully. The little Flower listened to her and then wrote these words in her diary “I will never allow a woman to love her husband more than I love you, 0 Jesus Christ.”
Jesus was everything to her. She was so attached to Christ. Is it the same for you? Do you love Christ like that? We must love Christ with our emotions. We are all women. Let us all make use of our ability to love. (65)
21. Be one with Him, joined to Him and united to Him so that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from the love of 1 Christ. He belongs to you and you belong to Him. It’s as simple as that. Accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.
Yet, we forget. We can love the leper, the one with the broken and disfigured face, but we forget to love our Sister when she is proud or impatient. We forget that it is only a distressing disguise, that the person is really Jesus. We do not have undivided love for Christ but, instead, we let the devil trick us with the distressing disguise. We must be holy. We must be able to see Jesus in our Sisters and in the poor. (65)
22. When the Little Flower was canonized, no great things were uncovered for her canonization. She was canonized for one thing only. As Pius X said, “She did ordinary things with extraordinary love”–—small things with great love. This is what you and I gave when we gave our word to Jesus. This is our vow. (65)
23. “A Missionary of Charity must be a missionary of love?” A missionary is one who is sent. God sent his Son. Today God sends us. Each one of us is sent by God. Why are we sent? We are sent to be his love among men, to bring his love and compassion to the poorest of the poor. We must not be afraid to love. An M.C. be a missionary of love. Notice the words “must be is not that she should simply try to be. No, she must be a missionary of love. She is sent to be God’s love. (65)
24. Even Almighty God cannot fill what is already full. We must be empty if we want God to fill us with his fullness. Our Lady had to be empty before she could be full of grace. She had to declare that she was the handmaid of the Lord before God could fill her. So also we must be empty of all pride, all jealousy, of all selfishness before God can fill us with his love.
We must be able to give ourselves so completely to God that He must be able to possess us. We must “Give whatever He takes and take whatever He gives.”
How unlike Him we are. How little love, how little compassion, how little forgiveness, how little kindness we have. We are not worthy to be so close to Him—–to enter his heart. For his heart is still open to embrace us. His head is still crowned with thorns, his hands nailed to the cross today. Let us find out “Are the nails mine? That sputum on his face, is it mine? What part of his body, of his mind has suffered because of me?” We should ask, not with anxiety or fear, but with a meek and humble heart. Let us find out what part of his body has wounds inflicted by our sin. Let us not go alone but put our hands in his. He is there to forgive seventy times seven. Our Father loves us. He has called us in a special way, given us a name. We belong to Him with all our misery, our sin, our weakness, our goodness. We are his. (66)
25. Let us not be like the rich young man in the gospel. Jesus saw him and loved him and wanted him, but he had given his heart to something else—–to his riches. He was rich, young and strong. Jesus could not fill him. Instead, be like Zacchaeus. He was a little man—–a small man–—and he knew his smallness. He recognized his smallness and made a very simple decision in order to see Jesus. He climbed a tree because he knew he was small. If he hadn’t opened his heart and responded to Jesus in that simple way, Jesus could not have shown his love, he could not have said, “Come down, Zacchaeus! Come down!” This is the foundation of everything: “Learn of me, that I am meek and humble of heart.” Be small. (66)
26. If my love for my Sisters is okay, then my love for Jesus will be okay. There are not two loves. The deeper my love for Jesus, the deeper that love for my Sisters, the greater the zeal to go to the poor. (67)