Mother Teresa on Joy
The passages below are from the book “Mother Teresa—Messenger of God’s Love” by E.Le Joly.
Joy is a characteristic mark of the Kingdom of God. Starting with the coming of Jesus Christ; who brings joy into the world. At Bethlehem the angel announces to the shepherds a great joy for the whole people.
Christ proclaims in the Sermon on the Mount “Happy are you..?’ (Matthew 5:2-12).
At the Last Supper, Jesus’ bequest to his intimate is “that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
The Risen Christ shares his peace and his joy with his disciples ‘who were happy to see the Lord.”
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit brings “a plenitude of joys”, as a choice gift of the Spirit who is divine fulfilment, happiness, supreme bliss.
St Paul time and again advises joy.
The first generations of Christians were conspicuous by their love and their happiness. St Athanasius says of them, “The saints rejoiced all their lives long, like men at a feast” (Easter Letter 14:1).
Each time we witness a return to the original spirit of the Gospel, to pure, unadulterated, courageous following of Jesus in poverty, humility, simplicity and trust, happiness and the joy of the children of God are seen to come to life again.
Such was the case with Francis of Assisi and his followers, exuding happiness, shining examples of joy, laughter and good cheer.
Again today, the Missionaries of Charity exemplify cheerfulness and happiness. That was Mother’s stroke of genius: to go back to the simplicity of the Gospel and inherit the happiness of the children of God. Mother writes for a calendar for the year 1981, featuring her and the Missionaries of Charity: “Let us all keep the joy of loving God in our hearts, and share this joy of loving one another as he loves each one of us. God bless you.”
Mother sings a hymn to joy:
“Joy is prayer
Joy is strength
Joy is love
Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
“God loves a cheerful giver.”
“The best way to show our gratitude to God and the people is to accept everything with joy.”
“Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ.”
“We all long for Heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in Heaven with him right now to be happy with him at this very moment.
But being happy with him now means:
loving as he loves
helping as he helps;
giving as he gives
serving as he serves
rescuing as he rescues
being with him 24 hours a day
touching him in his distressing disguise in the poor and suffering.”
“A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. It is the gift of the Spirit, a share in the joy of Jesus, living in the soul.”
The Sisters are told, “What will strike people and invite some to embrace the religious life ‘is the witness of our own lives, the spirit in which we react to our divine calling, the completeness of our dedication, the generosity and cheerfulness of our service to God, the love we have for one another, and the apostolic zeal with which we witness to Christ’s love for the poorest of the poor’.“
Actions impress more than words. “What you are makes so much noise I cannot hear what you say,” as Walt Whitman forcibly put it. Some girls decided to join the Missionaries of Charity when they saw their happiness and cheerfulness in God’s service. A young lady says:
“I came to Calcutta as a tourist to work for Mother Teresa’s poor for a few months. When I saw the happiness and joy of the Sisters doing this work, I felt attracted to this kind of life. In my country I had never thought of becoming a nun. Those I had met looked gloomy: they were plagued with problems, worries, anxieties. They thought something had gone wrong with the world, and they were not able to correct it.
“But here the Sisters have no problems, no anxieties. They allow God to lead them. This gives them happiness and joy. So I wrote to my parents to inform that I had decided to join the Missionaries of Charity. Now I am a postulant.”
Mother tells her young religious in training, “Smiling Novices, I can hear the music of your laughter of joy. Learn my children to be holy, for true holiness consists in doing God’s will with a smile.” And the Constitutions stipulate, “A spirit of joy should permeate the daily life of the novitiate and the novices should be encouraged to regard the communicating of this joy as a necessary part of their apostolate” (No. 203).
Pope Paul VI in a written message for the Sisters which he gave to Mother during a private audience, ends by saying, “Yes, to belong to Christ Jesus is a great gift of God’s love. And may the world always see this love in your SMILE.”
Sharing in the cross of the Lord gives us the right to share also in the joy of the resurrection. And so the joy of the Risen Christ forms the other half of the diptych depicting the redeeming Jesus, which stands on the high altar of Mother’s mind. It portrays in vivid colours the love of the Son who died for our sins, and the love of the Father who having sent us his Son Jesus raised him from the dead and gave him “a glory such as belongs to the only-begotten Son.” The Risen Christ remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament, the Suffering Christ will be with us in the poor till the end of the world.
A choice inspiration of the Holy Spirit prompted the insertion of this joy, this cheerfulness as a characteristic of the Institute. Whatever sorrow, suffering, sadness the Sisters have experienced or witnessed during the day, they should go to sleep sharing the joy of the Risen Christ.
Mother says, “A joyful Sister is like:
the sunshine of God’s love,
the Hope of eternal happiness,
the Flame of burning love.”