Take care of the family first by Mother Teresa
St Paul challenges all Christians and warns us that, “If any do not take care . . . especially the members of their own family, they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8 TEV) But, men often think that so long as they work and bring food to their family; they have fulfilled their responsibility to their family. Is bring food to the table all that is required of men? Is that all we are required to fulfill? Do we spend so much time on our work that we do not have time for our family? If we men don’t spend time with our family, are we then taking care of our family? What does taking care of the family mean? How do men take care of their family?
Many men have to reflect and ask themselves: How much time do we set aside to talk to our wife and children? Do we find the time to counsel our children? What about our responsibility to find the time to guide and discipline them? What about time to play with them? Do we make time to celebrate their successes? No time to enjoy them? No time to help out in the family chores? How often have we missed out watching them participate in plays, concerts or football? Are we there to encourage them? Are we available to cheer them on? Do we give them a listening ear? Do we hear what their hurts are?
Is St Paul telling all Christians that if they do not take care of all the needs of their own family, then they have denied Christ and are worse than an unbeliever? Just taking care of the physical needs is not good enough; they have to take care of the psychological, emotional, relational and spiritual needs as well.
Unfortunately, in our stressful modern life, many families are plagued by hurt, harmful words, resentment, rage, disappointment, despair, discord, hatred, etc. The challenge for all of us is to rise above these negative feelings. Perhaps, we need to change our mind-set and heart-set. We may have to learn to be:
1. Never too proud to say, “I am sorry.”
2. Never stop asking, “Can you please forgive me?”
3. Always pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and forgive me, a sinner.
4. Do not doubt Jesus when He says, “Your sins are forgiven.” As a forgiven person, learn to forgive.
5. So, be ready to forgive, even when we don’t feel like forgiving. Keep saying quietly to ourselves, “In the name of Jesus, I have forgiven the person.”
Can we do it? Not easy but always possible with the help of the Holy Spirit in us. The challenge calls for us to face up to the problem, never running away from the problem. To start to love more, we have to ask Jesus to help us to forgive more and to turn the other cheek more in our homes.
All the passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “One Heart Full of Love,” edited by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado
1. In your family, if it is your vocation to have a family, love one another as husband and wife and have a family. The service you perform and the work you accomplish are your love for God put into practice. (43)
2. The work that each one of you carries out in your families for those you love is an expression of your love for God. Love starts at home. For your love to be real, it cannot waver at home. (91)
3. Bring love into your homes. If you truly love God, start loving your son or your daughter and your spouse. And the elderly, where are they? In nursing homes! Why are they not with you? And where is the retarded child? In an institution! Why is he not with you? That child, young mothers and fathers, is a gift from God. (45)
4. We know that poverty means, first of all, to be hungry for bread, to need clothing, and not have home. But there is a far greater kind of poverty. It means being unwanted, unloved, and neglected. It means having no one to call your own.
We may experience this kind of poverty even in our own homes. Often it is difficult for us to smile, even at our children, our husband, or our wife. Our young boys and girls then sense the lack of affection around them. Here is where love really starts. Love should start at home. We must give Jesus absolute reign in our homes. Once we have Jesus with us, then we can give Him to others. (71-72)
5. Whatever our religion, we know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive before anything else. (113)
6. If we admit that we are sinners and we need forgiveness, then it will be very easy for us to forgive others. But if I don’t admit this, it will be very hard for me to say, “I forgive you” no matter who comes to me. (121)
7. Does each of you, before anything else, know the poor in your homes? Are you aware that in your own family, in your own living situation, there may be someone who is very lonely, who feels unloved or hurt? Are you aware of this? Maybe that lonely or hurt one is your own husband, your wife or your child, who is lonely at home, in the same home where you live. Are you aware of that? (4)
8. Before anything else look for the poor in your homes and on the street where you live. There are lonely people around you in hospitals and psychiatric wards. There are so many people that are homeless. (11)
9. In your homes you have a starving Christ, a naked Christ, a homeless Christ. Are you capable of recognising Him in your own homes? Do you realise that He is right there in your midst?
How many times does a child run away from home because there is no one there to love him! How often it is that the elderly in the family are not at home. Instead, they are in nursing homes because no one has time for them. The poor are right in your own homes. Are you aware of that? (21)
10. First of all, we must share with those in our homes because love starts at home. From there, charity extends to our neighbours who are right next door, then to those who live on the same street, and from there to those in the city where we live. (23)
11. We should gather to give thanks to God for what He has done in us, with us, and through us. We thank Him for having used you and us to be His love and mercy. God is still love, and He still loves the world. We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And God so loves the world today that He gives you and me to love the world, so that we may be His love and His mercy. What a beautiful thought and conviction for us, that we can be that love and mercy right in our homes, above all. Then we can be that love and mercy for our next door neighbours and for our neighbours down the street.
But do we know our neighbours? Do we know the poor in our neighbourhood? It’s easier for us to talk and talk about the poor in far away places. We are often surrounded by the sick and the abandoned. We are often among people who are despised, outcast, and depressed. We have many elderly whom we don’t even know. At times, we don’t even have the time to smile at these people. (90)
12. I believe we must look for holiness, joy, and love in our homes. We must make our home like a second “Nazareth” where Jesus can come and live with us. Holiness is not a luxury, meant for only a few. It is a simple duty for each one of us. Holiness is to take whatever Jesus gives us and to give Jesus whatever He asks of us with a big smile. That is God’s will. In your life, in mine, in the life of each of us, God has made us for bigger things. He has created us to love and to be loved, so that we walk toward our heavenly home. As we carry Jesus in the world, we will be prepared to return eagerly to our Father’s house when the day arrives for us to be called home. (22)
13. This is what I want you to feel and experience. You must be able to understand what I am telling you. I had to experience it before I was able to understand. The same thing happens to each one of you. You have to start by experiencing it firsthand in your own homes. You must make “Nazareths” of your own homes and families. There love, peace, joy, and unity must reign. Then you will see what I have described to you in the faces of your own family and communicate it to those around you. (94)
14. People are hungry for love. We don’t have time to stop and smile at each other. We are all in such a hurry! People are hungry for love. We have received so much.
Pray. Ask for the necessary grace. Pray to be able to understand how much Jesus loved us, so that you can love others. And pray for the sisters, that we won’t spoil God’s work. Pray that we allow Jesus to use each of us as He wishes and wherever He wishes. (12)
15. You need to learn how to give, not to give because you have to give, but because you want to give. I always tell people that I don’t want leftovers. Our poor don’t need your pity. They don’t need your sympathy. They need your love and compassion. (5)
16. These professors came to see me and we were talking about love and kindness. One of them asked me, “Mother, tell us something that we can remember.”
I told them, “Smile at each other. Take some time for each other in your families. Smile.”
Then one of them asked me, “Are you married?” I said, “Yes, and sometimes I find it very difficult to smile at Jesus because He can be so demanding.”
It’s true. But that is where you can see love best. When it is most demanding and you give cheerfully in spite of that, that is love at its best.(88)
17. You need to make an effort to know your poor. It is possible that your people enjoy material security, that they don’t need anything of that sort. But I think that if you look inside your own homes, you may notice how hard it is for you to smile at one another sometimes! And yet smiling is the beginning of love. Let’s be willing to smile at one another. Yes, a smile is the beginning of love. And once we begin to love one another, the desire to do something more naturally follows. (86)
18. I believe that the most important thing is for us to love Jesus, then to love one another—ourselves and the members of our families—and to show our love for the poor. What is important is that we are able to smile at one another in our families. With a generous and cheerful smile, we should be able to accept everything that happens in our families, both the joyful things and the sad things.
I believe that the commitment spouses profess in their marriage vows is important. They accept each other in good times and in bad times. I think that this is something that we should always try to do with a smile. And it really helps if we can then do the same in the homes of the poorest of the poor. (75)
19. It is very important to understand that love has to hurt to be true. It hurt Jesus to love us. It truly hurt Him. And to insure that we would be reminded of His great love, He made Himself the Bread of Life to satisfy our hunger for His love. We hunger for God because we have been created to love. We have been created in His image and likeness. We have been created to love and to be loved. For that reason, He became man to make it possible for us to love as He has loved us.
Jesus became the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the forsaken, and the unwanted in our midst. And He says, “And you did it unto Me.” They are hungry for our love. That is the hunger of our poor. That is the hunger that you and I must meet, because it may even exist in our own homes.
See, here is where love finds its place. Poverty comes into our homes to give us the chance to love. Perhaps in our own families, there is someone who feels lonely, who is sick, or who is overwhelmed with worry. Are we there, open and willing to offer support and affection? Are you, mothers, available to your children? (79)
20. You, too, must try to bring the presence of God to your families, for the family that prays together, stays together. I think that just being together and loving one another brings peace and joy. It strengthens the bond between family members in the home. That is the way to overcome all the evil that is in the world.
There is so much suffering, so much hate, so much sorrow! We can be real pillars in our homes through our prayers and sacrifices. Love begins at home. It isn’t how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do that really counts. That is because our actions are focused on God. It doesn’t matter how much we do, but how much love we put into our actions, for His love is infinite. (83-84)
21. There is in the world today a great hunger for God. Everywhere there is so much sin caused by broken homes! Fathers and mothers don’t have the time to pray together. If the family doesn’t pray together, if the children aren’t united with their parents in prayer, how are they going to stay together? Nazareth was truly Nazareth because Jesus, Mary, and Joseph stayed together. They stayed together precisely because they prayed together. If we really want peace, we don’t need to resort to weapons and bombs. Let’s bring prayer into our lives and into our homes. Let’s bring love and peace into our homes, and we will begin to experience peace on earth. (42)
22. We cannot share unless our lives are full of God’s love and our hearts are pure. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” Unless we are able to see God in our neighbour, it will be very hard for us to love. Since love begins at home, let’s love each other at home. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He loved until it hurt. Jesus’ love is so overwhelming that you and I can love Him and find life. We can love Jesus in the hungry, the naked, and the destitute who are dying. We can love Him because our prayer gives us the faith we need to be able to love. If you love, you will be willing to serve. And you will find Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. (42-43)
23. There are little things that inevitably happens in our lives and in our homes. Misunderstandings and suffering come to everyone, even in our own congregation. Someone said to me one day, “You never talk to us about problems.” I said that I didn’t need to talk about such things precisely because everyone knows that there are always problems. What I do have to say again and again is that sometimes it seems we aren’t aware of them when we should be. We don’t recognise that a problem exists. This is something that often happens. Let’s focus more on the things we ought to do in serving our husband, our wife, our children, our brothers—rather than on other people’s shortcomings. (55-56)
24. I feel that we too often focus only on the negative aspect of life, on what is bad. If we are more willing to see the good and the beautiful things that surround us, we would be able to transform our families. From there, we would change our next-door neighbours and then others who live in our neighbourhood or city. We would be able to bring peace and love to our world which hungers so much for these things.
I have another conviction that I want to share with you. Love begins at home, and every co-worker should try to make sure that deep family love abides in his or her home. Only when love abides at home can we share it with our next-door neighbour. Then it will show forth and you will be able to say to them, “Yes, love is here.” And then you will be able to share it with everyone around you. (56-57)
25. Know the poorest of the poor among your neighbours, in your neighbourhoods, in your town, in your city, perhaps in your own family. When you know them, that will lead you to love them. And love will impel you to serve them. Only then will you begin to act like Jesus and live out the Gospel. Place yourselves at the service of the poor. Open your hearts to love them. Be living witnesses of God’s mercy. This may lead you to give up your own sons so that they may serve God, who gives preference to the poor. (129-130)
26. Ralph Rolls interviewed Mother Teresa on January 15, 1973 for a program entitled Belief and Life for the BBC.
Q. What should we do when suffering comes to us?
A. Accept it with a smile.
Q. Accept it with a smile?
A. Yes, with a smile, because it is the greatest gift that God gives us.
Q. What? To smile?
A. To smile at God. To have the courage to accept everything that He sends us, and to give to Him what He asks of us with a big smile. (121)
27. Introduce prayer into your families. The family that prays together stays together. . . .the Missionaries of Charity say every day (the St. Francis of Assisi Prayer):
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
Where there is error, truth.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love; for
It is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.