I am currently reading “Mother Teresa of Calcutta; A Personal Portrait” by Leo Maasburg. It’s an easy read and I feel like I am sitting in a room with my uncle who is telling us stories about the good old days. It’s a wonderful glimpse into the life of the now-saint, and how she loved her way through the smallest of daily tasks to the biggest of worldly challenges, all told from a priest who spent many years traveling about the world with her and sharing nuggets of her wisdom and love for Christ.
Despite its easy, conversational style and Fr. Maasburg’s (at times) humorous glimpse on this heroic woman’s life, it is difficult to summarize because of the personal magnitude felt in each story. Searching through the chapter titles for my favorite story, I am reminded that the reason I am so attracted to the saint who served the “poorest of the poor”, is for the simplicity and charity of her message. The titles of the chapters explain so much of her spirituality:
“Tell Them About Jesus!”, “The Poor Are Wonderful People“, and “A Voice for the Voiceless” are just a few of the chapters that capture the spirit of the tiny but mighty Albanian nun from Macedonia. She might have been small in stature, but she made a powerful impact everywhere she went. From sweetly smiling away threats of communist leaders, and handing out Miraculous medals amidst heavily armed guards, she could also be a bit slippery when the situation called for it. She found a way to bring a friend past guards at the Vatican, and managed to build houses to serve the dying and poor in countries where restrictions and political tensions ran high. The Soviet Union and a snow storm couldn’t stop Mother Teresa from completing her mission on Christmas Day in 1988, all while sporting her signature white and blue Sari and some sandals.
Best of all, are the stories that embrace her love for Jesus that was at the core of every work of charity enacted by St. Teresa of Calcutta. She never let anyone forget why she cared for the physically (and spiritually) poorest of the poor in the world; it was all for Christ. She never lost a moment to engage someone to partake in her ministry, no matter what their social status or title might have been, and she never failed to mention God’s love for each soul in every circumstance.
I loved the catch phrase she used to describe the gospel to children, “You-Did-It-To-Me”, she would say as she counted out the words on five little fingers of a child. Matthew 25:40 reads “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Jesus reminds us that when we act out of love for each other, we thereby serve him in doing so. Each time we give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and as Mother Teresa did, comfort the dying, we are doing so to Jesus himself.
Often during the day, in plain sight, are your hands. They are typing on the computer in front of you, answering a text on your phone, cutting the carrots on the counter, or stirring the spoon in your coffee. We have our hands before us on the wheel as we drive, when we wash them, pet our dog, or hug our child. It wouldn’t be too complicated to use this as a reminder throughout our day to be more like this little saint who made such a big difference in this world. Whether Hindu, Muslim, or Christian, child, aged, or youth, woman or man, she used her hands to pray to Jesus, hold the hands of someone lonely, clean the ulcers of a leper, or moisten the lips of the parched. She looked into the eyes of others and saw the eyes of Christ. The next time you look at your hands, think “You Did It To Me”, and ask God where He is before you that day. Who is it we can use Mother Teresa’s mini-gospel to serve next? Can you ask God to help you see the eyes of Christ in those who annoy you or require the most from you? Certainly the situations that require the greatest need for love require of us the greatest amounts of our own charity. Can you look at your fingers and ask if you can serve that person for love of Christ? Can you imagine the changes around your world if you do?