Mother Teresa - God's Understanding Love

Mother Teresa finds God's loving presence amid the destitute and dying of the world. And she teaches us the special gift given by the poor to those who reflect God's love.

We need God's special grace to be able to give understanding love to our brothers and sisters who are poor. For they have been created by the same loving hand of God. Though they are dying of hunger or cold or nakedness or disease or loneliness or isolation, still they are our brothers and sisters and that is why we pray, "make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow-men".

We read in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus actually makes himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one. And he says that at death we are going to be judged on just what we have done to the hungry, to the naked, to that man who knocked at our gate, to that child who needed us. What have we seen? We have seen that it was Him. It was He that knocked and He that was dying of loneliness, maybe even in our own family.

It has been said before, "He who serves the poor, serves God." And because of that, it doesn't matter how small the act is, but it matters how much love the act carries in the giving. True love hurts. We know that "God loved the world so much... so much! He loved it so much that He gave His son, Jesus Christ. It was a giving that hurt." For true love is a gift that hurts. And lest we forget that God gives all, we always see among Christians a cross, the sign of His everlasting love. He wants us to love like that.

Again and again and again Jesus brought this up, "Love as I have loved you." It is not possible for us to die on the cross, nor possible for us to do such an extraordinary thing as Jesus. But He said, "Love as I have loved you".

To be able to love like that we need a life of prayer. We must pray, for the practice of prayer leaves our hearts filled with faith. We believe. And we begin to love, and our love turns into service. We all want to love God. Whether we are Christian or not, whether we believe or don't believe, down deep in our hearts He lives. God is. And there is a hunger in our hearts to love God.

How do we love God? Where is God for us to love Him? I will love him in the hungry person. Not only hungry for a piece of bread, but hungry for understanding love. I will love him in the naked person who is not only naked for a piece of cloth, but naked for that human dignity and respect that has been taken away. I will love Him in the homeless person who longs not just for a home of bricks, but for a home of understanding love.

I will never forget one day when I picked up a woman out of a garbage bin. She was burning with fever, actually near dying at that moment. She kept saying, "My son did this to me, my son did this to me!" She did not think of her sickness or her pain or her burning fever. No. "My son did this to me!" I took her to our home for the dying, and we took many hours to help ease her pain. We cared for her. Before she died she was able to say, "I forgive..... my son." Thank God that before she died she found the peace to say that. But till that time the pain in her heart of being unwanted by her own child overwhelmed her physical suffering. That taught me much.

What a trust it is for God to place suffering people in our hands! It is a sacred vocation for us all, sacred because each of them is a life that God has created in His own image. Today, in this world, God has made us to be His love and compassion. We become His love as we pray and as we come to see His face in the lonely eyes of others.

We sisters take special vows to love God with undivided love, with chastity, through the freedom of poverty, and in total surrender to obedience. And we take a fourth vow, of giving whole-hearted and free service to the poorest of the poor. We are bound with a special word of honor to almighty God that we will be with the sick and the poor, the unwanted, the uncared-for, the forgotten, the lepers, the dying, the crippled, the outcast, and the kind of people who have forgotten what human love is. These are people who have forgotten how to smile, who have forgotten the gentle human touch. We take care of 53,000 lepers and many thousands of children saved from abortion. We send word to all the clinics and hospitals saying, "Don't kill that child, we will take it and care for it in love!" We have saved many thousands of lives of children born of God. Every single child finds a home in India or in other countries. Some time ago I gave a child to a wealthy Hindu family in Calcutta. I later heard that the child became very ill, so I sent word to the family, "Kindly give me back that child. I will heal it and care for it and give you a healthy one to care for." The father looked at me and said, "Mother, please take my own life first, then take the child." It showed me how much that child meant in their life. God's children are precious.

My sisters do quite a lot of natural family planning with the poor people, the beggars on the street who are friends. We have helped the government in Calcutta because, in eight years alone, we have had 189,253 less babies born from the families we have dealt with. Do you see how beautiful this is? Without committing sin or murder we have been able to share in the life of the country.

Pray for your respect for life, the life of God in the unborn child, the young child, the poor man or woman near you. For that is the life of God. Thank God for that life!

Show great love for the suffering. You do not know how much people suffer and with what great dignity they bear it. I remember one time while I was walking with my sisters late at night in Calcutta. We picked up four people, one of whom was in an open drain nearly eaten alive by disease. I took my new friend to our home for the dying in Calcutta near the Kali Temple (the Hindu God of Death). I put all my love into what I did for that sick and suffering woman. I finally put her in bed, and as I did a smile crept onto her face. She took hold of my hand and said, "Thank you." Then she died. I could not help but examine my conscience and wonder, "What if I had been she?" Would I have said that or would I have tried to draw the attention to myself by talking about how hungry I was or how cold I was or how I was suffering. But that woman gave me her understanding love and taught me again about the greatness of our poor. They are our brothers and sisters. They are our teachers.

One evening a gentleman came to our house and told us there was a Hindu family with many children which had not eaten in several days. He asked us if we could do something. So I took some rice and went to them. When I got there I saw the hunger in the shallow eyes of the children, real hunger. The mother took the rice from my hand and divided it in two and left the room. She said simply, "Next door they are hungry, also."

You need a pure heart in order to be able to see and to touch others; to become the love and compassion of God today. Start with your own family; find the poor next to you. If you can find the human need in your own family, you will be able to find it next door, and then further in the city. Do you know your own neighbor? Do you know their suffering? Maybe there is a blind man for whom you can read the newspaper. Maybe there is someone who needs you to shop for them in the market. Start with small things and do the small things with great love.

I appeal to you to come and find the poor right in your midst, next door, in your city. It is so easy to think of the poor outside your area and forget to see those nearby. Ask God for the grace to find the poor so you can help.

My prayer for you is that you be open to the grace of God and allow God to use you to be His love, to be His compassion in the world today.

From SALT interview of Mother Teresa and inspiration for the Hunger Coalition at Benedictine College.