“I have come to set fire on earth and how I wish it to be ignited” (Lk 12: 49)
“Whoever is thirsty may come to me and drink” (cf. Jn 7: 37 ff.)
This is the centenary year of the birth of St. Teresa of Calcutta. She was born on Friday, 26th August, 1910. The whole world is in intense preparation for this tiny little woman’s birthday, whose heart “has been burning with longing to love Jesus as he has never been loved before” (from St. Teresa M.C.’s letter to Archbishop Ferdinand Périer, 25 January, 1947).
It is a time of great reflection, renewal and spiritual enrichment for many. People are coming to see that the “Mother Teresa Charism” is an inexhaustible patrimony, not only for the Missionaries of Charity (M.C.) Family, but for all peoples of good will, irrespective of caste, colour, religion or nationality. The “Mother Teresa Charism” must go on and go out.
The “Mother Teresa Charism” is in a way our daily life: it is a way of peace and joy, a doorway to eternity, a visa for heaven. It trains people for heaven to hear Jesus say: “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (cf. Mt 25: 31-46).
The “Mother Teresa Charism” has faith as its foundation, hope as its driving force, and charity as its goal. It is based on profound and unshakeable faith because St. Teresa M.C. was convinced right from the beginning of her work with the poor that it was God’s work she was doing, and whatever she did for anyone she did for Jesus. It is based on faith, for she was feeding God in the hungry, satiating God’s thirst in the thirsty, clothing him with dignity in the naked, sheltering him in the homeless, visiting him in the sick, in the aged and the lonely, in the lepers, in the AIDS patients, and befriending and consoling him in prisoners of all kinds.
This is so, because whatever we do for anyone, Christ considers as done for him, regardless of whether the person deserves it. Every human being is a child of God, to be respected and loved as such. Each human being is an embodiment of God’s love, no matter where he comes from or what religion he belongs to. Our colour and country of origin are accidental. What is essential to us is our common brotherhood in the one and only Fatherhood of God. Cows can be of different colours, but the milk is always white.
The “Mother Teresa Charism” is Christological. It is a continuation of the life, mission and ministry of Jesus, for we read in the Gospels, especially in the Gospel of Luke: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives (4: 18-19).
It is an effort to put into practice the gospel of Matthew (25: 31-46). The parable of the Last Judgment pertains to the Kingdom of God, but a Kingdom that is inaugurated here on earth. The parable explains and expresses the one and the same reality for which we are created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, through his Passion, death and Resurrection.
Contemplation of the mystery of our life makes us understand the Creator’s purpose, at least in part. God created all things for human beings, and human beings are for God. The created realities are windows to God, through which we are meant to see God’s presence and action. The sun and moon, the stars of the heavens, fruit-trees, birds and animals are all there for our use, in order to praise God.
The example of the prophet Daniel and his companions, thrown into the fiery furnace, which was heated seven times more, and the subsequent hymn of praise to the creation of God, is beyond human description and beyond all reasoning. Even the pagan king was forced to believe in the God of those three men of extraordinary faith, zeal, fervour and conviction. Before them he had to bow his head in humility and profess his faith in the one, true and only God of Israel (cf. Dan 3: 1-30).
The “Mother Teresa Charism”, lived with faith, hope and love, is meant to help many a furious “emperor and king” of our time and of all times, to bow his head as many of them did at St. Teresa M.C.’s funeral on that Saturday, 13th September, 1997, at Nethaji Stadium in Kolkata, India. God will continue to “call the foolish ones of this world in order to confound the wise”; the weak of this world in contrast to the mighty. This is the revolution of love which culminated on the Cross on that first Good Friday. What was, and is still for many, a stumbling block and folly, has become and is the power and wisdom of God for those who are meek and humble of heart.
The “Mother Teresa Charism” took root and sprouted in the paradoxical city of Kolkata, which by then had become a cesspit of human misery, not only because of Second World War but above all because of the fight for India’s Independence and Partition – the division of the country into India and Pakistan on the basis of religion – and the terrible consequences that followed the India’s Independence in 1947.
Millions of refugees flocked to the overcrowded city of Kolkata and occupied every inch of space they could find, including the sidewalks and behind the buildings. Kolkata was a the city of accumulated human wretchedness; a turbulent, chaotic city. This is the city which Jesus took and gave to our beloved Mother Teresa to transform by her love and loving service; which she did, so perfectly and so faithfully.
Later, Jesus went on to show her other Kolkatas of a similar type, as well as different and difficult ones, in all the various parts of the world. Through St. Teresa of Calcutta, Jesus made the world understand that Kolkatas are present everywhere.
“Today’s greatest sickness is not leprosy or tuberculosis, not even AIDS, but the feeling of unwantedness, indifference and rejection”. Subsequently Mother Teresa M.C. was to say: ”Kolkata is everywhere if only you have eyes to see”. The “Mother Teresa Charism” invites each and every one of us to our own Kolkatas, where Jesus wants once more to open our eyes, our hearts and our minds to the understanding of Scriptures. Kolkata helps us to put the Gospel teaching into practise so that the parables come alive again.
It is here Jesus spoke to a simple Sister whom he chose to be his Spouse, to whom he revealed the reality of loving and receiving him in the Bread of life, and loving and serving him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.
It is here that St. Teresa M.C. saw the hungry Christ, the thirsty Christ, the naked Christ, the homeless Christ, the sick and imprisoned Christ (cf. Mt 25: 31-46) and began to respond with joy. It is here that like the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10: 29-37) she saw the wounded Christ and got off the “donkey of the Loreto” to attend their needs. It was a challenge and a duty. Kolkata is the M.C. Bethlehem where Jesus is born again and born anew. It is enough to go to Shishubhavan at 78, A.J. Bose Road, where hundreds of unwanted children are wanted and loved, delivered from the “Herods” of our times.
The “Mother Teresa Charism” then invites us to the Holy Family of Nazareth where, like Joseph who took the child and his mother and fled to Egypt on that very night to save Jesus, so many a people today must do the same: protect, safeguard and save, especially, the unborn child.
“Abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace” (St. Teresa of Calcutta). If a mother can become a “Herod” to her own child, what is there left in the world? How can we expect peace in the world? How can we have peace in our hearts? Peace begins with us: “Let there be peace and let it begin with me”. The “Mother Teresa Charism” fights against abortion by adoption. The M.C. Sisters have homes for unmarried mothers all over the world. The “Mother Teresa Charism” invites us to combat the scourge of abortion today; but how?
The “Mother Teresa Charism” invites us to offer our “each sigh, each look, each of our acts as acts of love divine” and resolve every day and say: “Of my free will, dear Jesus, I shall follow you wherever you shall go in search of souls, at any cost to myself and out of pure love of you”. This was St. Teresa M.C.’s daily desire, her prayer and her life. It must likewise be our daily desire, prayer and our life.
The “Mother Teresa Charism” reminds us that Kolkata can be in our own homes, if only we have eyes to see and hearts to respond as St. Teresa of Calcutta did in following the call of Jesus. The call of Jesus is made freely, and we are free to respond to it. If we learn increasingly to offer our wholehearted freely given service to the members of our own families, without counting the cost and without seeking any reward, our families are bound to become domestic sanctuaries of the Church.
This is only possible if we welcome Jesus into our homes and transform each family into another Nazareth. “Make your family/ community another Nazareth”, St. Teresa M.C. used to say.
The “Mother Teresa Charism” invites us to experience the intense and infinite thirst of Jesus on the Cross and in the Eucharist for love and for souls as she experienced it, and also to quench his thirst as she tried to quench it with all the power and stamina of her being.
“The general aim of the Society of the Missionaries of Charity”, writes St. Teresa M.C., “is to quench the thirst of Jesus. ‘I thirst’, Jesus said on the Cross. When Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul, he spoke of his thirst – not for water – but for love, for sacrifice”.
She continues: “Jesus is God, therefore his love, his thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench the infinite thirst of a God made man. Just like the adoring angels in heaven ceaselessly sing the praises of God, so we, using the four vows of absolute poverty, chastity, obedience and Charity towards the poor, ceaselessly quench the thirsting God by our love and the love of the souls we bring to him”.
“By living the life of fervent charity in the practice of our four vows, we quench Jesus’ thirst for love, i.e. by our own perfection which is the end of our religious life given to God, the love he asks from his religious”.
Every Missionary of Charity is to experience the twofold thirst with the same intensity as Jesus and share as closely as possible in Jesus’ thirst. God thirsts for us and for all, and we thirst for God and for souls: “Prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2560)
One day I was fixing a plaque with the words “I Thirst” to the wall of our Chapel in Rome where the Crucifix was. St. Teresa M.C. was with us that afternoon. She too came to see how I was doing. She moved to the back of the Chapel and said to me: “Father Sebastian, put the words ‘I thirst’ as closely to Jesus’ mouth as possible, as if he is saying it to you now”.
As I reflected on it later, I realized that Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls is not only infinite but also eternal. Jesus’ thirst only increases today, as there is need of so much more pure love since in the world today so many more souls live and die in spiritual poverty, misery and destitution.
Jesus chose St. Teresa M.C. and made her experience this intense thirst, which has spread like fire across land and sea. We all share in her thirst and work hard to quench Jesus’ thirst by growing in holiness and faithfully persevering in our vocation until the end. For this I pray and ask the prayers of all.
God bless you.
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.