When I was a high school seminarian in 1987, Mother Teresa came to the Philippines to inaugurate the Home for the Dying in Mabolo, Cebu. Her Nobel Peace Prize made her globally known and well loved especially by the Catholics. So you could imagine by the time when she had a speech in our Seminary Chapel, I was one of the many who was deeply moved by her saintly presence. What I couldn’t forget was her words. She said something like this, ”We cannot say we love God when we don’t even love our neighbors.”
In the 1986 Documentary film about Mother Teresa, she narrated her experience of picking up a man from the street in Calcutta, India. This man was eaten alive by the worms. Nobody could stand his bad smell. However, she took the man to her Home for the Dying and cleaned him.
The man asked Mother Teresa, “Why do you do this?”
She replied, “Because I love you.”
In Matthew 25: 35, 36, 40, Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I was sick and you looked after me. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”
Mother Teresa interpreted those words literally. With her hands, she fed the hungry. With her arms, she hugged the sick. She opened up homes for the homeless, abandoned and ill people in more than 100 different countries from 1948 to 1997.
In spite of her critics, she’s officially proclaimed today as Saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Honestly, it’s just so difficult to imitate Mother Teresa’s works. Oftentimes, questions are asked whether we should follow what she did. Most of us would say, “How can we help others when we ourselves needed help in the first place?” “Why should we help them when we might send a message that it’s okay to continually beg which could lead to abuse and laziness?”
I could start a debate here but it’s not my agenda. What matters is there walked a small woman in our planet who stood out from the ordinary. She was so passionate of her belief and mission until her last breath. She lived her life to the fullest to her heart’s content. I guess that’s the message we may learn from St. Teresa of Calcutta.