Before the Cross | Jesus, always there for us in the holy Eucharist
There's no mistaking the craggy face, diminutive size and radiant smile of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa was known throughout the world for her charity, her simplicity and her truthfulness. When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she was asked, "What can we do to promote world peace?" Instead of responding with some form of global initiative, she simply said, "Go home and love your family."
Peace begins at home and is sustained by prayer. If we want peace on earth, we should love our families. And we should pray that all the peoples of the world -- beginning with each one of us -- will learn love and forgiveness. There is no peace without forgiveness, Blessed John Paul II taught. And there can be no real forgiveness unless we are willing to let go of the wrongs done against us.
Mother Teresa was an activist. She ministered to the poorest of the poor every day. "When I pick up a person in the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, and I am satisfied. I have removed that hunger."
But she found spiritual hunger to be much more challenging.
"Around the world, not only in poor countries, I found the poverty of (the wealthy) so much more difficult to remove ... . A person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been cast out from society -- that poverty is so hurtful that I find it very difficult to remove."
Blessed Teresa was also a contemplative. She began each day with Mass and holy Communion. All her good work was made possible by the intimate relationship that she had with Jesus. Every time she reached out to help someone in need, she did it "for Jesus, with Jesus, to Jesus." She encountered Christ in the poorest of the poor, but that face-to-face meeting between Mother Teresa and her Lord in the face of the poor was made possible because she met Him first in the great sacrament of love that He gave us the night before He died. Mother Teresa loved the Eucharist. It was the source of her strength and the inspiration for all that she said and did.
We know from Mother Teresa's letters that she struggled mightily to understand and accept God's will for her life. Anyone who thinks sainthood is easy, or that it comes naturally to God's chosen ones, should look closely at the spiritual anguish suffered by this great woman of the Church. Mother Teresa earned her sanctity the hard way. She worried and doubted and prayed each day before the Blessed Sacrament. She pleaded with her Lord to sustain her and to show her the way.
When she introduced herself on the numerous occasions that she received international honors, Mother Teresa would say, "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus." Mother Teresa knew who she was -- and who she was called to become as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
In 2003, following her death, Pope John Paul II beatified Teresa of Calcutta. In doing so, he confirmed in the name of the Church what the entire world already knew. This woman was so close to Jesus that she was able to feed the hungry, heal the sick, inspire the hopeless and comfort the dying -- with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus -- in spite of her doubts and fears and always in Jesus' name.
She tells us that her holy words and deeds were made possible only because she stayed close to Jesus in the holy Eucharist. And the advice she gave to each one of us is to get closer to Jesus and the Eucharist so that we, too, can discover God's will for our lives and obtain the grace we need to carry it out.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta wasn't born a saint. By her own admission, holiness did not come easy to her. She grew in the love of Christ by serving the poorest of the poor, by staying close to Jesus in the Eucharist and by giving witness to the whole world that peace is possible.
"Go home and love your family," she tells us. That's where peace begins. "Get closer to Jesus and the Eucharist," she advises each one of us. That is where we will find love and forgiveness and lasting joy.
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