Saturday, September 5, 2015

Sept. 5, 2015 Saturday: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Sept. 5, 2015 Saturday: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

(This Saturday marks the 18th anniversary of the death of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. St. Agnes Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana held a special feast day mass with Bishop Robert Muench. I had a privilege of delivering the homily for this occasion.)

If someone were to ask you to go to the ends of the earth, which countries would you consider to be the ends of the earth? Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he commissioned his disciples, “you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Would you consider Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan to be one of the last places you would visit? Recently we have been seeing on the TV world news, heart breaking images of people caught in the middle of ISIS war in those countries. We are seeing destruction of churches, mosques, and temples sacred to the people. We are witnessing atrocities of masses of people losing their lives and seeing families take desperate measures to flee their countries often losing their lives.

In a recent letter to the Lay Missionaries of Charity and volunteers, the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, Sr. Prema M.C. wrote, “Our sisters in Yemen remained with our poor after all the foreigners had left. In the homes in Yemen, the shortage of electricity, water, and fuel is the daily struggle of the sisters in their care for (approximately 321 patients scattered throughout the region). Our sisters in Aden (capital of Yemen) chose to stay with the mentally handicapped patients in their care when war broke out on March 19, 2015. After a few weeks, bread was no longer available in the shops. One evening, the superior of the house announced to the sisters, “We have no more flour. Tomorrow morning, we will gather all the leftover flour, bake the last bread, and surrender ourselves to the Lord. He will feed our poor people and us, His little ones.” Early the next morning, an elderly Muslim man brought to the sisters’ gate 3 sacks of hot freshly baked bread, enough to feed the whole house, patients, workers and sisters, for two meals. He continued to come every morning at the same hour with the same amount of bread. The sisters asked him why he risked his life every morning to bring them bread. The man replied, “Sisters, I needed God to answer me. Since I started coming here, God walks with me.”

Sr. Prema posed this question in her letter, “In a world tormented by uncertainty, fragmented by disunity, fearful of violence and calamities, what will help us to be carriers of God’s love, peace, joy, and hope?” Her answer was what Mother Teresa taught her sisters all her life, “In our helplessness and confusion, we stand with Mary at Calvary at the foot of the Cross and hear Jesus assure us, ‘I am with you.’ We are never left alone, never left to ourselves. Our God is with us.” Mother Teresa often said that she was only a pencil in the hand of God. She invited everyone to trust in the mercy of God and let him accomplish great things through us. She said, “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”

If we were asked today to join the sisters to serve the poor in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, how many of us would hesitate or not even consider the calling? What gives these sisters courage and confidence to be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth? First, these sisters through their daily prayer and meditation  on the scriptures ponder, as Blessed Mother did, Jesus’ great act of mercy on the cross. “There is no greater love than this than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Secondly, they are fed daily from the Bread of Life by spending time before the Blessed Sacrament and receiving Eucharist at mass. Moved by Jesus’ continual love for them, the sisters emulate that love by carrying out their duties with loving trust, total surrender, and cheerfulness. These are the threefold charism of the Holy Spirit resulting from prayerful encounter with the thirst of Jesus on the Cross and being in company with Blessed Mother. “Trust Me lovingly, trust Me blindly, let Me act.” These were the words from Jesus which prompted Mother Teresa to leave Loreto Sisters and to work for the poor.

Do we ponder the unfathomable mercy of Jesus on the Cross? Do we hear him say to us, “I thirst for your love”? Do we satiate that love by loving others around us?

I leave you with Sr. Prema’s words which echo Mother Teresa’s spirit, “Let your heart repeat, ‘Jesus I trust in you. Jesus I entrust my family, friends, my work, all my problems and worries to you.’..In the measure I trust in Jesus and I entrust myself, everyone and everything to Him, I will see Jesus working miracles in my life and around me.”

-Fr. Paul Yi