Mother Teresa: An ideal, an inspiration

Father Patrick Gomes

Today (September 5) is the death anniversary of Mother Teresa, the "living saint", an attribute given to her by the world very spontaneously. Mother Teresa exposed her extraordinary love and service for the needy through her ordinary and simple activities. Often people tend to be attracted to things that are great according to the worldly standard, e.g., new discoveries of modern science and technology etc. Unlikely Mother Teresa had no such self accomplished wonders to which the modern world will look with woe! But yet Mother had a life that not only attracted the whole world community but became a source of constant inspiration to do some good for others the poor and the needy.

Like any other Catholic nun Mother Teresa also embraced consecrated life with vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience. It means mother resolutely vowed to be virgin for the sake of the Kingdom of God and for and because of the love of Jesus, and the love of the poor and the destitute. The Mother vowed to be detached from worldly attractions and to give whatever she had for others becoming poor by giving others. Mother vowed to be obedient to her authority seeing God's will through that authority. She came to India and the exceptional and divine inspiration was that she "received a CALL" to go among the poor and the destitute of Calcutta living in slum areas and give them love and affection. She left the boundary wall of the convent, put on a blue border sharee and literally went among the poor: the orphan, the street children, the dying... She remained faithful to this inspiration during her whole life. And the miraculous effect of this "divinely inspired" Mother is that hundreds and thausands joined her following the same inspiration. They are called Missionaries of Charity Sisters. One Mother Teresa died but thausands are born and the Mother's inspirational journey continues. Another surprising effect of her exceptional movement for love and charity is that the whole world not only admired her and honored her in different manners, awarding her Noble prize, for example, but invited her for her presence to demonstrate love and charity to the unloved.

The reality that moved Mother Teresa most was the slums of Calcutta. Later on not only the slums of Calcutta but every human being was the concern of Mother Teresa. She realized that the world was developing in science and technology; but at the same time it remained sick mentally, physically, psychologically, morally and spiritually. What the world needed most, the Mother rightly thought, was healing through love and affection and active service. The Mother with much courage and hope and relying totally on the providence of God went to the ailing child, to the baby born unwanted, to the dying persons, to the drug addicted... She gave them nothing but love and affection, care and service, food and drink.

Mother Teresa safeguarded moral values. In today's world, specially the youth are confused with the destructive influences coming from different parts of the world. The result is that things that are destructive and detrimental to spiritual, moral and social life are not considered to be so to them. The Mother went to these young people and demonstrated to them her message: Be holy and live with human dignity. To those who abort their children Mother said, very strongly: If you cannot maintain a child, give it to me but never kill it! For God's commandment is: Thou shall not kill! Mother called upon the rich countries to come forward to help those who have no means and thus build up a just society.

Mother started her revolution of service and love with empty hands. She begged door to door for the poor and the destitute. Many gave her help; but there were many who also criticized her even spat on her hand. Mother was never disappointed. Her revolution spread throughout the whole world. Countries called upon Mother Teresa to start her community to help the poor even in the so called first world countries where people are also poor in many ways. As a recognition of her movement and revolution the world awarded mother the Noble Prize. All these recognitions, donations and the Prize did not distract Mother because they were not for her, but for her children, the poor. Thus in the life of Mother Teresa there was only one tune of the whole music: a radical way of giving, never receiving. What Mother received was the smile of the poor. Love increases love. Mother had a satisfaction of satisfying others through her loving service.

Mother Teresa was a very simple person. Simplicity was her ornament. She took a very simple sharee as her dress and a cross recalling the suffering of Christ. Cross was also the constant remembrance of the suffering of human being. In her hand was the Holy Rosary to invoke the blessings of Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary was virgin and consecrated. She is the refuge of sinners and comforter of the afflicted, health of the sick. Mother Teresa's diet was very simple. And her living place was extraordinarily simple. Many gave money for buildings; but the buildings were for the care of the sick and afflicted. Not to have a TV was a value for Mother which prevails even today among the Missionaries of Charity Sisters. More than TV and other modern utilities the poor were the first priority for Mother.

We firmly believe that Mother is now in heaven. We also believe that after her death Mother heard the invitation from God, an invitation which Jesus used when he was teaching to the crowd in parable: "When I was hungry, you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty you gave me to drink; when I was homeless you gave me shelter; when I was nacked you gave me cloth; when I was in prison you came to meet... Whatsoever you did to the least of these of my brothers, you did it to me. Now enter into the heavenly home prepared for the righteous for eternity (Holy Bible, New Testament, Gospel of Mathew, 25:30-31). Yes, Mother Teresa is in heaven with saints and angels. And many are receiving miraculous fruits through the intercession to Mother Teresa. The whole world will immensely rejoice when Vatican will officially declare this "living-saint" a SAINT!

Who cares the poor? Who bothers whether vast majority of the poor is having food and shelter or not? Who bothers the youth and the adult who are addicted to drug? Who thinks for those who are aged and sick? Like many countries of the world Bangladesh too has a very few rich and vast majority of the poor. There are many cases of injustice. Divisions are automatically made on the question of religion, caste and social and political status. Another reality is that many are attracting others with sweet words uttering hundreds of promises of service to the audience majority of which are poor and simple, disappointed in course of time. The other side of the coin is that there are people. Who actually help others. There are countries that come to help when Bangladesh is in crisis. But the question is: is this help and service done through a spiritual inspiration or only to show mercy to others? Is it to highlight ones' names to the world or to the society or to the country? Can service and generocity be only "one-time use"? Mother Teresa's life can be a strong inspiration to make our life a constant service to others. And this service need not be material service only; spiritual love is not marked by the material standard only. Maintaining peace, exchanging friendly look and conversation, sharing intellectual knowledge freely, team work for the development of the poor and the destitute, caring and loving the unwanted children and many other ways are there to render our service to others.

The wind of election is very strong in Bangladesh at present. The candidates are trying to convince the voters of their service. They say: Give me a chance to render you my service. Mother Teresa did not ask for or cry for; she observed, felt and her feeling was so strong that it forced her to take action to serve the poor. Not only our political leaders, our social leaders, religious leaders, heads of organizations, our teachers and professors, our NGO workers, our students, our businessmen, we all whatever our rank is or whatever our economical condition is, can serve others in every possible way if we only want and if we only have our heart fully open for others.

Mother Teresa died in 1997 on September 5 in Calcutta. She was given a state funeral. Heads of the countries or their representatives came to pay homage to Mother. She became the mother of the whole world this motherhood is obtained not by progeny but through universal love, affection and service. She is the mother of the orphan, of the rich and the poor, of the east and of the west of all. And here is the success of Mother's Consecrated Life (of her vows: chastity, poverty and obedience); here is the success of her movement of love and service. May the life of Mother Teresa be a constant inspiration for us all and an ideal to be imitated!

Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka, September 5,  2001
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