“Because I belong to Him, this work is a way for me to live my love for Him…”
Above all, we want the dying to feel wanted; we want them to know that there are people who love them, who really want them, at least in these last few hours that remain to them, to know human and divine love. To know that they, too, are children of God, that they have not been forgotten, that they are loved, that they matter and that young people are there to serve them. It is through our hands that the poor need to be served; it is through our hearts that they need to be loved. The religion of Christ is love, the contagion of love. I wouldn’t touch a leper for a thousand pounds, yet I willingly care for him for the love of God…
The life of Mother Teresa was given entirely to serving the poor. She tended to their physical needs, but also to their spiritual needs. She tried above all to restore to each person dignity, importance, a sense of joy.
The poor are thirsting for water [but also] for peace, truth and justice. The poor are naked, [they need] clothing, human dignity and compassion for sinners. I will never forget the man I picked up off the street one day. He was covered in vermin. His face was the only clean part of him. And yet this man, after we brought him to our home for the dying, said this: “I lived like an animal in the street, but I will die like an angel, loved and cared for.” And he died wonderfully well. He entered his home with God, for death is simply going home to God’s house. It was because he had experienced this love, because he had felt wanted and loved, had felt that he was important to someone, that, in his final moments, he felt this joy in his life.
Serving the poor is therefore not our ultimate goal, but a way to make concrete our love for Christ… For Mother Teresa, every act we do for the poor has meaning only if it is deeply rooted in our oneness with Christ. We are nuns. Our vocation is not to work with lepers or the dying; our vocation is to belong to Jesus. Because I belong to Him, this work is a way for me to live my love for Him in action. This is not an end, but a means. Because my vocation is to belong to Him absolutely, to love Him with an indivisible love and chastity, I make these vows… Our hearts must be full of love for Him and, because this love must express itself in action, it is clear that the poorest of the poor allow us to express this love for God. Governments do a lot to help the poor. We offer something else: the love of Christ…
The poor who are homeless need shelter made of bricks, but also of a joyful heart that understands them, enfolds them, loves them. They are sick and need medical care, but they also need a helping hand and a friendly smile. The excluded, those who have been rejected, who are unloved, the alcoholics, the dying, those who are alone and abandoned, the marginalized, the untouchables, and the lepers; all those who are a burden for human society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have forgotten how to smile, who no longer know what it is to receive a little human warmth, a loving and friendly gesture: these are the ones who turn to us to be comforted. If we turn our backs on them, we turn our backs on Christ!
Mother Teresa (Novalis: Toronto, 2013), pp. 38-81.