St. Theresa: a Joyful Witness to God’s Mercy
The perfect example of mercy in action that caught the attention of the Indian Church, in particular, is of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa showed to us that only the practice of mercy sets us free. We celebrated her birthday on August 26 and we will be celebrating her feast day on September 5.
Mother Teresa journeyed from her birthplace Skopje to the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto in Ireland, which later led her to Calcutta. For eleven years after her permanent vows, she worked in the Loreto Convent. Then, at the age of thirty-eight, when on a journey to Darjeeling on September 10, 1946, she received her special call. Becoming aware of this call, she said that she had to leave the convent and consecrate herself to help the poor by living among them. She gave up the task of teaching in order to live the teachings of Jesus with the poor, downtrodden and the marginalized.
She understood that the words of Jesus on Calvary, “I Thirst,” resonates through every time and place whatsoever the situation may be, within every human, fragile and a needy heart. She said that she is by blood and origin an Albanian, by citizenship an Indian, by consecration a Catholic nun, and as to her divine calling, she belongs to the whole world, and as to her heart, she belongs only and only to Jesus. She remains to be an inconvertible sign of God’s mercy to the whole world.
Similar to St. Theresa:
By her efforts to empower and uplift the marginalized, she taught us that mercy and justice are not opposed to each other. They are related to each other because mercy is a result of the union between justice and love. Mother Teresa constantly reminded us that God will be made visible to the world by our practice of mercy. She proclaimed Christ in a unique manner.
Whatever Mother Teresa did, she did it along with her other sisters and never made it her prerogative alone to carry out the deeds of mercy. She invited people across the world to do the same. She felt that the works of mercy must be done collectively as a united Church. Mother Teresa’s life was not filled with all happy moments. There were criticisms that came her way, many times people abused her, spoke ill of her, and tried to disturb the good work she did. But her motive kept her going despite the numerous odds. Her motive was to ‘satiate the thirst of Christ.’
While doing the works of mercy she saw Jesus in the poor. And that made her do everything with love. All her merciful deeds made her have a deep union with the God of her heart. That is why, whenever people met her, they felt the presence of God reflecting through her.
Mother Teresa stands before us as an example that every Christian must follow. It also tells us that mercy though divine is also human. Right from the time of creation, God was merciful. Mercy is at the centre of his heart. In other words, we can say God’s essence is mercy. Scripture uses many words to refer to the mercy of God, and two such words are loving-kindness and compassion. The biblical concept hesed explains perfectly, how God’s mercy was so loving, embracing, and forgiving even when one did not deserve it.
The teachings of the Fathers of the Church tell us that mercy is the essence of our religion and that all of us stand in need of mercy. Mercy calls us to reach out to our needy brethren. And our outreach to the poorest of the poor will be an extension of God’s love just like it was through Mother Teresa and her charitable works. All of us need mercy irrespective of what status we belong to. But we need to recognize that we are fragile beings and seek God’s mercy. When we have received mercy from the Lord, we are then called to share it with others.
Anger and hatred are not equivalent terms they are distinct. Anger is something that happens naturally and immediately to any person when she or he perceives a potential threat, hurt, or attack. Anger is familiar to all. On the other hand, hatred is not an immediate reaction but happens because of the cultivation of anger, which leads to the creation of negative emotions. Thus, Hatred leaves long term consequences on a human person. And, this is where we Christians need mercy to work in our lives. God’s mercy frees one from guilt, hatred and all the negative feelings.
There are various ways we can be merciful to our neighbour. The Church has blessed us with the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy so that what we believe may be put into action. The seven Corporal Works of Mercy are giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, giving alms to the poor, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and the imprisoned, and doing our obligation of burying the dead. The seven Spiritual Works of Mercy are instructing the ignorant, counselling the doubtful, admonishing the sinners, forgiving injuries done to us, to bear wrongs patiently, comfort the sorrowful, and pray for the living and the dead. Let us try to be merciful witnesses of the Lord in the given times taking the example of Mother Teresa.
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