Sep 3, 2016
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” These words of the Lord spoken through the Gospel might seem harsh. But simply said, from the perspective of someone who dares give their life, their whole life to Christ it makes perfect but painful sense.
How? The ultimate reality each of us will face is that we can not sustain or hold onto earthly relationships forever. Our relationships with family, friends and even with this world will come to pass.
When we look to, or expect from, family, friends or even ourselves, a perfect love that will last forever, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and much unnecessary pain and suffering. Only God can offer perfect love perfectly, a relationship that spills over from this world and into eternity.
Because we live in this imperfect world, because we are a fallen humanity our love for each other, our relationships are far from perfect. Dependent on God’s grace, we must be purified by by a love, the source of which is not temporal, but eternal.
Those who dare enter into an intimate friendship with Christ, serve as examples for us to follow. The Church still identifies from her own family countless witnesses, individuals we today call saints whose love for Christ took precedence over every other type of relationship. As an example, this Sunday sees the Church canonizing Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a saint. Her life is shown to us today, as a worthy example of a life lived in continual intimacy with Christ.
We will often remember her as a tireless advocate for the poor, a woman who bandaged the wounds of the sick, who held in her arms the dying, the diseased, the neglected, the abused and the forgotten.
However, her own ministry and work among the poor is no more, it’s over, it’s finished! But, the secret intimate relationship she fostered with Christ during her time on earth, now continues and is perfected with him in eternity. That is the life of a saint - to be in love with Christ forever.
A story once told about her will illustrate this point. Every morning Mother Teresa would spend at least an hour kneeling before the Tabernacle, the Eucharistic Presence of Christ, simply gazing with the eyes of her soul upon the heavenly face of our Blessed Lord.
In the community of her nuns, they too would follow her example. One afternoon, one of her young energetic sisters, who was involved in so many good works, told Mother Teresa that because of the daily demands of looking after the hospital, bandaging the wounds of the sick and feeding the orphans, on top of going to Mass and praying her daily rosary, this young nun did not have enough time to spend an hour before Blessed Sacrament. Mother Teresa responded to her: “I agree sister, you are doing all this good work and so many depend on you. Indeed, you are so very much busy. I agree, you can not spend one hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day. And so, form now on, you will spend two hours before the Blessed Sacrament every day!
From our perspective, with our eyes we saw Mother Teresa caring for the poor, washing tenderly the bed sores of the elderly and neglected, cradling in her arms the dying. Why did she do it? But what did she see in it? She would say? I see Christ himself in each one of them, I see Christ, wounded and sick. “I see Christ alone and neglected. I see Christ dying in my arms, and because I love him I cannot but still be moved to see him and love him in each of my suffering brothers and sisters.”
Mother Teresa could not and did not cure, save or heal everyone who entered into her care. That was not the point. Countless who were forgotten and unloved, or loved badly by this world, even abandoned by their own family and friends literally died in her arms. She would say, that she wanted the neglected of this world to at least in their final moments, to look into her eyes and know in their heart of hearts that there was indeed someone who did in fact love them, that they were worthy of being loved, and in fact were loved.
Because Mother Teresa had first looked into the eyes of Christ and knew herself loved by God, she was able to look into the eyes of others, whoever they were and whatever condition they were in and love them with that same love of Christ that she now enjoys beautifully and perfectly in heaven. That’s all it takes - that is the firm foundation our faith is built upon, to “become a sign of the absolute supremacy of Christ’s love” in a fallen world (Comp. CCC 342).
Regardless of what you think of yourself, do not be afraid of the gaze of Christ and being a saint on earth as we are destined to be in heaven, to look upon the Lamb of God who, by his tender and sacrificial love, takes away the sins of the world.
Holy Mary, mother of God, Pray for us.
Saint Mother Teresa, Pray for us.
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