Do small things with great love- Mother Teresa

Pope Francis, who has spent this year preaching about mercy, has canonized and declared Mother Teresa of Kolkata among the saints in heaven. Mother Teresa traveled the world to deliver a single message: that love and caring are the most important things in the world. “The biggest disease today,” she once said, is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference toward one’s neighbor who lives at the roadside, assaulted by exploitation, corruption, poverty and disease.”

Another favorite motto of Mother Teresa of Kolkata was: “Do small things with great love.” But the “small things” she did so captivated the world that she was showered with honorary degrees and other awards, almost universally praised by the media and sought out by popes, presidents, and other figures of wealth and influence. Despite calls on her time from all over the globe Mother Teresa always returned to India to be with those she loved most – the lonely, abandoned, homeless, disease-ravaged, dying and the  “poorest of the poor” in Kolkata’s streets. Mother Teresa’s influence is worldwide; the Missionaries of Charity, which she founded in 1950, has more than 5,000 active and contemplative sisters today. In addition, there are Missionaries of Charity Fathers, brothers and lay missionaries.

I remember when Mother Teresa came to Uganda in November 1988 to set up a mission for her sisters, she was offered a well- furnished house in a good neighborhood as a Convent for her sisters but she declined it and insisted that she just needed a simple house in the slums of Kampala to be with poor because, as she explained, “to be able to love the poor and know the poor, we must be poor ourselves.”  It was during this visit that as a young priest, I had a memorable opportunity to meet this holy woman. She held my hand and told me, “I will pray for you!” Mother Teresa’s actions spoke louder than the words of her critics.  In imitation of Jesus, she loved without counting the cost. Her witness proved that love is not about gaining, it is about giving. Through her powerful and inspirational witness, she showed the world what real love looks like. May we also be convinced that God will use us as His instruments of love and mercy.

Each of today’s readings offers a perspective on wisdom. Wisdom can be an elusive element in making human choices. The author of the Book of Wisdom begs the question. “Who can know God’s counsel (wisdom) or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”  The answer is of course, no one. In fact, the author states, even humans are not sure of their own plans, let alone those of God. Our own plans are timid and unsure. But God chooses to bestow wisdom on people and it is this divine gift that allows “those on earth” to choose wisely.  

The wisdom in Jesus’ teaching is twofold. First, those choosing to follow Jesus need practical wisdom. They will have to leave behind whatever distractions would hinder them from accepting the mission he desires for them. They will need to discern what it will take for them to “finish the work” of discipleship, as workers need to do when completing a construction project. The second wisdom is a deeper sense of commitment, a choice that entails following Jesus as their first priority in life and relationships. The word hating that appears in the translation should not be understood in the same sense that we associate with despising another. Jesus never advocated hatred, always love. He impresses upon his listeners that following him is a radical choice, and will take great spiritual courage as it involves the cross. The cost of discipleship lies in the total commitment and total identity with Jesus; it is everything we have and are.  As Mother Teresa reminds us “Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.”


Msgr Joseph