Mass of Thanksgiving for the Canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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Today we praise God in a special way with a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Like we saw in Saint Peter’s Square last Sunday, the scene at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception prominently featured the distinctive Missionaries of Charity, who are themselves a manifestation of Saint Mother Teresa’s spiritual presence in the world as they continue her blessed work of bringing to those in need the love of Jesus Christ.

We give thanks to God for this holy woman who offered a sign to the world of the Lord’s loving and merciful grace active amidst the human condition today. We are reminded also of our own vocation, our own calling in helping to realize God’s Gospel plan of new life.

How appropriate in the Gospel reading for today from the Gospel of Luke, we hear how Jesus welcomed and ate with sinners and tax collectors – people who were considered unclean and were socially ostracized (Luke 15:1-32). Does this not describe what Mother Teresa did in going to the outcast and poor dying in the streets, taking in orphans who were abandoned and unwanted, washing the sores of the diseased, and embracing the untouchables, touching those who no one else would, the physical and social lepers around us? And is not her example, which reflects that of Jesus, what we are called to do as well in our own way?

The Gospel reading goes on to recount Jesus’ parables about the man who went out to find the lost sheep, the woman who searched for and found a lost coin, and the father who ran to and embraced his prodigal son, and how they rejoiced when those who had been lost were found. Here too, the life and ministry of Mother Teresa reflects the Gospel as she went out each day to find the lost, those whom society deems worthless, and seeing instead their great value in the eyes of God, reaching out to the material poor and the poorest of the poor, those who have squandered the blessings given them by our heavenly Father.

This saintly woman whom we celebrate today rejoiced in helping the unloved to know love, which was simply love for Christ in action. Her message heard at every level in our society and world was clearly an echo of the words of Jesus himself: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

Each person Mother Teresa touched was for her touching the Lord himself. Whatever she did, she did for Jesus (cf. Matthew 25:34-40). And she exhorts us to be missionaries of love too, urging us to open our eyes to see Christ in the poor, the unwanted and uncared for around us – perhaps even in our own families – to respect and defend all human life and dignity beginning in the womb, and to simply allow the power of God’s love to work in and through us.

Before she began her work serving the poorest of the poor, Mother Teresa was a teacher and she continues to offer us many valuable lessons. One thing we could learn is her straightforward approach to ministry.

Mother Teresa seeing a person in need would simply take the personal initiative and go over to help her right there and then. Like Mary, who went in haste to the aid of Elizabeth, Mother Teresa understood the urgency of now. “To us, what matters is an individual,” she said of herself and her Missionaries of Charity. “Every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, there is only one person in the world for me at that moment.”

Each part of the body of Christ, each of us in our own particular way and calling, has a role to play in the mission of love. Mother Teresa reminds us of the need to acknowledge the person in front of us at the moment and show them now the love of Jesus. Even a smile, a friendly “hello,” can make their life a little brighter and thus make the world a better place. In this simple way, we can be like a saint.

Thanks be to God for the canonization of Saint Mother Teresa. To learn more about the blessed gift of her life, ministry and example, please see here my recent Catholic Standard article and previous blog posts here.

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