With Mother Teresa’s canonization this weekend, her life story can be found in every news source from the Guardian to the New York Times. These publications portray her as a good, yet possibly imperfect, lady who made it her mission to help the poor of Calcutta. While they are absolutely correct that she wanted to love the poor, her first mission was actually to love the person of Jesus Christ.
“I see Jesus in every human being,” said Mother Teresa, “I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.” For Mother Teresa, it was Jesus who inspired her to serve.
Criticism of Her Work
While Mother Teresa is often recognized for her altruistic efforts, not everyone agrees that she helped as well as she could have. A man named Chatterjee, who once volunteered with the Sisters of Charity (Mother Teresa’s Sisters), is one of her biggest critics. His research on the Sisters of Charity’s discrepancies, especially in their medical care, even fueled self-described antitheist Christopher Hitchen’s dissenting documentary on Mother Teresa, “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Perhaps Chatterjee and Hitchens have points. The Sisters of Charity could have performed their ministry better, more efficiently, more up-to-date. But like most of her critics, Chatterjee and Hitchens fail to see that Mother Teresa’s mission was not so much to eliminate suffering, as to love those who suffer. It was not so much to build huge, shiny hospitals, as it was to give the dying a bed and a hand to hold in their last moments. Her mission was not so much to cure wounds and sores as it was to cure what she called the poverty of being “lonely, unwanted, unloved and uncared for.”
Outside Nirmal, Hriday, Home for the Dying founded by Mother Teresa
Image Credit: Zvonimir Atletic
When author Shane Claiborne (The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical) told Mother Teresa, “I wouldn’t do what you do for a million dollars.” Mother Teresa smiled and said, “Me neither.” But she would do her work for Jesus. “The miracle is not that we do this work,” she said, “ but that we are happy to do it.”
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” -Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa’s legacy lives on in the 5,500 Sisters of Charity who today lovingly follow Jesus while operating 610 missions around the world, such as homes for people with HIV/Aids, leprosy and tuberculosis as well as soup kitchens, orphanages and schools.
While there may always be critics of Mother Teresa’s work, no one can criticize her great love for Jesus. Even in her nearly 50 years of feeling like her prayer life was a dry desert, as if God had abandoned her, she never stopped loving God and serving the poor. Her great faith shows us that it doesn’t so much matter what we achieve or what others think of us, but, as she herself said, “Our vocation - is the love of Jesus."
Cover Image credit: catwalker