Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sunday 22C: "take the lowest place ."

A woman departs alone from a convent in Calcutta with only her religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience intact and  5 rupees in her pocket.

What is she doing?  Why is she, an Albanian who knows next to nothing about surviving in the grinding poverty of India, leaving the only life she has known as an adult religious woman after already abandoning her native country to first learn English and Hindi as well as Bengali?

She is following her vocation, or call from God, to take the lowest place among the poor, within what had been a very happy vocation as a beloved religious woman in community teaching young women.

In some countries like India the lowest place does not mean defaulting on a mortgage as devastating as that can be; it can mean living in a cardboard box or washing in and drinking dirty water.

This woman, later to become world famous as Mother Teresa, heard a call from God to live among the poorest of the poor as the poorest of the poor live.
She started literally with nothing, begging for her every need as do the poorest of the poor. Ttoday her inspiration and holy charism have moved so many women to join her that the Missionaries of Charity, founded in 1950, now “boast”:

4,000 members
697 foundations
131 countries

The Missionaries of Charity is a religious family that now also includes fathers and brothers.

Mother Teresa's sisters became well known for their presence in some of the most dangerous and hostile places in the world. I remember as a young man in Berlin in 1990, shortly after the wall fell, seeing two of her religious daughters crossing over the border from the West to return to their house on the East side of the city which had been in place witnessing to Christ and His Church long before the wall fell.

In one famous story, Mother Teresa was confronted by a general in war-torn Lebanon as she sought to enter and begin her mission there to the poorest of the poor. He forbid her to go forward, telling her it was too dangerous while the city was being bombed. She dismissed his warnings and fearlessly pushed on, without the protection required for the soldiers aournd her, into the city that had become a deadly battle zone.

Mother Teresa took the lowest place, knowing she had been invited by the Lord personally to His eternal wedding banquet of heaven and she responded with a generous “yes”.

And how has the Lord rewarded Mother for her radical yes to His invitation to take the lowest place? I hope, God willing, to be among  those present next Sunday in Rome as the pope canonizes her "Saint Teresa of Calcutta".

You and I must do the same if we are to be lifted up by God to where we cannot go on our own: to the highest place of the wedding banquet of the Lamb in heaven.

Where in your home, your work, the circumstances of your daily life wherever you find yourself, do you take the lowest place, putting confidence at each moment in the Lord’s promise to invite you up higher as you imitate the Lord Himself as He died on the Cross to save each of us?

This is the key to joy: configuring oneself to the Lord by serving and loving others for His sake as Mother Teresa so faithfully did and whose example a gift from the Lord to help each of us to do the same.

“The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”