There is a phrase of Mother Teresa that we do not read here but which I would like to make the background to my observations: ‘We are not an NGO. NGOs work for a project; we work for Somebody’. Thus it is that I often repeat that the Church is not an NGO because she works for Christ and for the poor in whom Christ lives, he stretches out his hand to us, he calls for help, he asks for our merciful look, and our tenderness.
When re-reading these pages I thought that I would bring together some observations around five words.
The first word is prayer. Mother Teresa tirelessly invites us to draw upon the source of Love – Christ who was crucified and rose again and who is present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, so as to then have the strength to come to his aid in the poorest of the poor, with hearts full of joy. Mother Teresa began her day by taking part in a Holy Mass and ended it with adoration of the Holy Sacrament of Jesus – infinite Love. In this way, it is possible to transform love into prayer. We should never forget to have a small gospel in our pockets, to read one of its pages, and to enter – we ourselves –the tale that we read. Let us try to enter the thoughts and the feelings of Jesus, let us speak to him, let us ask for the grace of his Spirit: in this way we will become men and women who have zeal for life and know how to give a renewed look to those people we meet.
The second word is charity. This means becoming neighbours on the fringes of the men and women whom we meet every day, feeling compassion for the last in body and spirit – and feeling compassion is possible only when the needs and the wounds of the other are received in my heart –, and being witnesses to the caress of God for every wound of humanity. All of this is possible when each one of us is with the Lord Jesus, speaks with us, and allows his Spirit to dwell in us. In this way, we will be able to offer what people desire – the presence and the nearness of merciful God.
The third is industrious mercy. We could also say works of corporal and spiritual mercy, that is to say taking care of the whole man and every man. In Misericordiae vultus, the Bull for the indiction of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I wrote: ‘It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead’. Mother Teresa made this page of the Gospel the map of her life, the pathway to holiness, and it could become the same for us.
The fourth word is family. Here there stands out the figure and the presence of mothers, and Mother Teresa speaks about them in these pages in the following way: ‘Mothers are the hearts of homes and they shape the family, accepting, loving and taking loving care of their children…indeed many of the sufferings of young people are caused by their family lives…It is mothers who make their homes a nest of love. At times being a mother can also be a truly arduous experience; but we have Our Lady with us, the best of mothers, who always teaches us to have tenderness with our children’. In families, indeed, we learn from our mothers and fathers to smile at each other, to forgive each other, to welcome each other, and to sacrifice ourselves for each other, to give without seeking anything in return, to pray and to suffer together, and to be joyful and to help each other. In no other situation of life is it possible to live as, and how much, one lives in a family. And Mother Teresa, in one of her replies during the meetings narrated in this book, tells us: ‘You should become increasingly the joy and the consolation of God, bringing prayer into your families. A family needs love, communion and hard work. And this will be the greatest gift that you can make to the Church’.
The fifth word is young people. ‘In a particular way, I wish to greet the young! They say that Albania is the youngest country in Europe and I wish to greet you. I invite you to build your lives on Jesus Christ, on God: the one who builds on God builds on rock, because he is always faithful, even if we sometimes lack faith’. With these words of the Angelus in Tirana, during my visit to Albania, on 21 September 2014, I addressed the young people of that land.
I now ask all young people not to lose hope, to not allow their futures – which are in their hands – to be stolen from them. Remain in the Lord and love one another as God loves you; be the builders of bridges to break the logic of division, of rejection, of fear of one another; place yourselves at the service of the poor, face up to life, which is a gift of God, with courage. Fly high, like the eagle which is the symbol of Mother Teresa’s native land!
I encourage you to involve your contemporaries; to be nourished assiduously by the Word of God by opening your hearts to Christ, to the Gospel, to encounter with God, and to dialogue with each other to offer witness to the whole world.
I bless you with affection. I hope that these pages do good to your hearts as they have done good to my heart, while I invoke peace and mercy upon your homes, your families, and your lives. Let us invoke peace and mercy from God, for the whole world, by the intercession of Mother Teresa.