I was talking with my father-in-law the other night about tomorrow’s canonization of Mother Teresa. This is a huge event for so many people, Catholic or otherwise. Mother Teresa’s example of love, service solidarity, charity, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, faith, persistence, resolve, (need I go on?) will resound throughout the centuries as generations to come will continue to learn from her and her incredible witness. My father-in-law made a comment I’ve heard many times said by many people in similar words: “Look at her, how can we possibly hope to compare?”
At first I was inclined to agree. Indeed, Mother Teresa is a woman who stands out among women. She dedicated her life to God and actively sought His direction. She followed where God called her, even when it meant giving up comforts and familiar faces. She continued her obedience even when she walked through her dark night of the soul, her belief never wavering even in the midst of an arid spiritual desert.
It is true, Mother Teresa did things that few human beings have done. She was willing to sacrifice what the world holds dear so that she could fully embrace those the world has rejected. It is without question that she is someone to be admired, to be looked up to and to be challenged by.
But, I challenge the sentiment that we need to compare ourselves to her. She can challenge us to live better lives, she can encourage us to detach from the things that keep us from following God and she certainly can call us to improve in areas we fall short of compassion and generosity. However, I am not called to be Mother Teresa. You are not called to be Mother Teresa. I am called to be Kate Taliaferro. You are called to be [say name here]. We each have a unique mission given to us by God to fulfill for the betterment of one another.
What makes Mother Teresa so magnetic, what makes her smiling wrinkled face and worn hands so inspiring, is that she truly became who God had called her to be. When God called, she was listening. When God moved, she responded. When God challenged, she continued to empty herself into His hands so that He could work in and through them.
Mother was always encouraging those she encountered to continue growing in who they are as children of God. A simple Google search offers a plethora of quotes, all which can be applied not to becoming more like Mother, but to growing in holiness on our own paths that God has laid out for us.
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
There are no great things, only small things with great love. Happy are those.Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.Peace begins with a smile..Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.
We are not all called to Calcutta, but we are called to love each person we encounter in our day. We are not all called to work with the sick or dying, but we all know someone who is weak in spirit, harboring sadness or despair, or struggling through life who is in need of our kindness. We are not all called to walk through the streets feeding the hungry, but we all probably know of a corner where a person in need is waiting for someone to look them in the eyes, acknowledging our common humanity, and offer them a meal. We may not be called to give up everything, but we are all definitely called to sacrifice something that is keeping us from a deeper relationship with Christ.
So I challenge you, like I challenge myself, be who you are called to be. Be inspired by Mother Teresa’s holiness, her faith and her obedience, not intimidated. Be encouraged by her joy, her compassion and her generosity, not disheartened. May her smile be a pathway to the you you are called to be.