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Mother Teresa | 16. Our Mission

16. Our Mission

"I was hungry and you gave me food...I was a stranger and you welcome me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me..” (Matthew 25:35-36)

Our work is based on these words of Jesus.

We never accept an invitation to eat out. Would you like to know why?

Because accepting these invitations might give the impression that we accept payment for what we do, and we do everything free of charge.

I always say, "We do it all for Jesus and for the love of the poor." If we only eat our meals in our own house, we do it because we respect the poor.

We don’t not accept even a glass of water; nothing.

"But, why..."

No other explanation is necessary: this is the way it is and that is enough.

To those who say they admire my courage, I have to tell them that I would not have any if I were not convinced that each time I touch the body of a leper, a body that reeks with a foul stench, I touch Christ's body, the same Christ I receive in the Eucharist.

For us, poverty is freedom. It's total freedom. None of the things we have as Missionaries of Charity we have as property, but we have them as things we use.

The sari that we wear is not ours. We have it to use. The sandals that we wear on our feet are not ours. We have them to use.

Poverty is our strength and a source of happiness.

I want to talk here about the marvellous example of a young lady from a well-to-do family who wrote to me:

"For several years Jesus has been inviting me to become a religious. I have tried to discover where he wants me to go. I have gone to several places, but I have found that they had what I have. If I had entered their Congregations, I would not have had to give anything up."

It is very clear: the young lady wanted to give everything up. She wanted to feel free in order to better serve Jesus in the poor.

I am convinced that when I'm gone, if God finds a person more ignorant and useless than I, he will do greater things through that person because it's his doing.

It happened once, when the Congregation of the Missionary Brothers of Charity was first established, that a young Brother came to me and said:

"Mother, I have a special vocation to work with the lepers. I want to give my life to them, my whole being. Nothing attracts me more than that."

I know for a fact that he truly loved those afflicted with leprosy.

I, in turn, answered him:

"I think that you are somewhat wrong, Brother. The work is nothing but a means to express our love for him. That is why the work in itself is not important. What is important is for you to belong to Jesus. And he is the one who offers you the means to express that belonging."

The reason I was given the Nobel Prize was because of the poor. However, the prize went beyond appearances:

In fact, it awakened consciences if favour of the poor all over the world. It became a sort of reminder that the poor are our brothers and sisters and that we have the duty to treat them with love.

We have the specific task of giving material and spiritual help to the poorest of the poor, not only the ones in the slums but those who live in any corner of the world as well.

To do this, we make ourselves live the love of God in prayer and in our work, through a life characterized by the simplicity and humility of the gospel.

We do this by living Jesus in the bread of the Eucharist, and loving and serving him hidden under the painful guise of the poorest of the poor, whether their poverty is a material poverty or a spiritual one. We do this by recognizing in them (and giving back to them) the image and likeness of God.

One of the expressions of our poverty consists in sewing, the best we can, our own dresses when we discover a tear in them. To walk down the street or around the house wearing a torn sari is by no means a sign of the virtue of poverty.

I usually tell the Sisters, "We do not vow the poverty of the beggars, but the poverty of Christ."

On the other hand, we should not forget that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. For that reason we should respect them and wear dresses that have been repaired with dignity.

The Missionaries of Charity are firmly convinced that each time we offer help to the poor, we really offer help to Christ. We try to do this with joy because we cannot go to Christ, even under the guise of the poor, with long faces.

I very often tell the Sisters to approach the poor with joy, knowing that they have plenty of reasons to be sad. They don't need us to confirm their sadness for them.

We are committed to feed Christ who is hungry, committed to clothe Christ who is naked, committed to take in Christ who has no home - and to do all this with a smile on our face and bursting with joy.

It is very beautiful to see our Sisters, many of them still very young, given totally and with such love to the service of Christ's poor.

If our work were just to wash and feed and give medicines to the sick, the centre would have closed a long time ago. The most important thing in our centres is the opportunity we are offered to reach souls.