Mother Teresa | 5. Christ in the Poor


5. Christ in the Poor

"The poor are great! The poor are wonderful! The poor are very generous! They give us much more than we give them."

Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.

All the desolation of the poor, not only their material poverty but their spiritual wounds as well, need to be redeemed. We should share with them because only if we are united with them can we redeem them, bringing God to their lives and they, in turn, to God.

A way of satisfying our brethren's' hunger is to share with them whatever we have - to share with them until we ourselves feel what they feel.

I have the feeling that we are in such a hurry that we do not even have time to look at one another and simile.

Do we share with the poor, just like Jesus shared with us?

Whoever the poorest of the poor are, they are Christ for us - Christ under the guise of human suffering.

The Missionaries of Charity are firmly convinced that each time we offer help to the poor, we really offer help to Christ.

Our food, our dress: it all must be just like the poor. The poor are Christ himself.

I think that the work of the Church in this developed and rich Western Hemisphere is more difficult than in Calcutta, South Yemen, or other areas

where the needs of the people are reduced to the clothes needed to ward off the cold, or a dish of rice to curb their hunger – anything that will show them that someone loves them.

In the West the problems the poor have go much deeper; the problems are in the depths of their hearts.

"Even though we might have to expel all missionaries," the prime minister of Ethiopia told me, "we will not allow your Sisters to leave because I am told, and I have checked it myself to be true, that you truly love the poor and take care of them."

When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.

We have refused to be instruments of love in the hands of God to give the poor a piece of bread, to offer them a dress with which to ward off the cold.

It has happened because we did not recognize Christ when, once more, he appeared under the guise of pain, identified with a man numb from the cold, dying of hunger, when he came in a lonely human being, in a lost child in search of a home.

To be happy with God on earth presupposes certain things:

to love the way he loves; to help the way he helps; to give the way he gives; to save the way he saves; to remain in his presence 24 hours a day; to touch him in the poor and in those who suffer.

A great poverty reigns in a country that allow taking the life of an unborn child - a child created in God's image, created to live and to love:

His or her life is not for destroying but for living, despite the selfishness of those who fear that they lack the means to feed or educate one more child.

When we touch the sick and needy, we touch the suffering body of Christ.

The poor call to us. We have to be aware of them in order to love them. We have to ask ourselves if we know the truth. Do we know the poor in our own homes?

Sometimes people can hunger for more than bread.

It is possible that our children, our husband, our wife, do not hunger for bread, do not need clothes, and do not lack a house. But are we equally sure that none of them feels alone, abandoned, neglected, and needing some affection? That, too, is poverty.

Christ, being rich, become poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). If we want to imitate Christ, who in spite of being rich became poor and practiced poverty, we have to do what he does.

There are people who want to be poor and live like the poor, but at the same time they like to have valuable things. In reality, this is just being rich; they want the best of both worlds:

The Missionaries of Charity cannot do this; it would be a contradiction.

Christ could have chosen a royal palace as his home. However, in order to be like us, he chose to be like us in all things but sin (Hebrew 4:15).

We, in order to be like the poor, choose to be like them in all things except in their state of misery.

If there are poor on the moon, we will go there too.

The demands, and consequently the needs, are the same, or very similar, no matter where we are in the world.

In spite of everything, I think that in the West, in general, the needs are mostly spiritual. Material needs, in most cases, are taken care of. Rather, there is an immense spiritual poverty.

We are at the service of the poor. But are we capable, are we willing to share the poverty of the poor? Do we identify with the poor whom we serve? Do we really feel in solidarity with them? Do we share with them just like Jesus shares with us?

The poor anywhere in the world are Christ who suffers. In them, the Son of God lives and dies. Through them, God shows his face.

All my years of service to the poor have helped me to understand that they are precisely the ones who better understand human dignity:

If they have a problem, it is not lack of money, but the fact that their right to be treated humanly and with tenderness is not recognized.

Jesus comes to meet us. To welcome him, let us go to meet him:

He comes to us in the hungry, the naked, the lonely, the alcoholic, the drug addict, the prostitute, the street beggars.

He may come to you or me in a father who is alone, in a mother, in a brother, or in a sister.

If we reject them, if we do not go out to meet them, we reject Jesus himself.

The important thing is not to do a lot or to do everything. The important thing is to be ready for anything, at all times; to be convinced that when serving the poor, we really serve God.

Poverty has not been created by God. We are the ones who have created poverty.

Before God, we are all poor.

Before judging the poor, we have to examine with sincerity our own conscience.

If abortion becomes legalized in rich countries, those countries truly are the poorest in the world.

Jesus is the one we take care of, visit, clothe, feed, and comfort every time we do this to the poorest of the poor, to the sick, to the dying, to the lepers, and to the ones who suffer from AIDS.

We should not serve the poor like they were Jesus.
We should serve the poor because they are Jesus.