Bishop Anthony Homily - Feast of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Saturday 6 September 2014
Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - Mass for Feast of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta with the Missionaries of Charity, St Peter’s Church, Surry Hills, Saturday 6 September 2014
Welcome all to this special day in the life of the Missionaries of Charity. I thank Sr Maria Jose MC and this community for the invitation to celebrate with you today. I acknowledge the presence of Sr Mary Lucy MC, the Regional Superior of the Missionaries of Charity, Fr Bill Milstead, Parish Priest and Fr Melvin and Fr Greg; and all friends, co-workers, volunteers and benefactors of the Missionaries of Charity. To you all: a very happy feast day!
Though Australians know her best as the singer of the NSW Rugby League theme song Simply the Best, Tina Turner is known internationally for many songs and by-lines including “what’s love got to do with it?” The song of this name was the versatile performer’s most successful release: topping the hit parades; being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; and being listed among Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. I’m not sure if the sisters plan to sing it today…
It is perhaps unsurprising that What’s Love Got to Do With It? has been so popular in our postmodern age. Its lyrics reflect an age in which sex, love, marriage and family no longer come together as a package and in which emotions and commitments are reduced to electrical synapses in the brain and chemical reactions in the body. Turner sings “the touch of your hand… it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl… It’s [just] physical… [Don’t think] it means more than that. Oh what’s love got to do with it? What’s love, but a second hand emotion?” Reflecting the scepticism of an era afraid of the commitment of love, the pragmatism of a culture avoiding the vulnerability of love, Tina asks “Who needs a heart, when a heart can be broken?”
|‘Mother Teresa of Calcutta' by Manfredo Ferrari (1985) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons|
Today we celebrate the Feast of Bld Teresa of Calcutta, virgin and foundress.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in 1910 in Skopje in what is now the Republic of Macedonia.
Her life and witness as a Loreto sister, then as ‘Mother Teresa’ Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity, and as a servant of the poor says that: actually Love has everything to do with it!
In our second reading today, Paul, another faithful Christian who crossed the then-known world for the mission of the Church, said to the Church of Corinth: “there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love” (1Cor 12:31-13:13).
Love – the greatest and most lasting thing about us – is far more than “a second hand emotion”.
Of course, in its erotic form, it involves sexual attraction, emotional reaction and hormonal distraction. Of course, in its ordinary human form of friendship, it can be self-serving.
But what begins as very natural eros or philia can be purified and flower as a concern for the good, indeed the sanctity, of the beloved; can be willing to engage in self-sacrifice to that end; can become that true communion with God and the saints we call agape (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 5-6). Real love, then, is so much more than chemical-electrical reactions because it is the act of intelligent-free-spiritual beings and ultimately a participation in the very life of God (cf 1Jn 4:8; St Augustine, De Trinitate Bk VIII). So Paul says love is eternal – the ground and destiny of all reality. And John says God is love: our creation, redemption and hoped-for exaltation are all the result of Love’s free choice to share His life of love with us.
True love, then, is a movement of the will towards the good; it chooses the other person’s good for the sake of that other person; it makes their good my own. Sometimes that is hard, really hard. Sometimes it means giving up yourself, your very life, for “no greater love has any man than that he give up his life for his friend; you are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15:13-14). As St John Paul II observed at Mother Teresa’s beatification, Christ’s Way of the Cross was “a journey of love and service that overturns all human logic” and His was the very journey Mother Teresa chose. “I have discovered [for myself] the paradox,” she said, “that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” Self-sacrificial love, cross-shaped love, the love of Jesus Christ and those conformed to Him – not the heart-shaped love of Valentines, Hollywood and pop-songs – this is redeeming, healing, elevating love, this is grace, and far from having nothing to do with it, it has everything to do with it!
The Blessed Foundress of your order exemplified this sort of loving obedience to Jesus: as her friend John Paul put it, she allowed the logic of the cross to guide her. This agape meant she poured out herself entirely in the service of Christ. On 10 September 1946, the day she considered the true foundation day of the MCs, she discerned her “call within a call” while on a train to her annual retreat in Darjeeling. She understood Christ to be calling her “to give up all and follow Him into the slums – to serve Him in the poorest of the poor”. He whispered to her, “Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor. Come, be My light to them.” (Mother Teresa, Come be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, pp39-44). Reluctant though she may have felt, how else could she respond to her Master’s question, “Wilt thou refuse me?” She obeyed (p53).
And so, Mother Teresa went on to found your congregation, to sate the thirst of the Crucified for souls (p40ff). In our Gospel we heard Christ declare truly blessed those who serve Him in “the least of my brethren” (Mt 25:31-46). Such words impelled Mother onwards, living with and ministering to the most marginalised, opening houses for the dying that none would not accept, hungering alongside the hungry, and so on. In all this she was focused on her Beloved. In the slums of India she saw “Christ in distressing disguise” (p.146). In 1974 she declared, “I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”In our first reading the Prophet Isaiah explained that service to the hungry, homeless and naked was most pleasing to God (Is 58:6-11). He said that if these things were done, “your light will rise in the darkness”. Mother and her daughters and friends have been such lamps for our world. Hearts that burn with charity for Christ in the least of His brethren truly heal and elevate and redeem the world. Mother Teresa prayed at the beginning of her work for “the strength to always be the light of their lives and so lead them to You!” (p44) May God always bless your work so that you can continue to spread His light amidst the darkness of our world.
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