On September 4, 2016, the Vatican canonizes St. Teresa Calcutta, who died Sept. 5, 1997. The following excerpt comes from St. Teresa’s Commemorative Edition of No Greater Love, published here with permission from New World Library.)
On Work and Service
By St. Teresa of Calcutta
I believe that if God finds a person more useless than me, He will do even greater things through her because this work is His.
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
Jesus to Paul, II Corinthians 12:9 RSV
It is possible that I may not be able to keep my attention fully on God while I work, but God doesn’t demand that I do so. Yet I can fully desire and intend that my work be done with Jesus and for Jesus. This is beautiful and that is what God wants. He wants our will and our desire to be for Him, for our family, for our children, for our brethren, and for the poor.
Each one of us is merely a small instrument. When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, often you see small and big wires, new and old, cheap and expensive lined up. Until the current passes through them there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God.
We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, produce the light of the world. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.
It’s possible that in the apartment or house across from yours there is a blind man who would be thrilled if you would go over and read the newspaper to him. It’s possible that there is a family that needs something that seems insignificant to you, something as simple as having someone baby-sit their child for half an hour. There are so many little things that are so small many people almost forget about them.
If you are working in the kitchen do not think it does not require brains. Do not think that sitting, standing, coming, and going, that everything you do, is not important to God.
God will not ask how many books you have read; how many miracles you have worked; He will ask you if you have done your best, for the love of Him. Can you in all sincerity say, “I have done my best”? Even if the best is failure, it must be our best, our utmost.
If you are really in love with Christ, no matter how small your work, it will be done better; it will be wholehearted. Your work will prove your love.
You may be exhausted with work, you may even kill yourself, but unless your work is interwoven with love, it is useless. To work without love is slavery.
If someone feels that God wants from him a transformation of social structures, that’s an issue between him and his God. We all have the duty to serve God where we feel called. I feel called to help individuals, to love each human being. I never think in terms of crowds in general but in terms of persons. Were I to think about crowds, I would never begin anything. It is the person that matters. I believe in person-to-person encounters.
The fullness of our heart comes in our actions: how I treat that leper, how I treat that dying person, how I treat the homeless. Sometimes it is more difficult to work with the street people than with the people in our homes for the dying because they are peaceful and waiting; they are ready to go to God.
You can touch the sick, the leper and believe that it is the body of Christ you are touching, but it is much more difficult when these people are drunk or shouting to think that this is Jesus in His distressing disguise. How clean and loving our hands must be to be able to bring that compassion to them!
We need to be pure in heart to see Jesus in the person of the spiritually poorest. Therefore, the more disfigured the image of God is in that person, the greater will be our faith and devotion in seeking Jesus’ face and lovingly ministering to Him. We consider it an honor to serve Christ in the distressing disguise of the spiritually poorest; we do it with deep gratitude and reverence in a spirit of sharing.
The more repugnant the work, the greater the effect of love and cheerful service. If I had not first picked up the woman who was eaten by rats — her face, and legs, and so on — I could not have been a Missionary of Charity. Feelings of repugnance are human. If we give our wholehearted, free service in spite of such feelings, we will become holy. Saint Francis of Assisi was repulsed by lepers but he overcame it.
Whatever you do, even if you help somebody cross the road, you do it to Jesus. Even giving somebody a glass of water, you do it to Jesus. Such a simple little teaching, but it is more and more important.
We must not be afraid to proclaim Christ’s love and to love as He loved. In the work we have to do it does not matter how small and humble it may be, make it Christ’s love in action.
However beautiful the work is, be detached from it, even ready to give it up. The work is not yours. The talents God has given you are not yours; they have been given to you for your use, for the glory of God. Be great and use everything in you for the good Master.
What have we to learn? To be meek and humble; if we are meek and humble, we will learn to pray. If we learn to pray, we will belong to Jesus. If we belong to Jesus, we will learn to believe, and if we believe we will learn to love, and if we love we will learn to serve.
Spend your time in prayer. If you pray you will have faith, and if you have faith you will naturally want to serve. The one who prays cannot but have faith, and when you have faith you want to put it into action. Faith in action is service.
The fruit of love is service. Love leads us to say, “I want to serve.” And the fruit of service is peace. All of us should work for peace.
Someone asked me what advice I had for politicians. I don’t like to get involved in politics, but my answer just popped out, “They should spend time on their knees. I think that would help them to become better statesmen.”
Strive to be the demonstration of God in the midst of your community. Sometimes we see how joy returns to the lives of the most destitute when they realize that many among us are concerned about them and show them our love. Even their health improves if they are sick.
May we never forget that in the service to the poor we are offered a magnificent opportunity to do something beautiful for God. In fact, when we give ourselves with all our hearts to the poor, it is Christ whom we are serving in their disfigured faces. For He Himself said, “You did it for me.”
Daily Prayer of the Co-workers of Mother Teresa
Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger.
Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread, and by our understanding Love, give Peace and Joy.
Lord, make me a channel of Thy Peace, that where there is hatred, I may bring Love; that where there is wrong, I may bring the Spirit of Forgiveness; that where there is discord, I may bring Harmony; that where there is error, I may bring Truth; that where there is doubt, I may bring Faith; that where there is despair, I may bring Hope; that where there are shadows, I may bring Light; that where there is sadness, I may bring Joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted, to understand, than to be understood, to love, than to be loved, for it is by forgetting self that one finds, it is by forgiving that one is forgiven, it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
Adapted from The Prayer of Saint Francis
Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.
Saint Therese of Lisieux
I assure you, as often as you did it for one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.
Jesus, Matthew 25:40 NAB
Copyright © 1997, 2001 by New World Library. Printed with permission.