Homily text: A link of love unites the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mother Teresa
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the the full text of the homily given by Father Jeremy Freehill at the diocesan celebration of the canonization of St. Teresa of Kolkata. The Sept. 10 Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria also marked 25 years of service in the Diocese of Peoria by the religious community she founded, the Missionaries of Charity. Father Freehill is chaplain of Alleman High School in Rock Island and has sacramental care of Augustana College.
The Church teaches that the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New. I believe something similar could be said about the Immaculate Conception herself, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our newest saint. The person of Saint Mother Teresa is hidden in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The person of Mary is revealed in the person of Mother Teresa. A link of mystery and love unites these two women that we call mother and saint.
Beginning with Our Lady, we know that from a young age she had a great love for God. Her parents had taught her: “The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart” (Deut. 6: 4-6).
Mary was taught and encouraged by her parents, her first teachers in the faith, and with the help of God’s grace was moved to love Him. So much so that Mary was distressed by the infidelity of her people past and present towards God. She was horrified by sin and by her people’s constant refusal to live as God’s bride with a faithful love towards Him. She wanted to make-up for their infidelity and make reparation for them. She wanted to be for God what her people Israel often were not. She wanted to live as God’s faithful bride.
In her own time, there was no such thing as a woman consecrating herself to God with a virgin’s love. This would have been unheard of. It would have been impossible and unthinkable. Yet, within the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Cause of our Joy, there was a draw to belong to God and to belong to God alone. She thought this was what God wanted, but she didn’t know how this would be.
It is because of this movement of grace to belong to God alone that Mary was surprised by the news of the Angel Gabriel that she was to be a mother and on top of that the Mother of the Word Incarnate. “How can this be” (Luke 1:34).
The angel reveals however how God honors her virginity, her virgin’s love towards Him, and that while remaining a virgin she will also be a mother by the power of the Holy Spirit. At that moment, Mary totally surrenders herself to God in loving trust. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).
Immediately after this consecration of hers, we see Our Lady goes off into the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is with child. Mary goes to do the simple work of a handmaid, and we see lived out within her the words of Saint Paul who said that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Mary’s consecration to God gives her a spirit of great joy and leads her to give cheerful service to others.
Her consecration and this willingness to give herself cheerfully was most tested at the moment Mary stood at foot of the Cross. There we know she witnessed her Son’s suffering and sacrifice to the Father. But we also know Mary didn’t run from the Cross nor did she simply fall to the ground not knowing what to do. No!
Mary stood by the Cross on which the Savior hung and shared in that suffering and sacrifice to the Father. And when Jesus proclaimed, “I Thirst” (John 19:28). She alone knew the meaning of the words and consoled His heart with her faith, her trust, and her love.
MOTHER TERESA REFLECTS MARY’S LIFE
Turning now to Saint Mother Teresa, we can see hidden in these events within the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother Teresa’s own life and person.
For we can see in a young Mary, a young Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu, the future Mother Teresa, who was taught by her mother as she was departing Albania to go off to the missions of India…….“Put your hand in His hand, and walk alone with Him. Walk ahead, because if you look back you will be back” (Come Be My Light, 13).
Her parents too taught and encouraged her, as her first teachers in the faith, and with the help of God’s grace she was moved to love Him. She would later recount how “from childhood the Heart of Jesus has been my first love” (Come Be My Light, 14).
At the age of 5 1/2 the future Mother Teresa also received a particular grace from God on the day of her First Communion. “From the age of 5 1/2 years — when first I received Him — the love for souls has been within—It grew with the years—until I came to India—with the hope of saving many souls” (Come Be My Light, 15).
At 12, Mother Teresa first knew she had a “vocation to the poor” (Come Be My Light, 14). “I wanted to be a missionary”, she said, “I wanted to go out and give the life of Christ to the people in the missionary countries” (Come Be My Light, 14). She knew this was the will of God, “it was His choice” (Come Be My Light, 14).
It was His choice that she “work for Jesus who died for us all” (Come Be My Light, 14). It was His choice that she “save as many immortal souls as possible from the darkness of unbelief” (Come be my Light, 15). It is no surprise we can see her life hidden within Mary’s own consecration, for Mother Teresa gave her own fiat to His choice to consecrate herself totally to God and to let it be done unto her according to His will.
On May 25, 1931, she made her first profession of vows promising God through the Church to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and to devote herself with particular care to the instruction of youth within the Loreto Community. “If you could know”, she would say, “how happy I am, as Jesus’ little spouse. No one, not even those who are enjoying some happiness which in the world seems perfect, could I envy, because I am enjoying my complete happiness, even when I suffer something for my beloved spouse” (Come Be My Light, 18).
On May 24, 1937, Mother Teresa made her final vows. “What a great grace”, she exclaimed, “I really cannot thank God enough for all that He has done for me. His for all eternity! (Come Be My Light, 20).
Mother Teresa, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, gave herself in total surrender to God with loving trust. She consecrated herself to God with a virgin’s love. She wanted to belong only to Him. “His for all eternity!”
The fruit of her consecration to God, like Mary, was also one of joy and led her to give cheerful service to her fellow sisters, to her students, and to the poor.
On September 10th 1946 (Inspiration Day) Mother Teresa would receive a call within her vocation. “It was a vocation to give up even Loreto where I was happy”, she said, “and to go out into the streets to serve the poorest of the poor” (Come Be My Light, 40). It was on this day the Missionaries of Charity began — “in the depths of God’s infinite longing to love and to be loved” (Come Be My Light, 40). The call would not be easy, a call to be a victim of the Lord’s love for the poor, but she knew once again it was His choice.
Mother Teresa’s consecration and willingness to give herself cheerfully in that moment was tested; but like Mary at the Cross, she offered herself and learned to respond to the thirst of Jesus for her trust, her faith, and her love at that moment. She entered into God’s infinite longing to love and to be loved. Something she would do every day for the rest of her earthly life and now for eternity.
The aim of the Missionaries of Charity is to quench the thirst of Jesus for love and souls by laboring for the sanctification and salvation of the poorest of the poor. Sister M. Dorothy M.C., who attended my priestly ordination here in this cathedral and who was among the first group of sisters to profess as a Missionaries of Charity once said to me, the sisters are to go out and help people to know Jesus’ thirst for them and accompany people in responding to it.
Sister M. Dorothy M.C. went on to say, “We must not think we are not worthy , I have drifted away from religion, I have not been practicing religion in my life, I have been away from God so many years, how can I respond to His thirst, how can I believe that God still loves me, how can I believe Jesus still loves me. Mother said, yes, no matter what has happened, He still loves you, He still thirsts for you.”
Mother Teresa always said Our Lady was the first to know this thirst of Jesus for each individual person. It was her who first responded to it and who taught Saint John the Apostle and Saint Mary Magdalen the meaning of “I thirst” too (John 19:28). Mary undoubtedly went out from Calvary, on Good Friday, and spent the rest of her life helping people to know Jesus’s thirst for their love and helping them to respond to it with the love of their hearts. Just as she had taught John and Mary Magdalen.
We can see reflected then in Mother Teresa the life of the Virgin Mary. Mother Teresa simply continued to do what Mary had done as the first Missionary of Charity so many centuries before her.
If we want to know how Mary responded to Jesus’ thirst, how she labored for souls, how she helped people to know and respond to the Lord’s thirst for them, how she looked at people, how she touched people, how she cared for them, how she smiled, challenged, and encouraged others, we need only to look to Mother Teresa. If we want to see Mary’s total surrender, her loving trust, her joy, her faith, her obedience, and her charity, we only have to look to Mother Teresa.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is very much reflected in the person and life of Saint Mother Teresa. Just as much as Mother Teresa is hidden in the person and life of Mary.
GRATITUDE TO MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY
I now wish to say just a few words specifically to my MC sisters!
Dear Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister M. Dorothy M.C. said “every vocation forms a part of salvation history. It becomes salvation history through the one who responds to His call.”
Saint Mother Teresa responded to His choice, to His call, and her life became a part of salvation history satiating His thirst for love and for souls by laboring for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor. You too have responded to His choice, His call, and you are His for all eternity. Your life has become a part of salvation history within the society of the MC’s.
As I look at you, I see a reflection of Our Lady too. You reveal Mary to the poor, to me, to our bishop, to the co-workers of your society, to the whole Church, and to the world. You continue Mary’s work of helping people to know of the Lord’s thirst for them and accompany them in responding to His thirst. And your vocation is hidden in Mary, like Mother Teresa.
We give thanks to your parents who were your first teachers in the faith, and we pray for them. We give thanks for your loving trust and total surrender to God on the day of your consecration. We give thanks for your spirit of joy and the cheerful service you give to the poorest of the poor.
We give you thanks for reminding us of the Lord’s thirst for our love, no matter what has happened to us, and for teaching us how we are to respond to it by a life of prayer, in the sacraments, and cheerful service to the least of the Lord’s brethren (Matt. 25).
We give thanks that you saw how He looked for consolers (Psalm 69) and made the choice to be the one to console His heart and satiate His thirst.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is also reflected in each one of you and you too are hidden in the person of Mary like your dearest Mother Teresa.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cause of Our Joy
Pray for us!
Pray for us
Our Dearest Mother, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Pray for us