I’ve always felt a bit odd when someone thanks me for my service. Whether that is service for my time in the Air Force or service for ministry, I never know how to take it when someone says thank you. It is not a lack of gratitude, I return the thank you with a simple “you’re welcome”. It is not a false pride. Rather, it is that I know the secret: that the mere act of serving others has given me more than I have ever received.
Today, I wonder how Mother Theresa feels. She has been canonized as a saint. In my opinion, there is no one more deserving. She is the role model of who I am seeking to become. While I can no way put myself in the same league with her, we do share a similar vocation and ministry of being with the people who the world calls poor, the ones whom Jesus called blessed.
As mentioned, the one who is really blessed in this ministry is me. On Monday I listened as people identified for themselves the opportunities they have to make changes in their lives, on Tuesday I helped prepare 11,000 pounds of food given to hungry people, on Wednesday I learned how people with difficult lives build faith, on Thursday I felt the Holy Spirit fill me with sacred words, on Friday I had the honor of offering comfort to a grieving family, and yesterday I ran among rabbits, foxes, turkeys, and eagles in order to help other people experience what I experienced in Israel.
At the Mass of Mother Theresa’s Canonization, Pope Francis eloquently described something I had long felt but did not know how to put words to. He said that people “who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather they renounce all this because they have discovered true love.” True love is not sentimentality, it comes in what Jesus described as giving without expectation of return, it is looking in to the eyes of the stranger and seeing Christ, it happens when we approach someone wondering what we can give instead of what we can receive. No one needs to thank you for falling in love, love is its own reward.
Pope Francis concluded his homily with a challenge to all of us:
May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion. Mother Teresa loved to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile”. Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness.
Read all of Pope Franics message at: http://m.vatican.va/content/francescomobile/en/homilies/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20160904_omelia-canonizzazione-madre-teresa.html