THANKSGIVING MASS FOR THE BEATIFICATION
HOMILY OF CARDINAL JOSÉ SARAIVA MARTINS
Monday, 20 October 2003
1. "You are the light of the world; a city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Mt 5: 14). The image Jesus uses in the Gospel just proclaimed, explains why John Paul II wanted to add Mother Teresa of Calcutta to the Roll of the Blesseds yesterday. Her life witness and her example as "Mother of the poor" eloquently speak to everyone, believers and non-believers, and are as clearly visible as the city set on a hill.
Today we are here to thank God for the light that has reached each one of us and the whole world through Mother Teresa. This great woman of our time, this valiant Gospel messenger whose life was deeply marked by love, is now venerated among the Blesseds of the Church. Let us therefore look to her as an example and a source of inspiration.
Mother Teresa was, as she described herself, a missionary, a messenger of God's love and an ambassador of his peace. She wanted the people she cared for to experience the tenderness of God's love. Her affectionate hand, her wide open arms, her luminous smile, her welcoming gestures, all carried the message: "You are loved, you are accepted, there is someone to take care of you". The persuasive power of Mother Teresa's love could win hearts.
Her life was a concrete example of how to live the hymn to love in St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians: without love we are nothing, and all we do is devoid of meaning. On the other hand, a life full of love is surprisingly fruitful.
Mother Teresa herself used to recount what happened one day when they took into the house in Calcutta a woman, recovered from the gutter, who was in a pitiful condition, her body a festering mass of sores. The "Mother" welcomed her with great gentleness, cared for her and spent hours cleansing the sores. Despite the motherly care of the Mother of the poor, that poor creature never stopped cursing. The Blessed wiped away the sweat and moistened her burning lips. At last the woman exclaimed: "Sister, why are you doing this? Not everyone behaves like you. Who taught you?". Mother Teresa answered candidly: "My God taught me". And the woman asked her: "Introduce me to your God". At this point Mother Teresa, kissing her, gave her the ultimate, gripping answer: "You know my God. My God is called Love" (cf. A. Comastri in Madre Teresa, la Donna delle Beatitudini. Audio-visual recording, Messaggero, Padua).
2. The new Blessed based her existence upon the Beatitudes which were her model for living. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs" (Mt 5: 3). Mother Teresa devoted all her energy to the service of the poor and the needy. Poverty and suffering were not the centre of her attention; instead, her life was directed towards total union with God by abandoning herself into his hands without condition. She placed all hope in the Lord and, because of this, she succeeded in touching the hearts of the poor, giving them the comfort and the consolation of the Kingdom which has been prepared for them.
"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5: 8). This was one of Christ's phrases most preferred by Mother Teresa. She never tired of repeating that "a pure heart can see God". She was referring to the penetrating vision of faith that comes from having God alone as the centre of your life, which in every circumstance and situation allows one to perceive his hand always at work in the life of mankind. The faith of Mother Teresa was so great that it led her to recognize God even in sadness and tragedy.
Her courage in facing the many challenges and difficulties she encountered in her service to the poor is admirable and an incentive to imitate her: her great love impelled her to smile, even when her mission was far from easy, and her deep faith helped her to keep cheerful even amid suffering, both internal and external.
We can truly say that Mother Teresa was a gift of God to the modern world that is hungering after truth and love, given freely and without reserve. Since she was entirely consumed by love for God and totally dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel, with facts first of all, many saw her as an authentic example of Christian life; they were attracted by the Face of Christ that shone in her and in her service to the poor. People of every belief loved Mother Teresa. The famous words with which the Secretary General of the United Nations introduced the new Blessed when she was invited to that authoritative assembly are very well known, for they have travelled around the world: "This is the most powerful woman on earth. This is the woman who is welcomed everywhere with respect and admiration. She is truly the "United Nations', for she has welcomed into her heart the poor from every corner of the earth!".
These words caused the diminutive Mother of Calcutta a certain embarrassment and she responded with a masterly lesson of life, ascetics and Christian spirituality: "I am only a poor woman who prays. In praying, the Lord has filled my heart with love, and so I have been able to love the poor with God's love".
3. In today's world too, men and women are still attracted by the values and high ideals of goodness and love that Mother Teresa lived in their deepest truth. Steadfast faith in God and submission to the divine law underpinned all her virtues. She offered her life to him without reserve and God could work marvels in her and through her, precisely because of her docility. For this too, Mother Teresa will live on in the Church as a shining example, offering support and encouragement on the journey towards holiness, which she considered the simple duty of every Christian.
"A city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Mt 5: 14). Although Mother Teresa never sought fame, she exercised an immense fascination that cannot be explained with the categories of this world but must be seen in its supernatural horizon, the one that nourished the saints. Indeed, the attraction of her holiness reaped countless good fruits, first smitten, then captivated in a chain of love.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta remains a wonderful example and sign full of fascination for our time of how a life founded on the Beatitudes can be full of love and give light to the world, that light which is Christ.