When I was much younger, I learned about this remarkable woman, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, then simply known as Mother Teresa. As a teenager herself, she had chosen to serve God by leaving her home in the former Yugoslavia to go practically around the world to India and become a nun. There she taught school, but she was distracted by the poor on the streets. Longing to care for them, she needed to be released from her teaching duties. Eventually a new religious order, the Missionaries of Charity, was formed by Mother Teresa to serve them, the poorest of the poor.
I wonder today what attracted me to her. I didn't know much about India. The pictures of the suffering, the cachetic bodies that barely resembled humans, puzzled me. Growing up with movies and air brushed photographs, as well as a skepticism of news and government organizations, it can be hard to believe. How can there be such incredible suffering in my world?
Mother Teresa was doing God's work; I know that was exciting to me. How many people do I hear ask, "What does God want me to do?" She seemed to have no questions, just more work to do.
Of course, she also challenged me to see Jesus in others. I thought about Abraham and Sarah entertaining the three strangers, not knowing the Lord was among them. Did I see Jesus in others? What if I missed my opportunity to serve Him because I was caught up in my own life?
As a child, these were my desires, then I grew up selfish and distracted. Today, I am pondering the questions again.
Am I generous? Prudent with my resources? Lavish my love? Do I seek to serve Jesus by serving you? Have I fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed a new friend, clothed the naked, nursed the sick, comforted the imprisoned? Have I served Christ in His distressing disguise as Mother Teresa saw Him?
My true response? I suck.
Yeah, not very eloquent, but I am barely nice to the people I supposedly like, let alone go out of my way for strangers. I drop some stuff off at the food bank once in a while, gave some spare change toward building a well in Rwanda, I am a nurse, but I certainly do not go out of my way, out of my plenty, to give.
And, yet, tho in this type of giving we are giving to Christ, we are also most accurate in being disciples of our Master. As disciples we should walk as our Master walked, do as our Master did. God became man in Jesus to free us from our prison of sin, to heal our sickness and wounds, to feed us the Bread of Life and quench our thirst with Living Water, to clothe us in His righteousness, and to bring us into His family, strangers no more.
For all the talk of being a missional church, what I read about most often is the creation of coffee houses to provide non threatening places to meet with non Christians. Is that really what we need to be doing to live incarnationally? Or is there more? As a disciple of Jesus, am I called to serve the poor, or just the poor in spirit-that less threatening gospel of the American church?
I am not sure what the "right" answers are here. Should we all run off to other countries where the poor are really poor? Should we see, as I do, the world outside our doorsteps as a mission field? Should we pray all the more to see what God sees so that we might be more aware of the needs from which we have trained ourselves to look away?
I do not know the answers, but I know there are questions, in my head and in my heart, being challenged by friends on Facebook (Suzi) and my reading of The Hole in Our Gospel. Waiting to see where Father takes this...