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Papal Household Preacher's 3rd Meditation for Advent 2003 (Part 1)

Love for Jesus Drove Mother Teresa

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2003 (Zenit) - Here is Part 1 of the third Advent meditation that the Papal Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, delivered last Friday in the presence of the Pope and members of the Roman Curia. Part 2 appears Tuesday.

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Father Raniero Cantalamessa
Advent 2003 at the Pontifical Household
Third Homily

"Do You Know the Living Christ?"

1. Jesus, Sense of Mother Teresa's Life

Mother Teresa's confessor, Jesuit Father Celeste Van Exem, has said of her: "The meaning of her whole life was a person: Jesus."[1] After studying her life for years, and the writings and testimonies of others about her, the general postulator of her cause of beatification concludes: "If I have to say, in synthesis, why she is raised to the honor of the altar, I reply: because of her personal love of Jesus which she lived in such an intense way as to consider herself his bride. Hers was a Jesus-centered life."[2]

The most significant testimony in this respect is the letter that Mother Teresa wrote to all the family of the Missionaries of Charity from Varanasi, during Holy Week, on March 25, 1993.[3] "Such a personal letter," she said at the beginning, "that I wished to write it by hand." In it, she says:

"I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus -- one to one -- you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel -- but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus -- not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? ... Never give up this every day intimate contact with Jesus as a real living persons -- not just an idea."[4]

Here one sees how for Mother Teresa Jesus was not an abstraction, a collection of doctrines, of dogmas, or the memory of a person who lived at another time, but a living Jesus, someone to look at in his own heart and to allow oneself to be looked at.

Mother explained that if until then she had not spoken so openly it was out of a sense of reserve and to imitate Mary who "kept all things in her heart," but that she now felt the need, before leaving them, to tell them what for her was the meaning of her whole work: "For me it is clear: everything in the Missionaries of Christ exists only to satiate (the thirst) of Jesus."[5]

To the question: "Who is Jesus for me?" she replies with an inspired litany of titles.

Is the word to be spoken.
He is the Life to be lived.
He is the Love to be loved.
He is the Joy to be shared ...
He is the Sacrifice to be offered.
He is the Peace to be given.
He is the Bread of life to be eaten ...

Love for Jesus assumes spontaneously the form of spousal love. She herself recounts: "Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a professor from the United States asked me, 'Are you married?' And I said, 'Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at my spouse, Jesus, because he can be very demanding.'"[7]

The majority of trees with tall trunks have a main root that descends perpendicularly in the earth and is like the continuation, under the earth, of the trunk. In Italian it is called the "fittone" (vertical root). It is the one that gives some trees, such as the oak, that unshakableness that not even the most impetuous winds succeed in uprooting. Man also has this vertical root. In general, for one who lives according to the flesh it is his own "I," disordered self-love, egoism; in the spiritual man it is Christ. The whole path to holiness consists in changing the name and nature of that root, until one can say with the Apostle, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Thanks also to the long purification of her dark night, Mother Teresa brought to completion this process to which all of us are committed.

2. The Fruit of Love Is Service

One of Mother Teresa's best-known sayings is: "The fruit of Love is Service and the fruit of Service is Peace."[8] The two things -- love for Jesus and service of the poorest of the poor -- were born together, as a torrent of lava, in the soul of Mother Teresa, at the moment of her second call on September 10, 1946. She said to her daughters:

"I Thirst and You Did it to Me: Remember always to connect the two, the means with the Aim. What God has joined together let no one split apart. ... Our Charism is to satiate the thirst of Jesus for love and souls -- by working at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor."[9]

"You -- did -- it -- to -- me": Mother Teresa pronounced these words distinctly on the fingers of one hand and said it was "the Gospel of the five fingers." ...

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