If you follow the CGB Facebook page, you will notice that the cover photo is of now-Saint Teresa of Calcutta. You may have also noticed the plethora of Mother Teresa posts on the page in the days leading up to her canonization. I don’t normally buy magazines, but while I was at Walgreens I came across a Time Magazine special edition dedicated to Mother Teresa.
Yes, I really love Mother Teresa. What’s not to love? Her compassion for the poor and forgotten went above and beyond, her simplicity is a breath of fresh air that our materialistic society could benefit from, and she held firm to her faith in God in spite of suffering decades of spiritual darkness.
I do love her for all these reasons, but none of them are the #1 reason I look up to her.
The main reason why Mother Teresa inspires me is because she saw the big picture of God’s plan.
Mother Teresa did not help people with the intent of converting them to Christianity. She never once said, “I will help you only if you become a Christian.” Unfortunately, her lack of pushing conversions to Christianity is one of the criticisms launched at her.
Truth be told, Mother Teresa did seek conversions, but in a different way.
“Yes, I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist. And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.”
–Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Reading this quote makes me think of a particular theological principle in the Catholic Church known as “Baptism by Desire.”
Paragraph 1260 of the Catechism explains Baptism by Desire this way: “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”
Applying the passage above, let’s say you have a Buddhist monk who perhaps has heard of Jesus, but through no fault of his own, doesn’t know Jesus in the same way that a Christian does. Our Buddhist monk friend does not know Jesus, but his life exemplifies Christ through loving kindness, acts of charity towards the poor and suffering, a deep commitment to protecting creation, and other noble attributes. Perhaps at some point the Buddhist monk finds himself pondering the existence of a creator and spends his life searching for truth. While our Buddhist monk friend does not profess belief in Jesus explicitly, he does feel the call of God in his heart and is responding to it in the best way he knows how.
Mother Teresa saw this principle very clearly. She recognized that God’s ultimate plan went beyond the confines of religious labels. This is why she sought to convert people into better human beings, and she did so by being a living example of the Gospel herself. Every step she took, every decision she made, every word she spoke gave glory to God. She saw that any time a person seeks to help others, to improve themselves and to serve humanity in their own little way, they are serving God whether they realize it or not. She was willing to be a vessel used by God to make an impact in the slums of Calcutta.
In a way, Mother Teresa was a visionary. She saw with the eyes of her heart and soul that a great number of people who are willing to serve one another can create a society that serves. A society that serves is a society of God.
“I’ve always said that we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”
–Saint Teresa of Calcutta