Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Our Times and Mother Teresa

Most saints are hometown heroes, local boys and girls made good -- very good. that's not at all to diminish them. Every saint reflects the glory of Christ. But most were made saints because they were able to translate the gospel into a way of live that spoke in a special way to their time and place.

Some saints -- a handful in the past two thousand or more years -- are sent to bear a message that transcends their moment and culture. They're raised up at critical junctures in history, when great gospel truths are in danger of being hijacked by heretics of plowed under by Christian indifference and forgetfulness.

... Catholics envision humanity -- with all its different cultures, races, and even religions -- as a single world family, a people loving one another and loving God. Mother Teresa showed us how far our world is from that. She showed us a world cleaved apart by blood and class, caste and creed, a world that fixed an impassable gulf between those who have too much and those who have nothing at all. She showed us a world in which people don't matter, especially the weak: the baby in th womb, the poor, the sick, the old. She showed us a world of people torn apart from within, not knowing who they are or what they should be about, not knowing what meaning there is to life, if any.

Mother Teresa became a household name in this world because God needed a witness, needed to send some sign that He is still on earth and that hope is growing like a seed beneath all the bleak contingencies of our days.
I liked this book even better than I liked Scott's The Catholic Passion and you may remember that I really liked that book quite a lot.

Somehow, Scott manages to make convey just what Mother Teresa's impact was on the whole world, while keeping the story personal. This is a perfect reflection of Mother Teresa's ministry and how God used her as the perfect saint for her time. Before Revolution of Love I never really thought about how many ways that Mother Teresa reflected just what God wanted us to learn ... or remember ... in our modern and often lonely world. She showed us that we should bloom where we are planted because that is where God wants us to make a difference, that the smallest act of kindness casts ripples beyond our own imagining, and so much more.

Scott has given us a gem of a book, short and simple, such as Mother Teresa undoubtedly would have approved. His insights took me beyond the usual platitudes and made me really consider Mother Teresa, our life and times, and my place in it.

I also really appreciated the way that he didn't ignore the controversies raised by various naysayers about Mother Teresa. He points out that many of those outspoken critics really couldn't understand her because they didn't have the right point of view to begin with ... which would be focusing all through the lens of faith.

Along the way, I also learned some extremely practical lessons, such as this one on how to be ecumenical while still proclaiming Jesus. I can't recommend this book too highly. If you haven't yet come across it, do seek it out.
Mother Teresa had too much respect for the truth of her own conscience to ever fall into this trap of denying her Lord or the mission of His Church. "I love all religions but I am in love with my own," she would say. "Naturally I would like to give the treasure I have to you, but I cannot. I can only pray for you to receive it.

She earned the trust and friendship of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists. Many called her "Mother" and came to her for prayers and advice. But everyone knew that her heart belonged to Jesus and that she hoped that their hearts would one day belong to Him too. In this, she was a kind of missionary to missionaries, showing them new possibilities for preaching the gospel in an age of radical religious pluralism...

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