Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the death of one of the most revered and well-known models of Christian living in our age: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She entered eternal life on September 5, 1997, I was just about fourteen years old at that time and I remember it well. It was a bizarre week with Princess Diana having been killed in a car crash less-than-a-week earlier. Within a week two of the most well-known international public figures had embraced sister death and became the cause of mourning and reflection. Fifteen years later we are offered an opportunity to pause and reflect again, to pray for our sister in faith and to ask for her intercession, because Mother Teresa continues to journey with us as a member of the communion of saints.
Today’s Gospel (Luke 4:38-44), which recalls Jesus’s encounter with Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law, is a perfect reading for today’s anniversary and the memory of Blessed Mother Teresa. Oftentimes people hear that Jesus heals this woman and are stunned to see that the first thing she does in her newfound health is get up and serve her guests. It almost comes across as a patriarchal, unfair, and almost cruel turn of events. How could this woman who was so ill be healed almost as if to just go immediately to work?
But what is missed is the symbolism of what’s happening in the faith life of those touched and healed by God!
Simon’s mother-in-law becomes a model for all Christians because, in some way and in some form, each person has and continues to be touched and healed by God. We were lovingly brought into existence, we are companioned by the Creator throughout life, we experience the loving embrace of relationships, we recognize the beauty and gift of the rest of creation, and so on.
What the woman in the Gospel does is respond to the literal touch and healing by serving others, the diakonia (in Greek) that all disciples of Christ are called to live. She recognized the gift of God’s love and healing in her life and understood, if only in some intuitive way, that she needed to bring that love and healing to others in the world around her. She was given and continued to receive an abundant grace, and she shared that with the world.
This, in a sense, is what Mother Teresa had done. She recognized God’s grace in her life and knew that to follow in the footprints of Jesus Christ, she had to reach out to share with others the love and healing she had always already received from God. Most remarkably, she did this even at times of deep uncertainty about her own faith and belief. Surely, this is something to which we can all relate at one time or another.
May we today and always remember the example of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Simon’s mother-in-law, taking what we have received from God in Christ and sharing it with the world in loving service and solidarity.
Mother Teresa, pray for us!