In her final interview ever given, Mother Teresa was asked what has been God’s greatest gift to her. She responded, “The poor people.”
The reporter then asked her how poor people have been a gift to her. Mother Teresa replied, “I have an opportunity to be with Jesus 24 hours a day.”*
“I have an opportunity to be with Jesus 24 hours a day.”
When I first read this, my mind immediately though of that story Jesus told in Matthew 25:31-46 about the sheep and the goats. If you recall, Jesus described himself as a king who was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, a man in need of clothes, a sick man, and a prisoner who was fed, provided drink, shown hospitality, clothed, cared for, and visited by the righteous. Then those righteous people asked Jesus when they did such good deeds to him and Jesus replied in v. 40, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I need to hear these words of Jesus as well as the reply of Mother Teresa and I need to hear them often. As a preacher/minister, I encounter people who are poor. They are people who are in need, in one way or the other. I want to be Jesus to them in what I do and say…and I try to do that.
But… Sometimes it is hard. The problems that contribute to their poverty which are a myriad of adverse decisions (some they have made for themselves and some, often many, that were made for them by someone else) can be overwhelming. Serving such people can so demanding. Dealing with people who will sometimes lie and manipulate to get ahead is tiring.
And… It is so easy to simply see the poor from a worldly viewpoint even though scripture teaches me to do otherwise (cf. 2 Cor 5:16). It is easy to see all the myriad of problems they have.
So… What if I was more aware that when I encounter the poor I am encountering Jesus?
* You can read the full interview, which appeared in Time magazine here.