From "The Essential Writings of Mother Teresa," comes this assurance "Suffering is not a punishment, Jesus does not punish. Suffering is a sign that God loves us. Through suffering, pain, the cross, sickness and death, we arrive at life, at the resurrection.
We are at his disposal. If Jesus wants a person to be sick in bed, if He wants another person to proclaim his Word in the street, if He wants another to clean the toilets all day, that's all right. Everything is all right."
Beautified in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa spent her life being unafraid to love. Wherever she went, she looked at the person directly in front of her, and tended to that person. She believed in the personal touch of one to one. If she thought in terms of crowds, she would never have begun her work.
Eventually, her labor expanded to global dimension, but she continued her belief of "whatever we are doing, we are doing it in the presence of God."
The person in front of her had her full attention, because she saw Jesus in everyone.
"When we are caring for the sick and needy, we are touching the body of Christ, and this touch helps us overcome the natural reaction that is in all of us."
The main connector for Mother Teresa was prayer. For her, prayer was nothing but being in the family, being one with the Father in the Son to the Holy Spirit.
"When we can't pray, it is very simple. If Jesus is in my heart, let Him pray in me, talk to his Father in the silence of my heart. Give Him the nothingness when we have nothing to give."
And so, prayer is not a torture. It is not meant to make us feel uneasy. It is something to look forward to, especially when we are suffering.
For Mother Teresa, Jesus was in the disguise of the poorest of the poor, the loneliest, and cast out people. Jesus identified with the hungry man, the homeless child, those ravished by disease and the dying.
The same Jesus is in the people who are unwanted, unemployed, and uncared for; the ones who seem useless to society. Mother Teresa left a legacy to show us how to see Christ in our neighbors.
"Today, the same Jesus comes among us, his own do not know him. He comes in the repugnant bodies of the poor, but he comes also in the rich, who are suffocated by their wealth. He comes to you and to me, but frequently, very frequently, we pass him by."
Christians have a legacy of love, and are called to be instruments of peace in the hands of God.
Sometimes people have to be sick in bed, or they have to work menial jobs. We can encourage and give them hope that Jesus is with them, that suffering isn't all there is to life.
We look to the resurrection promise of eternal life. Heaven is not just a figure of speech. It is a real place. It is so immense and grand that our finite minds cannot imagine it. Revelation 21 and 22 give some descriptions: it has specific dimensions, twelve gates, the river of life, and the only source of light is the glory of God.
Read Psalm 33 where the Lord looks from heaven, from His dwelling place. He fashions our hearts individually. He considers all our works. The sovereignty of the Lord continues.
If we really believe that Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, is in each person, and if we tend to one another as best we can, we can also extend a measure of the tenderness of God as a gift to the world.
Bonnie Donnelly is a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Marietta. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Janet Gossett at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.