Knowing What Poverty Means
Excerpt from No Greater Love
Written by Mother Teresa,
Chapter On Poverty & the Poor, pgs. 101 – 104
“God has not created poverty; it is we who have created it. Before God, all of us are poor.” ~ Mother Teresa
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – Jesus, Matthew 5:3 RSV
We know what that poverty means, first of all, to be hungry for bread, to need clothing, and to not have a home. But there is a far greater kind of poverty. It means being unwanted, unloved, and neglected. It means having no one to call your own.
Do we know our poor people? Do we know the poor in our house, in our family? Perhaps they are not hungry for a piece of bread. Perhaps our children, husband, wife, are not hungry, or naked, or dispossessed, but are you sure there is no one there who feels unwanted, deprived of affection? Where is your elderly father or mother? Abandonment is an awful poverty.
There are lonely people around you in hospitals and psychiatric wards. There are so many people that are homeless! In New York, our sisters are working among the destitute who are dying. What pain in causes to see these people! They are only known by their street address now. Yet they were all someone’s children. Someone loved them at one tie. They loved others during their lifetime. But now they are only known by their street address.
Know the poorest of the poor are among your neighbours, in your neighborhoods, in your town, in your city, perhaps in your own family. When you know them, that will lead you to love them. And love will impel you to serve them. Only then will you begin to act like Jesus and live out the gospel. Place yourself at the service of the poor. Open your hearts to love them. Be living witnesses of God’s Mercy.
The poor do not need our compassion or our pity, they need our help. What they give to us is more than what we give to them.
The poor are wonderful people. They have their own dignity, which we can easily see. Usually the poor are not known, and therefore one is not able to discover their dignity. But the poor have above all great courage to lead the life they lead. They are forced to live like that; poverty has been imposed on them. We choose poverty; they are forced to accept it.
The poor are our prayer. They carry God in themselves. God created the world and saw that it was good. God created man and saw that he was good. God created everything, and He realized each thing was good. How can we complain against God for the poverty and suffering that exist in the world? Can we honestly do so? God saw that everything was good. What we do with this is another matter.
In order to help us deserve heave, Christ set a condition: At the moment of our death, you and I, whoever we might have been and wherever we have lived, Christians and non-Christians alike, every human being who has been created by the loving hand of God in His own image, shall stand in His presence and be judged according to what we have been for the poor, what we have done for them. Here a beautiful standard for judgment presents itself. We have to become increasingly aware that the poor are the hope of humanity, for we will be judged by how we have treated the poor. We will have to face this reality when we are summoned before the throne of God: “I was hungry. I was naked. I was homeless. And whatever you did to the least of my brethren you did it for me.”
When we recognize that our suffering neighbour is the image of God Himself, and when we understand the consequences of that truth, poverty will no longer exist and we, the Missionaries of Charity, will no longer have any work to do.
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