by Fr. Peter deSousa
The first characteristic of the Missionaries of Charity, as we saw, is Loving Trust. The second characteristic is Total Surrender. The third is Cheerfulness.
Mother Teresa reminds her Sisters: "May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. It is this union with your Divine bridegroom that is the cause of your joy. Rejoice and let your joy be evident to all." " My God loves me and cares for me and is with me." In a home too, those spouses, parents, children and siblings who are very close to Jesus and experience his presence and love, will be transparent sacraments of Jesus' presence to each other at all times. His joy will be evident in them and they will draw others to Jesus by their cheerfulness.
As a result of being loved and accompanied by Jesus all the while, there is a gentle attitude towards all. Mother Teresa's attitude was: "My hands are his hands to touch and heal, to serve and share. My voice is his voice, to speak life-giving words that build up others and not death-dealing words to put down anyone or tear them apart. I see everyone, especially my Sisters in community and the poorest of the poor, through the eyes of Jesus. It is my privilege to minister to Jesus in and through them." How happy are the homes where the members of a family can have this same attitude!!
"As a result of this, there is no anxiety about anything. I am doing His work. He is there to provide me the grace and strength to answer the call cheerfully and not grudgingly. I only have to make myself available to Jesus." We too are called to make ourselves available to Jesus everyday in our homes. Before we go out to minister to others, let us remember that charity begins at home. Some married folk are rarely at home because they are always out on work. Does the Parish put asunder what God has joined together? Celibacy has set me free of marriage, parenting and family life, in order to minister to all God's people. Matrimony gives you other priorities. But the point is that one's witness and help at home are not done out of a sense of duty, but cheerfully and not grudgingly.
God's peace in my heart draws others to Him through me. Many people are full of anxiety, sadness, worry, distress, anger, bitterness or fear. When I am at peace with myself and with my neighbor and surroundings, I can minister to others in Jesus' name.
"Let your mind and heart be filled with faith, hope, love, peace, joy, courage, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and you will attract many people to Jesus." These are the sound words of advice Mother Teresa gave to her sisters.
Sing hymns and psalms and make a joyful noise to the Lord your Savior. With Mary let your soul give continual praise to God your Savior. Are you a cheerful spouse and parent who radiates God's love in the home, by your smile, your laughter, your warmth, your hugs and kisses, your thanks and celebrations, your spirit of thanksgiving to God and to each other?
Smiling and laughing are very good for one's personal health and also for the climate of the home. Count your blessings and enumerate them frequently. I have a friend who is a Doctor. He frequently sends me jokes to keep me laughing. He believes that this is good therapy and so do I. Singing together as a family lifts up our minds and hearts to God.
When we sing hymns, we pray twice. Listening to hymns and Gospel songs always lifts up my heart to God. As children, after dinner, our family would gather around the piano to sing together and this joy was often shared with lonely people who came to share our joy. Today many have one or more television sets in the home and families are divided because the focus is on the entertainment rather than on the family.
A home in which there is laughter, thanksgiving, joy, cheerfulness and sharing, is attractive to everyone. I know so many teenagers from wealthy homes who will spend hours in the home of a friend, where there may not be any comforts or luxuries that money can buy, but where there is laughter and cheerfulness. Where laughter and joy are expressed, the home becomes so attractive to everyone. Nobody wants to return to an abode where there is constant tension, quarrelling, self-righteousness, selfishness, false superiority, judging, condemning, criticizing, complaining, grumbling and attacking others.
We can set aside times for us as a couple or as a family to talk about issues that need to be clarified and discussed, where each one has an opportunity to explain and all have an opportunity to listen and clarify. We can also enumerate our blessings and express our thanks and appreciation to God and to each other and to those who have helped us.
We can also expose our children to those who suffer more than we do and give them the joy of sharing with others. We do not have to give our children the best, but rather help them to face the challenges of life with courage and hope, in the power of the Spirit. No one can take away the joy that Jesus promised to us (John 15:11-17) There will be sacrifice and suffering in the life of every disciple, but also Gospel joy. Sadness and gladness go together (Jn 16:16-24) when we ask the Father in Jesus' name for what we need. Ask for cheerfulness and a joyful heart so that we can witness to Jesus who is the cause of our joy.
I recently had the privilege of ministering to a friend who suffered from cancer for 7 months and passed from this world into the next a week ago. The joy he had in Jesus and in the Eucharist in the midst of all his suffering was so inspiring to us all. Although God had blessed him abundantly, with a loving wife, children and siblings, besides enabling him materially to avail of the best treatment, his focus was on Jesus, the cause of his joy. Everything else was secondary. He thanked Jesus for his cancer because through it he came to know, love and accept Jesus as his only Savior and Lord of his life. Death lost its sting for him because he saw death as a gateway to a deeper union with Jesus. Yes it is true that "Joy is not an absence of suffering, but the presence of God"
At a party or in pubs, people appear to be joyful. Amid the bright lights and loud music, people are gyrating as individuals. Some use drugs to get an artificial high. Alcohol flows freely. But is this the same cheerfulness and joy that Mother Teresa speaks of? Is it just "laughing on the outside and crying on the inside"? Does the noise, the make-up, the artificial laughter, the pseudo-intimacy hide deeper longings for love, self-esteem, belonging, self-respect and autonomy in choosing one's behavior? Jesus was free when dragged before Pilate in chains. He loved us while hanging on the cross.
He wore no mask. It was his call to save the world through his sacrifice of love and well worth the price he paid. When we suffer pain, it is hard to smile, as long as we focus on the pain. But when we focus on other people and give them our undivided attention, we can indeed smile. I saw this while visiting an Archbishop who was suffering intensely from cancer. Many people came to visit him in a short space of time. He had a smile and a few words of appreciation and thanks for each one and enquired about the members of their families. He prayed with them and blessed them. His cheerfulness came from within his spirit.
I thought of Mary's "Magnificat" of thanks and praise. I recited this beautiful prayer with five decades of the Rosary everyday for 3 years, at the request of my Mother. God responded and gave me my vocation when I was 21 years old. Listen to them:
That saintly prelate by his smile and concern for others, seemed to live this prayer in his love, concern and other-centredness, while lying on that sick bed in hospital. I pray for all families to receive this grace from Mary also to be Missionaries of Charity in their homes.
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
For he has looked with favour on his lowly servant,
And from this day all generations will call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me:
Holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
In every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
And has sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
For he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
To Abraham and his sons forever.
E-mail this article to a friend
For Better or for Worse copyright © Fr. Peter deSousa. All rights reserved.