Beauty in an ugly world

Photo by Br. Cris Aceveda, OFM
How can we see beauty when the world is full of ugliness?

While on a train on her way to her yearly retreat, MotherTeresa came face to face with poverty. Although this was just one of her many encounters with destitution, the experience, however, became her turning point.

The image of an old sick man, continuously begging, "I am thirsty," haunted her on her trip and even during her retreat. And so, while her companion expressed God's greatness in the beautiful scenery afforded to them in the first class accommodation of the train on their way to Darjeeling on September 10, 1946, her thoughts were on the poor of Calcutta, much burdening her heart.

This, she took as a message from God, the thirsting Christ – Christ thirsting for our love, for humanity's love, for man to be as human as Christ, to be human as only God can be.

But how can she serve the poor in the comforts of the walled Loreto Sisters' convent in Calcutta? The convent, an oasis in the middle of a desert of suffering poor people. Where is Christ in an abode removed from the very place of its mission?

When asked by her spiritual director, Jesuit priest Fr. Celeste Van Exem, of the certainty of her decision to leave the cloister to be with the poor, she culled the wisdom of India's most revered spiritual and political beacon, Mahatma Gandhi, who said that if one wants to serve the poor then one must be with the poor, he must be willing to work in the slums.

This is what Jesus meant when he told his disciples the story of the King on the final judgment when he told his righteous followers: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." (Matthew 25:35-36)

And although one would argue that this passage was meant for church workers who are persecuted, we could not also discount the argument that Jesus also meant that corporal works of mercy or the ministry to address at least the basic needs of our brethren in need is a criterion to be judged a genuine Christian, a true follower of Christ.

In this verse, according to the Jerome Biblical Commentary, "Jesus identifies himself with those to whom service is given or refused, and their behavior toward men is their behavior toward God."

And this is Mother Teresa's gift to the Church, to be that very embodiment of man's capacity to quench Christ's thirst for our love, by giving our all in the service of the least, the poorest of the poor, the destitute, the abandoned, the people needing God's love.

As much as Mother Teresa's work is inspiring, the question now is, through simple acts of mercy and compassion, can we embrace Mother Teresa's deep love for Christ?

So how can we see beauty in a world that is so ugly?

By being beauty itself. Can we be that beauty in an ugly world?


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