On Monday 26 August 2019, I have the grace of celebrating my forty-seventh birthday. I purposely say and highlight the word grace because it is surely by God’s loving mercy that I am still alive. That I am still among you! On more than one occasion I was heading for the one-way ticket. Having said that God’s design was rather different from the one it seemed to be.
Since God’s ways are inscrutable I want, on this special day of my birthday, to thank Him for the gift of my life. Yes! Life is a gift indeed! In professing this great truth spontaneously comes into my spirit the beautiful words expressed by the North American Charismatic Christian author and speaker, Joyce Meyer, when she said: “Every day is a gift from God. Learn to focus on the Giver and enjoy the gift!”
That is what my life has been teaching me so far in all these years! Every day is God’s gift to me. Obviously, in order to know that my life is a gift from God I need to know Him and, as a result, start to enjoy the Giver of life and the gift itself of life! Hence, my life experience has been constantly showing that this is only possible for me if I let God’s angels or agents help me understand this unending truth. As I daily pray in Psalm 91, which I strongly recommend you to pray at the beginning of your day as I do: For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways (Ps 91:11).
Countless is the list of people who really wanted and still want my real good in my life. For all these people I am truly grateful to God for having provided them for me in my life. It is true that my life, due to various reasons, it is not easy at all. It is also true that my work at the hospital makes me meet with much suffering, stress and fatigue of all sorts. Yet, these hardships are greatly overwhelmed by the great peace and joy I experience in my heart of hearts. Simply because, as Pope Francis rightly asserts in his 23rd World Day of the Sick message entitled Sapientia Cordis “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame” (Job 29:15), “Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters. Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God Who conforms us to the image of His Son, Who ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many’ (Mt 20:28)”.
An extraordinary angel who spent her life caring for the sick and the destitute, especially the poorest of the poor, has surely been St. Teresa of Calcutta. I have the joy of celebrating my birthday with her, August 26. Thus, our birthday celebrations coincide! And they do for a specific reason, at least speaking of myself. I am innately called to let St. Teresa’s holy example transform me in Christ.
Having Mother Teresa as a life couch is really a courageous thing to engage myself in. We all know how strong this woman was. Even if her faith was greatly challenged nevetheless she kept believing till the very end. Mother Teresa kept being Christ’s light for those who did not feel God’s loving care for them at all.
The wisdom God endowed Mother Teresa with is both vast and practical! First of all, Mother never saw life as a problem. On the contrary! To you and me who tend to let a defeatist attitude permeate our minds and wills she counsels us resolutely: “Life is an opportunity, benefit from it”. Moreover, life is not an online court either. So, Mother, wisely opens our eyes so as to refrain from living our lives as judges. That is why she tells us: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them”.
The word love is always at the helm of our times. Wherever we go, be it at Church or at the cinema theatre or even online, the word love is mentioned so many times! But, to give love, there is only one thing that is urgently and necessarily needed: an open heart to give it and receive it. This is so because it is only an open heart that can really do small things with great love. Take for instance, a simple smile which costs nothing but can cost the whole universe for a distressed person. In view of this fact, Mother says: “The more you smile and love your neighbors, the more love will spread”.
Love spreads because it belongs to a special category of being human, namely in Mother’s very words: “There are no great things, only small things with great love”. Authentic love is fruitful and true because it resists to limit itself to a particular season. No! Real love remains valid for all life’s seasons. Here is the Holy Spirit’s wisdom put into Mother’s humble and simple words: “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand”.
But, you may ask, why love is so reachable? Why can we have love at hand? The answer to this seemingly very perplexing question is so easy to comprehend: In the person of Jesus Christ God is near us. In us. With us. In Jesus, God calls us personally to do His great work, to let His love flow in and through us for other people and the world at large! Thus, says Mother: “God is love and He loves you and we are precious to Him. He called us by our name. We belong to Him. He has created us in His image for greater things. God is love, God is joy, God is light, God is truth”.
And what is this love, joy, light and truth God called us for? How can this great beatitude becomes personal in our lives? How can we respond to it? The keyword for accessing God’s loving kindness for Mother Teresa is gratitude to God. By thanking Him for his goodness we open ourselves to his healing touch given to us by joy! In accepting everything with joy we can interiorise God’s very being in us! She states: “The best way to show your gratitude to God and to people is to accept everything with joy.”
From this simple analysis of Mother Teresa’s Spirit-given wisdom I can say that she, for me, is my precious birthday gift. Mother Teresa personally teaches me that “true holiness consists in doing God’s will with a smile”. Her words perfectly concur with the rhyme the Holy Spirit regularly reminds me of in the endless corridors of Mater Dei Hospital: With a smile you go the extra mile! And if “we shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do” why not start smiling at each other? Why not making each other’s lives precious, thus rendering them truly inestimable gifts of tender loving care?
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap