|Reflection by the Co-founder of the Missionaries of
Charity Contemplative on making Christ present today
This Christmas, Christians everywhere
celebrate with great joy and enthusiasm the incredible event of the
birth of the Only-Begotten Son of the eternal Father who came to dwell
among us. The Father sent his Son into this world doomed to destruction,
not to be its judge, but to be its Saviour (cf. Jn 3: 7).
Why does the feast of
Christmas bring such great joy to the entire world? The opening verses
of the canticle of Zachariah give one of the main reasons for the great
joy: namely God has visited his people, and he has set them free (cf. Lk
1: 67-68). Elsewhere St Luke says very sadly that Jerusalem did not know
the time of her visitation (Lk 19:44). "He came into his own, and his
own people did not receive him" (Jn 1:11).
So our interior experience
of joy or sorrow depends on how we recognize "the time of the Lord's
visitation". It is so easy for us to miss the Lord's visits to us, as we
often are so much caught up with the material things, worries and
anxieties. Even our Christmas celebration loses its real spirit and
tenor. One of the things we come to understand from the Scriptures is
God's sharing of his love and life with us. This sharing of divine life
makes us all joyful.
The experiences that I
often go through in some of the international airports are worth
recalling. Very recently in one of the airports I was prevented from
travelling and made to go through incredible hardships, and not only
lost the day but the whole program I was supposed to be doing. Worse
still, when they allowed me to travel on the following day, reaching the
next airport, the police took me to a special room where I had to wait
in anxiety, as my travelling companion did not know what was happening
to me, and also the people were waiting in the Church for Holy Mass.
Each moment was so long and agonizing.
Then one of the policemen
picked up my passport and started going through my bio-data on the
computer. They even had my medical report. After a while the police
called me and wanted to know what I was going to do, how I lived, who I
was, etc. I told him that I am a Missionary of Charity and give
whole-hearted free service to the poorest of the poor, and I depend
entirely on divine providence. He fell into a deep silence for a moment.
Then he looked at me and said: "And so you work with the poor people?".
"Yes", I said, "that is my work and my profession". He then asked me to
return to my seat, which I did. He went through my bio-data a few more
times on the computer and then called me back to question me again.
This time the question was
what my status in the Missionaries of Charity was. My answer was, "I am
a servant of the servants who are chosen by the Lord and appointed to
serve my Brothers and Sisters, especially the poorest of the poor of any
colour, caste, religion or nationality. When we see a poor person", I
said, "our first question is not what religion or country he or she
belongs or comes from, but what is his main need and how we can help
This is confirmed by the
passage in the Gospel of Mathew 25:31-46, which says: "As long as you
did to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me". Here Jesus
identifies himself with the hungry, the thirsty, naked, homeless, sick
What an incredible
difference between the two judges — the King of the last judgement, who
judges us on love, and here the police who thought that perhaps I was
one of the most dangerous terrorists.
Many such experiences make
me reflect on Jesus' words: "In truth I tell you, you will be weeping
and wailing while the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful but your
sorrow will turn into joy. A woman in childbirth suffers, because her
time has come; but when she has given birth to the child, she forgets
the suffering in her joy that a human being has been born into the
world. So it is with you. (cf. Jn 16:2o-22)
For me these words of our
divine Teacher are always consoling, especially when I see the
eagerness, the enthusiasm, the gratitude and the joy of our LMCs, our
M.C. Sisters and others. Then one forgets all the pain, hardships and
One can only thank God for
his merciful love and unfailing help. God not only walks with us, but
works with us. Here the words of St. Chrysologus come to mind:
"God walked with Abraham on
his journeys, protected him in foreign lands, enriched him with earthly
possessions, and honoured him with victories.... Favoured with so many
graces and drawn by such great sweetness of divine love, Abraham was to
learn to love God rather than fear him, and love rather than fear was to
inspire his worship" (Sermon of Peter Chrysologus, Bishop).
We come to know that trials
and sufferings, even intense ones, are not meant to be stumbling blocks
but stepping stones. Not always do we have such faith.
Life experience is our best
teacher and the best way of preparing for Christmas. Here the simple yet
significant words of our Blessed Mother Teresa, MC, come to mind:
"Accept whatever he gives, and give whatever he takes with a big smile".
This sounds so simple and
yet to put it into practice demands heroic faith and deep humility.
Every time I am able to accept whatever Jesus gives and give whatever he
takes from me with a big smile, I have Christmas. How many are the ways
and the times a day in which I have the opportunity to do that — like
Jesus, Mary and Joseph did, like many Saints have done and still do and
like even so many poor people often do!
We experience every single
day the unfailing providence of God, especially in our homes for the
orphaned, homeless, disabled boys and men in India. We get cooked food
for over one hundred people every single day from one of the nearby
factories. Our children and our people are fed then by the Lord's
providence. He shows that these helpless, homeless and parentless boys
and men belong to him first of all. It is his work we do.
There are also about seven
teachers employed by various clubs and organizations to teach these
children, God's chosen ones. From morning to evening people of all ranks
and status come to visit our children with gifts. They are like the
Magi. Deepashram is the Bethlehem of our time for so many people who do
not belong to our faith but belong to the traditional Hindu religion.
They come to Deepashram like the wise men from the East, who came to see
the newborn babe of Bethlehem with gifts. Hardly anyone comes with empty
For our Brothers,
Deepashram has become the Bethlehem of our time and our Brothers witness
the event of Christmas every day and the daily influx of the Hindu
people, who are the Magi of our time. After having the Deepashram/Anandashram
experience no one remains the same, nor do they remain silent. They
become messengers and missionaries of the Good News: they speak to their
friends of what they have seen and heard, of what their hands have
In our rehabilitation
centre at Bandhuvari, one of the big banks sent their workers to plant
fruit trees and vegetables in our garden for our disabled orphaned boys
and men. What an edifying example of real love and concern for one's
fellow men! Even the thought of doing such admirable acts can only come
from God, who constantly tells us to trust him more lovingly, to obey
him more promptly and without any questions.
In November, when I was in
India, I told one of the physically disabled boys how handsome he is,
how beautiful he looks. His spontaneous reply continually makes me
reflect, humbling me all the time. Do you know what the boy of thirteen
said? "God made me beautiful". In other words he recognizes that he is
God's handiwork. I had never before heard such a profound statement from
There is no room for pride.
God made me so beautiful and handsome. The boy's words echoed St Paul's
great declaration about himself: "I am what I am by the grace of God".
Our home for the disabled
in Albania, known as Bethel, now houses just about twenty boys and men,
all of whom are very heavily handicapped. The majority of them are
mentally disabled, while the rest of them are totally bed-ridden. They
require constant personal care and individual attention. As it is a very
demanding work of God, our Brothers, our workers and all those who are
involved are in need of our constant prayers and generous support.
"Casa Serena" in Rome is
one of God's Inns in the city of Rome, where so many good Samaritans
come to attend the needs of the wounded people. These good Samaritans
belong to all walks of life and all ages and status.
I recently went to visit a
terminally ill cancer patient in a nursing home in another part of Rome.
As I walked in they started asking: "Father, have you come to celebrate
Mass for us?". The sick and old people are hungry for God and they have
no shepherds. The words of our Lord came to my mind:
"The harvest is great, but
labourers are few" (Lk 10:2). And the Lord says: "I am filled with
compassion for these people" (cf. Mt 16:32).
We may get old and go into
retirement, but love never gets old or goes into retirement. Even if we
die, love never dies. In the evening of life, when we travel to God, we
take nothing with us except love. The only baggage we carry with us is
the baggage of love.
For many people Christmas
is still just a word and a remembrance, not a personal experience of the
presence and nearness of a loving and caring God. We are called to be
Jesus' love, Jesus' presence. We are meant to be the Christmas,
especially for our people today.