October 4, 2020
We love because God first loved us. ~ 1 John 4:19
“It’s not about how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do that counts.” ~ Mother Teresa
Last Saturday a few of us went to Diwozhiibikoh, which is a couple of miles south of the old Hatch Trading Post, to cut, split, and stack firewood for people on the Navajo Nation. There is something refreshing about doing manual labor as a small act of love for neighbors. It is also a blessing to work alongside siblings from different cultures and backgrounds for a common good.
I asked Pastor Norman how he was going to distribute the mounds and mounds of wood we were cutting, carrying, and stacking. Norman said, “When I was a kid, the churches on the reservation would help us out with food or gas but then they told us we had to go to their church. Sometimes, they made us listen to them preach first, then they would help us out.”
“We (Native Grace Fellowship) aren’t going to do that. We’ll give this wood to anyone who needs it for the winter. We’ll start with the elderly and disabled and go from there. That’s what we’re going to do.”
St. Francis of Assisi told us to preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words. The author of 1 John encourages us to love one another as Christ first loved us. Is freely distributing firewood to those who need it preaching the Gospel? Why do we do acts of kindness or love? Why do we volunteer our time and help our neighbors? Do we just want to love one another with no strings attached?
Brennan Hill, in his book Eight Spiritual Heroes,” says that Mother Teresa knew that God deeply loved and valued her. Teresa knew that God delighted in her, so she vowed to share that love with others. Her challenge, writes Hill, was “to make the connection, to show people her love and through that rekindle in the poor and disenfranchised their own awareness that they were lovable, that they were loved by God,” and they had dignity and value.
So, what did Mother Teresa do?
She walked through the muddy slums of Calcutta amidst the starving, the dying, the orphaned children, and the diseased. The cries for help and the suffering had to be overwhelming.
Mother Teresa started loving one person at a time—an abandoned child, a dying person, a leper. She gathered the lost and forsaken up in her arms and brought them to her home to love and care for them. Soon other sisters moved by her compassion joined Mother Teresa.
Amazingly, and much to the chagrin of some religious types, Mother Teresa did not try to convert anyone. Hill writes that it was not her mission to convert, but to “help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, and a Catholic a better Catholic.” Her love “did not insist on its own way,” (see 1 Corinthians 13:5). She once said, “People throughout the world may look different or have a different religion or position, but they are all the same. They are people to be loved. They are all hungry for love.”
Mother Teresa was firmly convinced that each person was a beloved child of God and that each person was equally loved by God. She inspired her fellow sisters and followers to be “carriers of God’s love,” writes Brennan Hill.
As people of faith, what do we carry?
As people of faith, what does it mean for us to love because God first loved us? Do we have an agenda? Do we want to “convert” people to our way of thinking? Or, like Mother Teresa, do we just love one person at a time?
Jesus loved. He loved the children, the blind, the disabled, the lepers, prostitutes, the elderly, and the poor. He changed lives and the world by loving one person at a time.
We live in tumultuous times and it so easy to feel overwhelmed and sink into despair. Where do we start? Shane Claiborne says, “I truly believe we can overwhelm the darkness of this world by shining something brighter and more beautiful.” We can, like Jesus and Mother Teresa, love one person at a time.
We can cut and carry some firewood for our neighbors. We can mow someone’s yard or make them a meal. We can offer kind words and blessings to our family members and strangers. We can pat someone on the back. We can listen to a friend’s story. We can forgive and reconcile. We can love one another.
To genuinely love a person is a challenge but it is the answer, says Claiborne. Love changes the world.
May we love as Christ first loved us.
May we do small random acts of kindness with great love.
May we be carriers of love.
Blessings, peace, and love,