Sep 5 – Feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu (born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, 26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997), honoured in the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was an Albanian–Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary. She was born in Skopje (now the capital of North Macedonia), then part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire. After living in Skopje for eighteen years, she moved to Ireland and then to India, where she lived for most of her life.
In 1950, Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that had over 4,500 nuns and was active in 133 countries in 2012. The congregation manages homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. It also runs soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, children’s and family counselling programmes, as well as orphanages and schools. Members take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and also profess a fourth vow – to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”
Teresa received a number of honors, including the 1962 Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize and 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She was canonised on 4 September 2016, and the anniversary of her death (5 September) is her feast day. A controversial figure during her life and after her death, Teresa was admired by many for her charitable work. She was praised and criticized on various counts, such as for her views on abortion and contraception, and was criticized for poor conditions in her houses for the dying. Her authorized biography was written by Navin Chawla and published in 1992, and she has been the subject of films and other books. On 6 September 2017, Teresa and St. Francis Xavier were named co-patrons of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta.
1 Cor 4:6-15
“What do you have that was not given to you?”
I was recounting to my son recently of my primary school days where, if a child were to score well in his or her class during term exams, they would be presented with a McDonald’s voucher as a reward, which at that time, was a real treat. And then of course at year-end, there was prize-giving day where you would get a small trophy or prize for other achievements in school. Such a ‘reward mentality’ has always been ingrained in us from a young age, and we journey through life seeking such accolades that immortalize us amongst the select few, membership within a privileged and chosen circle. Even now, in the age of social media, we seek such recognition by way of followers or ‘likes’ from our fellow men and women.
I do not think that there is anything wrong in receiving awards and being proud for having our efforts acknowledged. But I do think that as we revel in the recognition, whatever the stage or audience, there is a real danger of I guess, a certain ‘purpose displacement’. Everything that we do has a purpose; our purpose may start off as something bigger than us e.g. a purpose to serve our family, community, the country, people, a charity, or a just cause. Whatever that purpose is, the point is that our intention starts off as an intention to serve, and it is a good intention indeed. It is possible, however, to displace that purpose when we allow other things to get in the way. Man’s psychological need for self-esteem (according to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) comprises the need for recognition, status, and the feeling of importance. It feeds the ego. When the ego gets too much in the way though, the pursuit for excellence and success may change from the need to serve, to the need to be recognized at the next level. Our purpose changes. Sure, whatever we achieve may still be in the service of the greater good, but that driving purpose for us individually, may become secondary.
St Paul reminds the Corinthians in today’s reading that being a servant of God is not a glamourous job. Where the Corinthians might be held in high regard in their community for being wise and learned, the apostles are treated quite the opposite. St Paul shares the sobering reality of what it means and takes to be a servant of God, to truly dedicate one’s life so that God takes centerstage and is the main purpose in one’s life and work. In the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30). The way of life exhibited by the Corinthians is perceived and created by man, one that is celebrated with high regard, with fine dwellings and garments and followers that fawn all over you. It is also hollow, as such accolades were not given by God but by man. Our Heavenly Father sees our efforts, and our reward awaits us in Heaven. Hence, St Paul reminds us not to let pride get in the way of our purpose, but to remember that we are serving a greater purpose than ourselves, in the name of God our Father.
Indeed, if we are to be proud, then let us be proud of the work that we have achieved with God’s help, giving God the recognition, and acknowledging that all this would not have been possible without Him. Let our pride be positive and motivate us in the right direction to be the best that we can be. Let us remember it is God who gives the distinction that matters.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, as we carry out our God-given dreams and plans, help us remember our purpose for serving, lest we become carried away by our pride. Help us decrease, that the glory of God may increase.
Thanksgiving: We give you thanks Lord, for all our achievements in life, from the smallest to the biggest, and that without You, we would not have gotten this far. Without You, all this would not have been possible.