Homily of Archbishop Eamon Martin at Mass of Thanksgiving for Saint Teresa of Calcutta

05 Sep 2016

  • “Please share with me by letter, email, or on social media using the hashtag  #BeMercyIreland or the dedicated Facebook page ‘Be Mercy Ireland’ and the Instagram page instagram.com/BeMercyIrelandthe names and work of those individuals or groups you would like to be remembered at our upcoming Mass of Thanksgiving” – Archbishop Eamon

Mother Teresa shows us how to #BeMercy.

A key theme of Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy has been his call on all of us to ‘be merciful’, as God, our Heavenly Father, is merciful.  We all know people who are inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus to do corporal and spiritual works of mercy in the world today – who reach out to relieve poverty, hunger and homelessness; who bring the joy of the Gospel into our world and invite others in turn to come to know Jesus in their lives.

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are set out in that challenging reading from Matthew’s gospel which ends with words of Jesus that were at the heart of the mission of Saint Teresa of Calcutta: ‘as often as you did it to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me’.  I am grateful to have met many good and saintly people who ‘do mercy’.  No doubt you too can think of women and men who care for the sick and suffering in our community, who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger – and often do so quietly behind the scenes, without seeking any recognition or reward.

In the canonisation of Mother Teresa, the Church is offering us a modern day ‘model of holiness’ or ‘icon of mercy’ – someone we can look to as an example and an encouragement for ourselves to ‘do mercy’, to ‘be mercy’, especially for those who are most rejected or forgotten in our world.

For me there are three particular ways in which Mother Teresa illustrates how to #BeMercy in today’s world.

Firstly, she was inspired to ‘do something beautiful for God’.  I do it for Him, she often said.  Being merciful begins with a desire to be a better person and to offer our gifts and talents to God who loved us first.

Secondly, Mother Teresa opened herself up completely to what God wanted of her.  In fact she once made a vow never to refuse God anything that God wanted of her.  She simply wanted to be ‘like a little pencil in God’s hands’ and allow God to ‘write mercy’ into the world through her.  Being merciful is about allowing God to work his miracle of mercy through us, about not getting in the way of what God wants of us, but being open to letting God use us as God’s instruments of love, peace, goodness, generosity, forgiveness, encouragement to others.

Thirdly, Mother Teresa was able to ‘see the face of Jesus’ in those to whom she brought God’s love and mercy.  She saw the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor, those with AIDS, those with terrible disfigurements and disease, those abandoned and dying on the streets from malnutrition.  She once said, “When I wash the face of lepers, I am washing the face of Jesus himself”.  It did not matter to her if the person in need was Catholic or other Christian or Hindu or Muslim.  For her Calcutta was everywhere – she even joked that if there are poor people on the moon, ‘we will go to the moon too’!  She teaches us that when we ‘do mercy’ it opens up for us a window through which we can see the face of Christ in all those who suffer in the world.

I am very grateful to the sisters of Saint Teresa’s congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, who have lived and worked among us here in Armagh since 14 June 1996 when Mother and her sisters arrived here from Dublin to set up home at 17 Arthur’s Villas, Armagh.

The sisters stayed at Arthur’s Villas until 2 May 1999 before moving to Cathedral Road where they had established a convent and a hostel for women suffering from alcohol addiction.  After a couple of years the hostel became a men’s hostel, not only offering refuge from alcoholism but also from drug addiction and homelessness.  The sisters have become a familiar sight on the streets of Armagh, praying the Rosary for the intentions of those who ask for their prayers.  Today they spend much of their time visiting the sick and the elderly here in Armagh, praying with them and for them.

Saint Teresa’s sisters also provide faith development programmes and Catechism classes for children and adults in our community.  Just a few weeks ago I was delighted to join the leaders of their summer scheme for local children in which they are greatly helped by students who travel here each summer from Malta.

Following Saint Teresa’s example and devotion to the Blessed Eucharist, the sisters here in Armagh encourage people to come and spend some quiet time in prayer at the convent chapel where they have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament two evenings a week.  Above all, in response to the Gospel, the sisters “make hospitality their constant care”.  In the hostel they are greatly helped by some local ‘co-workers’ from the Armagh region who volunteer to come and stay overnight and offer care and support to those staying at the hostel.  I am very grateful to the team of lay men and women in this parish who assist the sisters in their valuable work of mercy and I encourage any of you who would like to volunteer your time and gifts to help the sisters to make contact with them.

The canonisation  of Saint Teresa of Calcutta challenges us all to #BeMercy and also to give thanks for those who live the works of mercy as she did.  In the coming three weeks I invite you to pray with me in thanksgiving for people you know who put the corporal and spiritual works of mercy into practice in their daily lives.  It may be someone very close to you, your granny or carer or neighbour who quietly cares for a sick or anxious person you know.  It may be a nurse, doctor or teacher who goes beyond the call of duty to reach out to someone who would otherwise be forgotten.  Perhaps you know a group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Saint Vincent de Paul Society whom you have experienced making a real difference to those who are in particular need of encouragement or help.  On the evening of 24 September, the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, I will offer a #BeMercy Mass of Thanksgiving in the Cathedral for all those in our diocese and beyond who like Mother Teresa ‘do something beautiful for God’.  These are the people who today allow themselves to be the pencils through which God writes mercy in the world.  They are privileged to see the face of Jesus in those to whom they minister.  Please share with me by letter, email, or on social media using the hashtag  #BeMercyIreland or the dedicated Facebook page ‘Be Mercy Ireland’ and the Instagram page www.instagram.com/BeMercyIreland, the names and work of those individuals or groups you would like to be remembered at that Mass of Thanksgiving.

For reflection I offer you the concluding words of Pope Francis at yesterday’s canonisation of Mother Teresa.  He said:

“Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor.  Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness!  May this tireless worker of mercy help us to increasingly understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion.  Mother Teresa loved to say, ‘Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile’.  Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer.  In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness”.


Notes to Editors

  • Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
  • Born in 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, to Albanian parents, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu joined the Loreto Order and lived in Ireland until she was sent to India in 1929.  There, she worked with the poorest of the poor, a vocation that led her to found her own order, the Missionaries of Charity, in 1950, in Calcutta (now Kolkata).  By 2012, that congregation numbered 4,500 sisters, working among the destitute and outcast in 133 countries.  She was regarded by many as a saint within her lifetime and Pope (now Saint) John Paul II waived the usual 5-year waiting protocol to begin the process of her canonisation.  Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003 and canonised on Sunday 4 September 2016.  Today Missionary of Charity communities minister in the Irish dioceses of Armagh, Dublin, Cloyne and Elphin.
  • Social media hashtags and accounts:
    Twitter: @ArchbishopEamon; @CatholicBishops; #BeMercyIreland
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bemercyireland/
    Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BeMercyIreland/                                                      

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