In 1989 Mother Teresa gave an interview for Time Magazine. When asked what motives her work, she replied "We try to pray through our work by doing it with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus. That helps us to put our whole heart and soul into doing it. The dying, the cripple, the mental, the unwanted, the unloved they are Jesus in disguise."
She was also asked what is God's greatest gift to her, to which her response was: 'The poor people.' Because with them "I have an opportunity to be with Jesus 24 hours a day."
These are extraordinary words from an extraordinary person, who devoted their life to serving some of the neediest people in the world. In her service to the poor we are reminded of Jesus' words from our reading this morning 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Mt 25:40)
I was reminded of these words recently when Beata and I were in Poland over the summer. We were sitting in the centre of Torun, enjoying a pizza on one of the many street cafes when I spotted an unshaven, dishevelled man limping badly and walking with the aid of a stick. He had the appearance of someone who had been drinking, although to be honest I couldn't be sure. When I saw him I confess that I averted my gaze, hoping that he would pass me by. But instead he came towards us, and so I prepared to send him on his way by saying to him in English that I couldn't speak Polish, because I expected him to ask for money, and I've always been reluctant to give money to people on the streets. But to my surprise he asked in broken English "Can I please have some of your pizza."
I confess that I felt an immediate pang of guilt, and so we handed one slice of pizza to the man, which he took gratefully and ate as he walked away from us down the street.
It was only after he was gone that I suddenly thought to myself, we've just been visited by Jesus, in the form of this broken man, and I was overcome with a tremendous sense of guilt. I didn't need that pizza, I had eaten well today, and knew that tomorrow I would eat well again, his need was much greater than mine, and yet all I was prepared to give was one slice of pizza, making sure there was plenty left for me. And I realised that could have, and should have done so much more. I could have sat him down and offered to buy him a proper meal, to forget about my embarrassment and worry, and treat him like a human being, giving him one of the most precious gifts, the gift of time. But instead I had been more concerned that he should move on, and go somewhere else, so I could enjoy my food in peace.
"For whatever you do to the least of these dear brothers of mine, you do to me."
It's a challenge to see Christ in other people, but that is what we are called to do. Think about the people you will meet today, the people in the shop, your neighbours, the people you know, and the people you don't know. Each of them is Christ in disguise.
In the interview with Time Magazine the last question Mother Teresa was asked was what are your plans for the future?
Her reply was, "I just take one day at a time. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus."
We could do well to follow her example, for we only have today to love Jesus.