by Fr. Tommy Lane
The following poem is attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and is said to have been written on the wall of her home for children in Calcutta and possibly on the wall of Mother’s own room. (It seems to be based on an original version by Dr. Kent M. Keith.)
People are often unreasonable,
Illogical and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind,
People may accuse
You of selfish motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful,
You will win some false friends
And some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank,
People may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building,
Someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness,
They may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today,
People will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
And it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you have anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
It is between you and God;
It never was between you and them anyway.
We could say Mother Teresa’s poem is a perfect commentary on the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus as described in our Gospel today,
John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works. (Matt 11:18-19)
The people wanted to receive the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus, but they wanted a ministry of their choosing. They wanted a song and dance of their choosing, not the song and dance chosen by Jesus and John.
To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ (Matt 11:16-17)
But as Jesus said, “wisdom is vindicated by her works” and Mother Teresa said, “Do it anyway.” For those who dance and sing the song of God there is a promise of life, as we heard in our first reading,
If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea. (Isa 48:11)
The Psalm makes the same point, when it says the upright,
are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers… (Ps 1:3)
Today’s readings, as well as explaining the reason for some lack of response to the ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist, also challenge us to think about our response to the Word of God. Are we responding wholeheartedly to the Word of God or do we dismiss some of the Word of God because it is not a dance or song to our liking? Is the ministry of Jesus successful in our lives and bearing fruit in our lives? This Advent we prepare our hearts for Christmas by receiving the Word of God with care that it may bear fruit in our lives. The third century preacher, Origen, reminded us of the importance of listening to every word from God.
You receive the body of the Lord with special care and reverence lest the smallest crumb of the consecrated gift fall to the floor. You should receive the word of God with equal care and reverence lest the smallest word of it fall to the floor and be lost.
Having received the Word of God we give witness to the Word of God irrespective of people’s response because it is the Word of God. As Jesus said, “wisdom is vindicated by her works” and Mother Teresa said, “Do it anyway.”
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013