By Rob Furlong
“A smile is the beginning of love.” – Mother Teresa
Agnes Gonxha was born in Skopje, the capital of modern-day North Macedonia and at the age of 18 entered the Order of the Sisters of Loreto with the intention of becoming a missionary to India – she arrived there in 1929. Known then as Sister Teresa, she was deeply moved by the overwhelming poverty and destitution of people living on the streets of Calcutta and sensing the call of God, in 1948 began working to alleviate their suffering.
Eventually joined by a group of young women, she founded the Missionaries of Charity with the vision of providing “wholehearted free service to helping the poorest among the poor.” They worked with AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis sufferers, allowing them to die with dignity in the Mission’s hospice, provided food, and founded orphanages, schools, and mobile clinics. In time her ministry grew to 4,500 nuns serving in 133 countries.
It has long been recognized that poverty is a major threat to peace in the world, and because of her work to overcome poverty, she received the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. Now known as Mother Teresa, she was asked at the time, “What can we do to promote world peace?” Her reply was profound in its simplicity:
“Go home and love your family.”
In a speech not long after, she expanded on her answer by saying, “I have found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society – that poverty is so hurtable and so much, and I find that very difficult.”
Mother Teresa demonstrated that everyone, regardless of race, gender or religion is precious to God. She treated all people with dignity.
We can be the same kind of people.
She was once asked why she cared for suffering people who never became Christians and she responded by saying, “Because everyone needs to know that they are loved when they are dying, even if they do not accept Jesus.” She understood that every person is precious to God, known and deeply loved by Him.
This includes you.
I have been encouraging people to be peacemakers by committing to a Peace Declaration I recently wrote:
We, the people of this community, declare ourselves to be people of peace.
We believe peace begins with each one of us and that peace in our world and communities is achieved through multiple acts of love, courage, and kindness.
Peace can be expressed through a friendly smile to a stranger, by helping a neighbour in need, standing up bravely for truth and justice, and respecting each other, regardless of culture or faith.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Therefore, we commit ourselves to being peacemakers in our community.
With God’s help, every one of us has the capacity to bring peace to our world.
When we welcome someone into our circle of friendship who is usually ignored, we bring peace.
Helping the poor, smiling at a stranger, or refusing to “blow up” at the shop worker who is only trying to do their job, are all small ways we can encourage peace. And we are most like a peacemaker when we choose forgiveness over hatred.
Jesus came to bring us peace with God and peace in all our relationships by healing and restoring them.
Share God’s love today by smiling at someone you don’t know and commit to being a peacemaker in 2023 by committing yourself to the Peace Declaration, and asking God to help you live it out.
By Rob Furlong