Many would not recognize the name Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu except for proud Albanian countrymen, but when we describe a short woman in a white flowing nun’s habit, our minds would immediately know. This woman could weave through crowds and vanish effortlessly, not drawing any attention to herself. She is Mother Teresa. Her name is more of a tribute than a name, a title showing great fondness and respect. For who among us would carelessly apply the term mother to someone who we knew did not richly deserve it?
Mother Teresa, is also known as St. Teresa of Calcutta. She fits greatly with our Lenten theme of Love Your Neighbor. She took small steps in her life, deliberately so, and invites us to do the same. “Do ordinary things with extraordinary love,” she told us. “God told us, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ So first I am to love myself rightly, and then to love my neighbor like that.” Her personal associates often remark on her ability to focus on just one person and that person’s needs, both material and non-material, at the same time. “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty,” she once said.
We should love as Jesus loves, that is the most important lesson of all. It’s easier to embrace an abstraction than to recognize and love what is real and concrete right in front of us. “I never look at the masses as my responsibility,” St. Teresa said. “I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time.” May we resolve that, whatever form our generosity might take this Lent, we remain always mindful of the neighbor close by who needs us the most.