Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Sometimes on this segment I have spoken of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, someone who is known by millions of people worldwide. Through Mother Teresa’s nearly 4½ decades of life, a grateful world bestowed upon her many awards. The most distinguished was 1979’s Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1985 President Reagan presented her with the U. S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. She received honorary degrees from Harvard University and from Cambridge University in England. She addressed the United Nations in 1985, on its 40th anniversary. At her funeral, nearly a half-million mourners came to say a final goodbye to the little nun who cast such a big shadow on the world. Remarkable to say the least!
A film produced by the BBC in 1969 made Mother Teresa world famous. After it was shown on television, donations poured in. Many viewers said it had a ‘profound effect’ on their lives. Its title was Something Beautiful for God. And she was interviewed by journalist Malcolm Muggeridge. In the midst of all that attention, someone once asked her why she chose the path she did. What had pushed her in this direction? Why had she become a nun, rather than a wife and mother? She gave this surprising answer: “I became a nun because I was so ugly I thought that no man would ever want me for his wife.”
Mother Teresa’s motivation to become a nun
Can you imagine that? Here was a girl, then a young woman who decides to become a nun at least in part because she saw herself as ugly. This small woman so loved Jesus and the most destitute of the world that her whole life was dedicated to loving them. She loved the dying and in them she saw the face of Jesus. And to think that in some degree all that happened because she saw herself as ugly. Out of what she perceived as ugly, she built a life of beautiful service to Jesus and the world.
By March of 1997, Mother Teresa’s physical condition had deteriorated, and she was too frail to carry on, forcing her to retire. Doctors told her she should ‘slow down’. Her reply: “I have all eternity to rest, and there is still much to do…Life is not worth living unless it is lived for others.” Six months later, on September 5, while she was in Calcutta, she suffered a fatal heart attack. To show their respect, the Indian government gave her a state funeral. Thousands came to show their love and respect for her.
She was buried near the Motherhouse Chapel. Her epitaph is a quote from Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.” The aim of her Missionaries of Charity was: Let every action of mine be something beautiful for God. Many people thought her 40 years in the slums of India was social work only. She noted: “People think we are social workers, but we are not. We serve Jesus. I serve Jesus 24 hours-a-day.” This remarkable woman will be forever linked with the phrase ‘something beautiful for God’, the name of a book written by Malcolm Muggeridge. “I never met anyone more memorable”, he wrote in his book. The book is getting a bit old now but I guess you could still buy it in bookstores.
I wonder if Malcolm Muggeridge had read the gospel story from Matthew 26:1-13, a wonderful story of Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus. Jesus had been invited to a house in Bethany and while he was enjoying the meal, Mary came in and did something very unusual. She opened up a costly alabaster jar of ointment and poured it over the head of Jesus. The disciples were very angry: “Why such a waste? We could have sold this perfume for a lot of money and given it to the poor”. But here’s what Jesus said: “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me. She has poured perfume on my body to prepare it for burial” (Matthew 26:10,12).
Doing something beautiful for Jesus begins with an understanding of all Jesus has done for us. The feeling you get in the story of Mary is how much her action seems to flow out of a full heart. She knows how much Jesus has done for her. In fact, she is so overwhelmed by it that she has to respond. It is almost like she is so filled with the love Jesus has for her that she has to find the most extreme action she can to show how much he means to her. Are you aware of how much Jesus has done for you?
Do something beautiful
Doing something beautiful for Jesus is our greatest legacy. Isn’t it remarkable that in the passage Jesus makes a prophetic statement? He says this: “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Our listening to the story today proves the truth of what Jesus said. Since this story was included in the Scriptures, it has been told to countless millions. The legacy she leaves for all mankind is this act of outrageous love.
Perhaps there is a lesson for us here as well. Isn’t it true that the greatest thing you can leave behind in this world is testimony to your love for Jesus? We can do that in so many different ways. For Mother Teresa, her way of expressing her love for Jesus was found in prayer and in caring for the dying. For you it may be the love you share with your family or with those in need. It may be a specific ministry or act of love. It may be something you offer directly to Jesus or it may be something you do for God’s creation. But the point is this: Wouldn’t it be great if at the end of your life people were to talk about what you had done because of your love for Jesus?
Maybe you can think of that as an exercise for yourself. Imagine your funeral. Imagine that at your funeral three or four people who knew you well were to stand up and talk about your life. Suppose that each of them, in five minutes or so, tried to communicate the essence of who you are. What would they say? How would they describe your life and what was valuable to you? Most important, would part of their testimony about your life be to talk about your love for Jesus? Would they tell stories of what you did because of that love? What a great motivation for each one of us. Let us love Jesus deeply in such a beautiful way that when we die and long after we are gone they will tell stories about that love. In the words of the song “Do Something Beautiful”:
We are a shining light
City on a hill
That can’t be hidden
A shining light
And this shining light
Is the life of Jesus in us
Oh what a light
The fire of his Spirit burns
With justice, joy and peace
And works through our hands and feet
Go do something beautiful
In the name of Jesus
Do something beautiful
Go do something Jesus would
Do something beautiful
Do something beautiful
We are the salt of the earth
Here to purify and flavour
Salt of the earth
Sent through all the earth
To love God and love our neighbour
Salt of the Earth
As freely as we received
So freely we must give
And we are his hands and feet
Let your light so shine
Before the world
That all may see
The good you do
And give their praise
To God our Father
- This devotional contains some extracts from the article “Something Beautiful for God”, by Stan Griffin, http://www.workersforjesus.com/teresa.htm
- “Do Something Beautiful”, Graham Kendrick, Copyright © 2002 Make Way Music, www.grahamkendrick.co.uk