It was All Soul’s Day as I arrived at the doorstep of 54A AJC Bose Road, Motherhouse of the Missionaries of Charity in India. This is where it all began and happened for Mother Teresa and her sisters, whose mission was to care for the poorest of the poor, the outcast and the rejects of society.
There was a certain excitement in my heart as I entered the house in my month-long stint of volunteering here. What does Jesus have in store for me? How will I encounter Jesus in the poor? How will I find God in the midst of all this chaos?
Upon entering the wooden doorway, there was a Sister sitting at the enclave of the entrance, fingering her rosary beads as she greets the hoards of visitors cheerfully as they enter the modest and humble convent that Mother Teresa lived, prayed and worked with her Sisters.
One of the instances that moved me profoundly was an encounter with an old lady in Nirmal Hirday – Home of the Dying. I still remember the scene so vividly.
With Death, brings Life
The warm autumn sun streamed in through the windows, casting a soft glow on the interiors of the hospice. A deep, alluring peace and stillness radiated in the place. Home of the Dying, it was called, paradoxically, there was much life to be found here.
With background music playing boisterously, there was an old lady who caught my eye. Gingerly, I moved towards her, knelt down and helped her with applying some oil and rubbing it on her legs.
She was staring into space.
Her expression emotionless.
Her left eye was frozen – bloodshot.
And her right eye was wet with tears.
She spoke no English. And I no Bengali.
In that moment, a scene from the movie The Passion of the Christ flashed in my mind’s eye. I glimpsed the face of Jesus, bruised, beaten and bloodied for our sake. The one with Jesus hanging on the cross at His crucifixion.
“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”
St Teresa of Kolkata
Time froze in that moment where I gazed into the eyes of the lady. Tears started forming in my eyes, though I managed to choke back the tears because I didn’t want to cry in front of the lady who I was serving. I turned my cheek, a tear fell silently.
Later that night, I journaled and reflected on my experience earlier in the day. It was humbling, to say the least.
Jesus was truly present in the lady I was serving.
Being and working with the dying helps me confront my own mortality. There is a certain mystery in encountering the suffering people in the flesh. Akin to encountering the suffering Jesus in the flesh.
“’How do we find Christ?’ By being attracted to Him.
You are not going to find Christ in the poor by thinking.”
Father Dominique, a french Missionary
Entering into my own Poverty
A Dominican father once asked, “How do we find Christ?” By being attracted to Him. You are not going to find Christ in the poor by thinking.
Encountering the poor in person has helped me to enter into my own poverty as well. Working with the sick, unwanted and forgotten has helped me more than I can ever help them.
It is this radical vulnerability that Jesus has chose to reveal himself. Jesus Incarnate in the suffering poor. It is truly my privilege to serve the poor in Kolkata – touching the living flesh of Christ in person, and seeing Jesus in the cry of the unwanted, the infirmed and the abandoned.
The passion of Christ takes on a new living face for me every single day.
“The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
St Teresa of Kolkata