Soup Kitchen Van GoghAt Mass one morning, it dawned on me that I had forgotten a service opportunity downtown. Forgetting the miracle taking place before me, all I could think about was how lazy I was for spending a Saturday lounging and catching up on my own life while there are people suffering and in need.

But then I thought about it for a minute. Ok, do I even remember the first reading? No, good thing it was mentioned in the homily! At least one of the letters of St. Paul was mentioned, so I assume that is what was read. Am I being present to the Lord who is deserving of all my love? Am I grateful that He has brought me to receive His Love in this beautiful old Dominican Chapel? Well, I was then!

I started thinking about charity, and how sometimes I feel motivated towards works of charity not because of love, but because of a need to feel good about myself. As I continue my spiritual and psychological healing and readjusting to “the world,” I notice that I am sometimes motivated to serve others because interiorly I feel a certain emptiness. And this emptiness always seems to return until I busy myself more with work, helping someone, or being “useful” in some way, shape, or form.

This little light is another part of what God has been trying to tell me about the concept of identity, especially after such a life-changing transition. I was reminded that my identity is not based upon how productive I am, what I “am” to others, how helpful or useful I have been, etc. etc. I am not necessarily “better” because I have done “more”, or “worse” because I have done “less”.

During the walk home from Mass, I was thinking about how charity/love is first given by the Lord, who is the only One who can fill that emptiness, and then, after His love permeates our whole being, we can be love for all. The Lord also provides us with MANY opportunities to practice charity. It doesn’t have to be a set day or time or number of hours or even a scheduled service opportunity (as good as those things are, and as much as I should try and take advantage of them!). He, however, is present in every soul we encounter, and therefore we can reverence Him in everyone we encounter and everyone we keep in prayers. I thought of Mother Teresa, and contemplated what she might say. The image that comes to mind is that of light. To everyone entrusted to our prayers we can keep vigil, lighting a candle in the sanctuary of our hearts, and on the altar we can sacrifice our prayers, works, time, etc.When I was a block away from my house I saw two figures standing just outside my house, clothed in white with a tint of blue. It couldn’t be… yes, it was. Two Missionaries of Charity walking the opposite way down the same street. This circumstance isn’t extremely out of the ordinary, given that there is a Missionaries of Charity Convent about a mile away. However, I knew that God’s Providence was stirring something within my soul, urging me to take this concept to prayer… and to Leonie’s Longing.

Both in and out of the Convent it can be easy to become so busy with giving that there is no room to receive the other or the charity of others. I remember feeling so worthless as a Postulant, when my responsibilities were reduced to making my bed, vacuuming the parlor, and occasionally pouring water for breakfast! And after leaving the Convent I had a hard time accepting myself without possessing some sort of work or project or service to another. My identity was still rooted in what I did.

I have learned from Blessed Mother Teresa, whose Feast we celebrate today, that charity will naturally flow out of a heart given to God. May you receive the Love of Christ today so that you may be Christ to the world!

I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Ask yourself “How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?” Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery.

“Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.”