June 2, 2006


We are called to be missionaries of charity:
with Christ, for Christ, to Christ

Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:34-36).

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is the most powerful image of charity in modern times.

She lived every moment of every day the new commandment of Jesus: Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 15:9, 12). She demonstrated in the most vivid, personal ways what the Lord means when he says: Whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do to me (Mt 25:40).

Someone once said to Mother Teresa, “I wouldn’t do what you’re doing for a million dollars.” She replied, “Neither would I. What I do is for Jesus, with Jesus and to Jesus.”

Another time, someone said, “I could never do what you do for the poorest of the poor, the dying destitute in Calcutta.” Mother Teresa replied, “You must find your own Calcutta.”

Find your own Calcutta. This is what every one of us is called to do as disciples of Jesus Christ. We each have our own unique vocation, our own calling, as followers of Christ. Our challenge as baptized Christians is to discern God’s will for us, to discover and do whatever our destiny is. We must find our own unique form of service, our own Calcutta.

There are as many diverse forms of service as there are unique and unrepeatable human beings. Each one of us is different from all the others, but each of us has been made in the image and likeness of God.

The paradox of human dignity is that we are separate and distinct from one another—at the same time that we are wholly united with one another in Christ.

The vocation that each of us has received is unique to us, but my vocation (and each of yours) can only be realized successfully when it is united to the mission of the whole Church, the mystical body of Christ.

The Second Vatican Council taught that “the Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate” which the Council defines as “every activity that aims to spread the kingdom of Christ all over the earth.” Every Christian is called to missionary work, like Mother Teresa, but every Christian’s call is unique.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In keeping with their vocations, the demands of the times, and the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostolate assumes the most varied forms. But charity, drawn from the Eucharist above all, is always, as it were, the source of the whole apostolate” (CCC #864).

Empowered by the Holy Spirit and by the Eucharist, above all, every Christian is sent out into the world to find his or her own Calcutta and, thus, participate in the Church’s apostolic work.

We are all missionaries for Christ, with Christ and to Christ. Regardless of where our Calcutta may be—whether among the poorest of the poor in India or among the homeless, the hungry or the spiritually poor here in Indiana—we are called to be missionaries of charity.

Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it for me (Mt 25:40).

— Daniel Conway

(Daniel Conway is a member of the editorial committee of the board of directors of Criterion Press Inc.)


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