On the last day,
Jesus will say to those at his right hand,
"Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited
Then Jesus will turn to those on his left hand and say,
"Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I
was thirsty and you did not give me drink, I was sick and you
did not visit me."
These will ask him,
"When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or sick, and did not
come to your help?"
And Jesus will answer them,
"Whatever you neglected to do unto one of the least of these,
you neglected to do unto me!"
As we have gathered here to pray together, I think it will be
beautiful if we begin with a prayer that expresses very well
what Jesus wants us to do for the least. St. Francis of Assisi
understood very well these words of Jesus and his life is very
well expressed by a prayer. And this prayer, which we say every
day after Holy Communion, always surprises me very much, because
it is very fitting for each one of us. And I always wonder
whether eight hundred years ago when St. Francis lived, they had
the same difficulties that we have today. I think that some of
you already have this prayer of peace, so we will pray it
Let us thank God for the opportunity he has given us today to
have come here to pray together. We have come here especially to
pray for peace, joy, and love. We are reminded that Jesus came
to bring the good news to the poor. He had told us what that
good news is when he said,
"My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you."
He came not to give the peace of the world, which is only that
we don't bother each other. He came to give peace of heart which
comes from loving - from doing good to others.
And God loved the world so much that he gave his son. God gave
his son to the Virgin Mary, and what did she do with him? As
soon as Jesus came into Mary's life, immediately she went in
haste to give that good news. And as she came into the house of
her cousin, Elizabeth, Scripture tells us that the unborn child
- the child in the womb of Elizabeth - leapt with joy. While
still in the womb of Mary, Jesus brought peace to John the
Baptist, who leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth.
And as if that were not enough - as if it were not enough that
God the Son should become one of us and bring peace and joy
while still in the womb, Jesus also died on the Cross to show
that greater love. He died for you and for me, and for that
leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person
lying in the street - not only of Calcutta, but of Africa, of
everywhere. Our Sisters serve these poor people in 105 countries
throughout the world. Jesus insisted that we love one another as
he loves each one of us. Jesus gave his life to love us, and he
tells us that he loves each one of us. Jesus gave his life to
love us, and he tells us that we also have to give whatever it
takes to do good to one another.
And in the Gospel Jesus says very clearly, " Love as I have
Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for him to
do good for us - to save us from our selfishness and sin. He
gave up everything to do the Father's will, to show us that we
too must be willing to give everything to do God's will, to love
one another as he loves each of us. If we are not willing to
give whatever it takes to do good for one another, sin is still
in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it
Love always hurts
It is not enough for us to say, "I love God." But I also have to
love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say
you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love
God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom
you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very
important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt.
I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other
people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be
willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love
in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.
It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in his image for
greater things, to love and to be loved. We must "put on
Christ," as Scripture tells us. And so we have been created to
love as he loves us. Jesus makes himself the hungry one, the
naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and he says, "You
did it to me." On the last day he will say to those on his
right, "whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me,"
and he will also say to those on his left, "whatever you
neglected to do for the least of these,
you neglected to do it for me."
When he was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." Jesus is
thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst for everyone,
poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that
they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to
us. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.
I can never forget the experience I had in visiting a home where
they kept all these old parents of sons and daughters who had
just put them into an institution and, maybe, forgotten them. I
saw that in that home these old people had everything: good
food, comfortable place, television - everything. But everyone
was looking toward the door. And I did not see a single one with
a smile on his face.
I turned to Sister and I asked, "Why do these people, who have
every comfort here - why are they all looking toward the door?
Why are they not smiling?" (I am so used to seeing the smiles on
our people." Even the dying ones smile.) And Sister said, "This
is the way it is, nearly everyday. They are expecting - they are
hoping - that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They
are hurt because they are forgotten."
See, this neglect to love brings spiritual poverty. Maybe in our
family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is feeling
sick, who is feeling worried. Are we there? Are we willing to
give until it hurts, in order to be with our families? Or do we
put our own interests first? These are the questions we must ask
ourselves, especially as we begin this Year of the Family. We
must remember that love begins at home, and we must also
remember that "the future of humanity passes through the family.
I was surprised in the West to see so many young boys and girls
given to drugs. And I tried to find out why. Why is it like
that, when those in the West have so many more things than those
in the East? And the answer was, "Because there is no one in the
family to receive them." Our children depend on us for
everything: their health, their nutrition, their security, their
coming to know and love God. For all of this, they look to us
with trust, hope, and expectation. But often father and mother
are so busy that they have no time for their children, or
perhaps they are not even married, or have given up on their
marriage. So the children go to the streets, and get involved in
drugs, or other things. We are talking of love of the child,
which is where love and peace must begin. These are the things
that break peace.
But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is
abortion, because it is a war against the child - a direct
killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself.
And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how
can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we
persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must
persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means
to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even his life
to love us. So the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be
helped to love - that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or
her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of
that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By
abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her
own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is
told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for
the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely
to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads
to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not
teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what
they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace
Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India,
with the children of Africa, where quite a few die of hunger,
and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the violence
in this great country of the United States. These concerns are
very good. But often these same people are not concerned with
the millions who are being killed by the deliberate decision of
their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of
peace today: abortion, which brings people to such blindness.
"I want this child!"
And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere: "Let us
bring the child back." The child is God's gift to the family.
Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God
for greater things - to love and to be loved. In this Year of
the Family we must bring the child back to the center of our
care and concern. This is the only way that our world can
survive, because our children are the only hope for the future.
As other people are called to God, only their children can take
But what does God say to us? He says, "Even if a mother could
forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in
the palm of my hand." We are carved in the palm of his hand;
that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from
conception, and is called by God to love and to be loved, not
only now in this life, out forever. God can never forget us.
I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by
adoption - by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We
have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics,
to the hospitals, and police stations: Please don't destroy the
child; we will take the child." So we always have someone tell
the mothers in trouble: "Come, we will take care of you, we will
get a home for your child."
And we have a tremendous demand from couples who cannot have a
child. But I never give a child to a couple who has done
something not to have a child. Jesus said, "Anyone who receives
a child in my name, receives me." By adopting a child, these
couples receive Jesus, but by aborting a child, a couple refuses
to receive Jesus.
Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me
the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be
aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will
love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's
home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from
abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to
their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and
joy! I know that couples have to plan their family, and for that
there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is
natural family planning, not contraception. In destroying the
power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife
is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self,
and so it destroys the gift of love in him or her. In loving,
the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other, as
happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens
in contraception. Once that living love is destroyed by
contraception, abortion follows very easily.
The greatness of the poor
I also know that there are great problems in the world - that
many spouses do not love each other enough to practice natural
family planning. We cannot solve all the problems in the world,
but let us never bring in the worst problem of all, and that is
to destroy love. This is what happens when we tell people to
practice contraception and abortion.
The poor are very great people. They can teach us so many
beautiful things. Once one of them came to thank us for teaching
them natural family planning, and said: "You people - who have
practiced chastity - you are the best people to teach us natural
family planning, because it is nothing more than self-control
out of love for each other." And what this poor person said is
very true. These poor people maybe have nothing to eat, maybe
they have not a home to live in, but they can still be great
people when they are spiritually rich. Those who are materially
poor can be wonderful people. One evening we went out and we
picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in a
most terrible condition. I told the Sisters: "You take care of
the other three; I will take care of the one who looks worse."
So I did for her all that my love can do. I put her in bed, and
there was a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my
hand, and she said one thing only: "Thank you." Then she died.
I could not help but examine my conscience before her. I asked,
"What would I say if I were in her place?" And my answer was
very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to
myself. I would have said, "I am hungry, I am dying, I am cold,
I am in pain," or something like that. But she gave me much more
- she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on
Then there was the man we picked up from the drain, half-eaten
by worms. And after we had brought him to the home, he only
said, "I have lived like an animal in the street, but am going
to die as an angel, loved and cared for." Then, after we had
removed all the worms from this body, all he said - with a big
smile - was: "Sister, I am going home to God." And he died. It
was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man, who could
speak like that without blaming anybody, without comparing
anything. Like an angel - this is the greatness of people who
are spiritually rich, even when they are materially poor.
A sign of care
We are not social workers. We may be doing social work in the
eyes of some people, but we must be contemplatives in the heart
of the world. For we must bring that presence of God into your
family, for the family that prays together, stays together.
There is so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer,
with our sacrifice, are beginning at home. Love begins at home,
and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what
If we are contemplatives in the heart of the world with all its
problems, these problems can never discourage us. We must always
remember what God tells us in the Scripture: Even if the mother
could forget the child in her womb - something that is
impossible, but even if she could forget - I will never forget
you. And so here I am talking with you. I want you to find the
poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there.
Bear the good news to your own people first. And find out about
your next-door neighbors. Do you know who they are?
I had the most extraordinary experience of love of a neighbor
from a Hindu family. A gentleman came to our house and said,
"Mother Teresa, there is a family who have not eaten for so
long. Do something." So I took some rice and went there
immediately. And I saw the children, their eyes shining with
hunger. (I don't know if you have ever seen hunger, but I have
seen it very often.) And the mother of the family took the rice
I gave her, and went out. When she came back, I asked her,
"Where did you go? What did you do?" And she gave me a very
simple answer: "They are hungry also." What struck me was that
she knew. And who were "they?" A Muslim family. And she knew. I
didn't bring any more rice that evening, because I wanted them -
Hindus and Muslims - to enjoy the joy of sharing.
But there were those children, radiating joy, sharing the joy
and peace with their mother because she had the love to give
until it hurts. And you see this is where love begins: at home
in the family. God will never forget us, and there is something
you and I can always do. We can keep the joy of loving Jesus in
our hearts, and share that joy with all we come in contact with.
Let us make that one point: that no child will be unwanted,
unloved, uncared for, or killed and thrown away. And give until
it hurts - with a smile.
Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a professor
from the United States asked me, "Are you married?" And I said,
"Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at my
spouse - Jesus - because he can be very demanding - sometimes
this is really something true. And there is where love comes in
- when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy.
One of the most demanding things for me is traveling everywhere,
and with publicity. I have said to Jesus that if I don't go to
heaven for anything else, I will be going to heaven for all the
traveling with all the publicity, because it has purified me and
sacrificed me and made me really ready to go to heaven. If we
remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as he
loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world.
From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak - the
unborn child - must go out to the world. lf you become a burning
light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be
true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless