“Not all of us can do great things,” Blessed Mother Teresa said. “But we can do small things with great love.”
Many of us want to do great things during Advent. I, for one, could list a hundred (thousand) ways I want to become holier in time for Christmas. But I know I’m not strong enough to do them all.
That’s where Mother Teresa’s humble approach comes to the rescue: Do small things with great love.
“[W]hoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward,” Jesus says in Matthew 10:42. A cup of cold water seems like such a little thing! But if it’s given out of great love for Jesus, that little thing can help us get to heaven.
Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph must have longed to do great things to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Yet in the end, they received Him with what must have felt to them like very little. Materially, they had next to nothing in Bethlehem—what could they offer the Divine Child? Not even a home in which to lay His precious head—not yet.
But they could give him small things. The light of their smiles. The look in their eyes. The warmth of their arms. The comfort of their voices. Their rapt adoration.
Small things with great love.
Perhaps, if we do these same small things with great love this Advent, they can prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus as Mary and Joseph did at Bethlehem.
Smile at Him
Imagine the smiles that Mary and Joseph must have had for Baby Jesus when he first arrived—the first two people ever to behold the adorable face of God Incarnate.
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing,” Mother Teresa said. She also admitted that sometimes she had a hard time smiling at Jesus, because he could be so demanding! Sometimes a smile comes freely; sometimes it takes immense effort; but every smile can be a sign of love for the sweet, innocent Baby in the manger. As Mother Teresa so often proclaimed, what we do for others, we do for Him.
Mary and Joseph, help me to smile at others this Advent the way you smiled at the Holy Infant.
Look at Him with love
If their smiles were radiant, the looks of love in the eyes of Mary and Joseph must have carried the ocean’s depths within them.
In the busy pace of everyday life, it’s easy to lose sight of the face of God in others. It’s easy to forget to make eye contact, to have a conversation while looking at a screen, to turn our gaze away from those we love.
Jesus knew the power of one look. Of the man with many possessions who told Jesus that he had obeyed the commandments since his youth, Mark 10:21 says that “Jesus looking upon him loved him.” Reading that verse, I imagine that look, and I can feel the power of His divine gaze.
This Advent, I want to be intentional with the way I look at the people before me. I might not always remember, but I want to try.
Mary and Joseph, help me to see a person standing before me as Jesus, and to look upon that person with great love.
In Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph had the incredible blessing of cradling the newborn Son of God in their arms, keeping Him warm and holding Him close to their hearts.
Mother Teresa spoke often of how we can relieve the suffering of others simply by offering them the warmth of human touch. It might be an elderly person in a nursing home who aches for a hand to hold; a grieving friend who needs to be pulled close; or a crying child who wants to be hugged and rocked. If I reach out my arms to any of these people, I can hold the Christ Child, too.
Mary and Joseph, help me to wrap others in the warmth of the embrace with which you held the Baby Jesus.
Sing to Him
What lullabies did Mary and Joseph sing to Jesus? With what hymns of praise and adoration did they lift their voices to God? How I wish I could hear them.
In Ephesians 5:19, St. Paul says to address one another “with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” With an old hymn, a sweet lullaby, or a spontaneous prayer that wells up within us, we can sing to the Lord and prepare our voices to comfort the Holy Newborn in the manger.
Mary and Joseph, help me to make beautiful melodies for God.
Adore the tiny Word
“Be still, and know that I am God.” I’ve heard this verse (Psalms 46:10) many times, but it took on new meaning for me when a holy priest taught me to pray it like this:
Be still, and know that I am God.
Be still, and know that I am.
Be still, and know.
This has remained one of my favorite meditations, and it highlights something very important about Scripture: Every word counts. Every single word holds a message from God.
In the Incarnation, the Infinite God became a little baby. At His birth, Mary and Joseph must have adored every tiny feature, every precious part of the Word made flesh.
Likewise, in Sacred Scripture, the Infinite God is present in each little verse. To prepare for His birth, we can adore every tiny feature, every precious part of the Word of God.
If we read and meditate on one single Scripture verse (perhaps of the Nativity story or Mass readings) each day, our meditation can lead us to adore the tiny Child in the manger with a deeper understanding of how God is present in even the smallest things.
One verse: A small thing that contains the great God. A small thing with great love.
Mary and Joseph, help me to adore Jesus, the Word, in every single verse of Scripture, so that my heart will recognize Him in His smallness—and in His greatness—with love, when He arrives this Christmas.