It seems to me a gift more for us than for her, but I think in the divine economy it’s actually both.
The news is out: on Thursday, December 17, Pope Francis approved the miracle for Mother Teresa’s canonization. We will have a new saint; she will have the Church’s ultimate stamp of approval. Not that she needs it where she is, but the saints are like that—they cherish the Church’s imprimaturs. And how fitting that Our Holy Father met with Cardinal Amato about her miracle on the very day the O Antiphons began, the day the Church sings, “O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightly and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.”
Ah, wisdom and prudence…Mother Teresa’s were heroic, though not what the world ever expected. And ours? We don’t have much time before Christmas and Jesus’ coming to us as an infant lying in a manger. Have we made the wisest, most prudent use of Advent?
If you’re like me, the answer to that question is always no. Once again, I admit with a rueful smile, I have definitely not made the best use of Advent, and time is running out. But like Mother Teresa’s namesake, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, let’s not allow anything—even our littleness—to stop us from embracing Jesus with all our hearts, even at this late date. Sure time may be running out (isn’t it always?), but that’s why Jesus told us the parable of the workers. We can be the ones hired at the eleventh hour but still receiving a living wage. He’s that kind of a boss, so courage, and let’s not give up yet.
Here are two ideas for these remaining days of Advent, and if Advent slips by and you haven’t implemented them yet (oops!), the good news is they don’t expire and will work throughout the New Year and beyond. So here they are, last minute ideas for Advent sanity and sanctity:
1. Give the gift that keeps on giving.
Holy Mother Church is showering us with gifts, we will soon be showering our loved ones with gifts – why not use these remaining days to receive and give the very best?
It doesn’t take too much wisdom and prudence to see that the best God has to offer is His beloved Son Jesus. As St. John of the Cross put it: “The Father spoke one Word, which was His Son, and this Word He always speaks in eternal silence, and in silence it must be heard by the soul.”
How can we receive and give this best of God’s gifts? Mother Teresa, our newest saint-to-be, was an expert at giving, and she has the answer for us. She said, “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time that you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in heaven, and will help bring about an everlasting peace on earth.”
We are all busy, but why don’t you put on your list, right now while no one’s looking, “Holy half hour.” Go ahead—write in the margin of the list, with a little arrow pointing between “grocery store: bananas, egg nog, bread…” and “Wal-mart: George’s gift.” I’ve found that when I slip an unexpected (to me, if not to Him) visit to the Blessed Sacrament into the midst of my errands, the trips to the store go so much faster! But even more importantly, I have a chance to remember why I’m shopping.
In her famous Vanarasi letter, Mother Teresa wrote to her spiritual children:
Jesus wants me to tell you again how much love He has for each one of you – beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus – one to one – you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel – but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it…How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say, “I love you” – impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air…Jesus wants you each to hear Him – speaking in the silence of your heart.
Along with Mother Teresa and Jesus, I want you to receive that gift of His love as Advent melts into Christmas, but if you are so busy you can’t see straight, if you’re thinking, “Later, when I have time,” why don’t you consider giving this gift to someone else, since you likely have to give a gift or two anyhow.
If you’re giving gifts to fellow Catholics, why not add a note that says, “Made a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and asked Him to give you your hearts desires (and Himself) this Christmas.”
If your gifts are for those who don’t know (or remember) Jesus’ love in the Holy Eucharist, you can silently include this gift for them, a secret between you and baby Jesus, your prayer for these dear ones who are missing the greatest gift of all. And don’t worry, it’s the Year of Mercy, which is like one of those corporate matching gift programs: God will surely double your gifts to them.
2. Find a great book
For a gift that keeps on giving, find a book on Mother Teresa to place under the tree for that hard-to-buy-for family member, friend, or co-worker. It’s as easy as going to the local bookstore—believe me, they are very likely to have something on Mother Teresa. Or make it even easier by calling Sophia Institute Press and ordering David Scott’s excellent book The Love that Made Mother Teresa. Since their amazing $5 shipping is for any quantity, you can order several copies, and ask them to throw in I Believe in Love and the new book on Chiara Petrillo—two more books guaranteed to help you and yours love Jesus more and experience His peace beyond understanding.
Finally, my last idea, a bonus “order now, and we’ll throw in for free” sort of idea (whether or not you order now), is this: if you want to make Advent special, if you want to accompany Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem, if you want to become a saint like Mother Teresa and using her methods….smile.
Sure everyone’s in a hurry, you’re running out of money, the lines are long—ideal conditions! A smile doesn’t take time, it doesn’t cost a thing, and you will spread joy to those waiting in line along with you. A laugh is even better, but you might feel that’s beyond you (and you want to cheer people, not provoke them)…A smile, on the other hand, is always just about right. As David Scott quotes Mother Teresa as saying, “We can never know how much good a simple smile can do.”
If you need a reason to smile, remember Mother Teresa’s Christmas present—the Church, ever lavish but ever careful to give only the truth, will soon publicly enroll her in the canon of Saints. Why? Because she smiled. And why did she smile? As she explains, “Jesus came into this world for one purpose: He came to give us the good news that God loves us, that God is love, that He loves you and me.”
He is not waiting for us to love Him better than we do—He loves us now, infinitely. May your guardian angel accompany you these late days of Advent and bring you, on Christmas and forever, to Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, God with us.