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Meditate on the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta every day during the season of Advent.

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Day by Day Through Advent With Mother Teresa

by Kathleen M. Carroll

Advent is upon us. On top of the usual demands of family and friends, work and household chores, we now add decorating, cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping and tree-wrangling. We suddenly feel our many inadequacies as we forget children’s shoe sizes and Grandma’s best cookie recipe. We’re overwhelmed by the busyness of it all, and too often we let the noise and crowds edge out the quiet joy to be found in the season.

What better time to meditate on the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who managed to remain a calm, joyful center in a hurricane of activity? In what follows we start each day’s reflection with her private writings. She teaches us it is the quality of our waiting that makes the difference.

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT: BE READY

Isaiah 2:1–5; Romans 13:11–14; Matthew 24:37–44
All beginners have their many crosses, but pray for me and for those who join, that we may have the courage to do this work for souls. —Mother Teresa

Advent is a time for preparing. Most of us are busy with preparing for aspects of our holiday—gifts, decorations, food, travel and agonizing over how we’re going to pay for it all. Advent, though, reminds us to prepare for what’s really important. Our focus should be on Christ. Once we have our priorities straight, everything else falls into place.

MONDAY: NOT WORTHY TO RECEIVE YOU
Isaiah 4:2–6; Matthew 8:5–11

My own Jesus, what you ask is beyond me. I can hardly understand half of the things you want. I am unworthy. I am sinful. I am weak. Go, Jesus, and find a more worthy soul, a more generous one. —Mother Teresa

At every Mass we recall the centurion’s words: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.” Truly, even the most worthy among us recognize that we all are on equal footing before God.

TUESDAY: HIDDEN FROM THE WISE
Isaiah 11:1–10; Luke 10:21–24

I feel sometimes afraid, for I have nothing, no brains, no learning, no qualities required for such work.... —Mother Teresa

As Jesus celebrates the return of his 70 disciples, we are reminded that God often chooses those the world rejects. Our job is simply to trust that our God, who can create all out of nothing, can make something beautiful out of every opportunity we offer.

WEDNESDAY: COMPASSION FOR THE CROWD
Isaiah 25:6–10a; Matthew 15:29–37

Today God loves the world so much that he gives you, he gives me, to love the world, to be his love, his compassion. It is such a beautiful thought for us—and a conviction—that you and I can be that love and compassion. —Mother Teresa

Jesus taught the crowd of God, cured their illnesses and restored their faculties; he sought to find yet more needs of theirs to fulfill. During this holy season, try to seek out the needs of others and fill them as you are able.

THURSDAY: HOUSE BUILT ON ROCK
Isaiah 26:1–6; Matthew 7:21, 24–27

We are not social workers. We are contemplatives in the heart of the world. We are 24 hours a day with Jesus. —Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was not the first to take pity on Calcutta’s poor and suffering. Yet she became so effective at alleviating misery because she built her mission on Jesus. As you go about your holiday preparations, be sure that Jesus is the foundation of your efforts.

FRIDAY: ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH
Isaiah 29:17–24; Matthew 9:27–31

Let us trust Him blindly. He will see to it that our faith in Him will not be lost. —Mother Teresa

In many ways, God asks us to believe without seeing, to trust even in the face of great hardship. Remember a time when you were sure you could not make it through another day, and thank God for carrying you.

SATURDAY: THE HARVEST IS PLENTIFUL
Isaiah 30:19–21, 23–26; Matthew 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6–8

How many die without God—just because there was nobody to say one word about His Mercy.... —Mother Teresa

The holiday season offers many opportunities to discuss God with those who might be feeling particularly lonely at this time of year. Consider inviting a friend or neighbor to Mass with you tomorrow.

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SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT: PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD

Isaiah 11:1–10; Romans 15:4–9; Matthew 3:1–12
I took the change [of plan] as God sent—to get stronger to prepare my body and soul for His coming. Here I have nothing to think about—except how to live for others. —Mother Teresa

The ascetism of John the Baptist and the self-sacrifice of Mother Teresa are astonishing testaments to their faith. Think of one concrete step you can take to welcome Christ’s presence in your life.

MONDAY: PRAY FOR COURAGE
Isaiah 35:1–10; Luke 5:17–26
I am very sure of God. I trust His love. I hope many things, or rather everything from Him—this is what has made me dare so far.... —Mother Teresa

The bold actions of the paralytic’s friends gave him the opportunity to receive God’s powerful healing—both physically and spiritually. For what would you pray, if you had the courage?

TUESDAY: IN SEARCH OF THE ONE
Isaiah 40:1–11; Matthew 18:12–14
What if all be failure—I have no fear—if only one family—if only one little unhappy child is made happy with the love of Jesus, tell me will it not be worth all of us giving all for that? —Mother Teresa

Just as in the parable of the Good Shepherd, God seeks always the last, the lost, the least. Who in your life needs finding and bringing back to the fold?

WEDNESDAY: HUMBLE IN HEART
Isaiah 40:25–31; Matthew 11:28–30
In all sincerity I admit that I possess no virtue and have no merit. It is a mystery to me how the Good God wants this from poor me….I am but a humble nun. —Mother Teresa

Self-service rarely leads to satisfaction. Great deeds come from working for a purpose greater than ourselves. Where in your holiday preparations is self-importance marring the beauty of the season?

THURSDAY: IF YOU ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT IT
Isaiah 41:13–20; Matthew 11:11–15
I am ready to accept whatever He gives and to give whatever He takes with a big smile. —Mother Teresa

Much of Jesus’ message was lost on the religious authorities of his day because it was not what they expected. Consider in what unexpected ways is Jesus coming to you this Advent.

FRIDAY: YOU DID NOT MOURN
Isaiah 48:17–19; Matthew 11:16–19
If you only knew what goes on within my heart—sometimes the pain is so great that I feel as if everything will break. The smile is a big cloak which covers a multitude of pains. —Mother Teresa

The saints knew suffering beyond what most of us can imagine, yet bore it with grace. Are you preparing for Christmas with joyful anticipation, or are you letting the strain of a hundred tasks sour your mood? Give everyone you meet today the gift of a smile.

SATURDAY: THEY DID NOT RECOGNIZE HIM
Sirach 48:1–4, 9–11; Matthew 17:9a, 10–13
The light you give must be so pure, the love you love with must be so burning—the Faith you believe with must be so convincing—that in seeing you they really see only Jesus. —Mother Teresa

John the Baptist and Jesus were killed by those who did not recognize who they truly were. Make an effort to see Christ in all you meet today and to be Christ to those who need your help.

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT: ARE YOU THE ONE?

Isaiah 35:1–6a, 10; James 5:7–10; Matthew 11:2–11
Thank God we have been told to follow Christ—not to go ahead of Him. Even in darkness the path is sure. —Mother Teresa

John the Baptist had quite a task. He had to precede Jesus; all we have to do is follow. As Christmas draws near, consider how closely you have been following Jesus. If Christ is the center of your life and the basis of every choice, you’ll find yourself agonizing less and rejoicing that the way has been paved before us.

(On December 17 and later, advance to that day for the Late Advent readings.)

MONDAY: FOCUS ON JESUS
Numbers 24:2–7, 15–17; Matthew 21:23–27
I am ready to do whatever I am told—at any cost. Ready to go now or to wait years. You are afraid that the whole thing will be a failure. What about it? Is it not worth going through every possible suffering…? —Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa saw the wisdom in following Jesus, even when the path ahead was unclear. Make following Jesus your primary focus this week.

TUESDAY: UNDERSTAND THE WORD OF GOD
Zephaniah 3:1–2, 9–13; Matthew 21:28–32
[The sisters should be] generous and lovers of the poor. They must be able to put their hands to any kind of work however repugnant to human nature. —Mother Teresa

Jesus is pleased by those who actually do his will, not those who make empty promises. Make these last days of Advent truly a time for more closely understanding the will of God in your life.

WEDNESDAY: LORD OF YOUR LIFE
Isaiah 4:6–8, 18, 21–25; Luke 7:18–23
Now I really rejoice when something does not go as I wish—because I see that He wants our trust—that is why [we should] praise God as if we have got everything. —Mother Teresa

Even those of great faith are sometimes confused. Do you live your life as though Jesus is merely a good example to follow, or is he truly the Lord of your life?

THURSDAY: DETACHMENT
Isaiah 54:1–10; Luke 7:24–30
I am afraid we are getting too much publicity.—A few things I heard this evening have made me feel cold with fear…. Please pray for me—that I be nothing to the world and let the world be nothing to me. —Mother Teresa

All holy people inadvertently draw attention to themselves. It is not celebrity that we should follow, though, but God. Pray for the courage to become the saint God is calling you to be.

FRIDAY: SHINING LIGHT
Isaiah 56:1–3, 6–8; John 5:33–36
Now with you and others doing the work with us, what would we not do, what can’t we not do for Him?…Your life is like a burning light which is being consumed for souls. —Mother Teresa

Jesus compares John the Baptist to a “burning and shining lamp” whose light brought joy to many. Ponder opportunities for joy in your life today. How can you experience joy?

(Late Advent)

DECEMBER 17: NO ONE’S ROLE IS SMALL
Genesis 49:2, 8–10; Matthew 1:1–17
To the good God nothing is little because He is so great and we are so small—that is why He stoops down and takes the trouble to make those little things for us….Be faithful in little practices of love. —Mother Teresa

It is unlikely that those whose names are proclaimed in Jesus’ genealogy knew they were building the family tree of Jesus. We, too, rarely know the role we play in God’s plan, but we must still play our role faithfully. God can make great things out of little gestures.

DECEMBER 18: GOD IS WITH US
Jeremiah 23:5–8; Matthew 1:18–25
I know they will laugh at me. They will think me a fool, proud, mad, etc....I can do without all the rest if I have Him. Fear not for me, nor for those who will join me. God will look after us all. He will be with us. —Mother Teresa

In taking on our human nature, Jesus has ensured that, indeed, God will always be with us. Find a way today to make God’s presence more real to someone in your life.

DECEMBER 19: HE LOOKED FAVORABLY ON ME
Judges 13:2–7, 24–25a; Luke 1:5–25
His ways are so beautiful—to think that we have God almighty to stoop so low as to love you and me and make use of us—and make us feel that He really needs us—as I grow older my wonder at His humility grows…. —Mother Teresa

John the Baptist—the Elijah of the New Testament—did not come to earth in a fiery chariot but as a tiny baby to elderly parents. Today, name some small ways that God is making a large difference in your life.

DECEMBER 20: DO NOT BE AFRAID
Isaiah 7:10–14; Luke 1:26–38
Please pray for me that I may have the courage to complete my Sacrifice as He has given me the inspiration and Grace to begin...I have very little courage—but I trust Him blindly, in spite of all feelings. —Mother Teresa

The media were shocked at the revelations of Mother Teresa’s insecurities. All Christians have insecurities, though, but we trust God. How little we see God’s plan in our lives; how fearful we are that things may not work out after all! Pray for courage in the area of your life where you most need it.

DECEMBER 21: A LEAP FOR JOY
Song of Songs 2:8–14; Luke 1:39–45
Every Sunday I visit the poor in Calcutta’s slums. I cannot help them, because I do not have anything, but I go to give them joy....O God how easily I make them happy! Give me strength to be always the light of their lives and so lead them to You! —Mother Teresa

Despite our imperfections, each of us has the power to bring great happiness to someone else. Make time today to bring joy to a person in need.

DECEMBER 22: MY SPIRIT REJOICES
1 Samuel 1:24–28; Luke 1:46–56
My soul at present is in perfect peace and joy. —Mother Teresa

Though Mary had no specific information, she recognized that the day of salvation was at hand and took time to rejoice. Take a few moments from your last-minute holiday preparations to celebrate the deep joy of Christmas.

DECEMBER 23: WHO ARE THE POOR?
Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24; Luke 1:57-66
We need to tell the poor that they are somebody to us, that they, too, have been created, by the same loving hand of God, to love and be loved. —Mother Teresa

God rewarded the patience of Elizabeth and Zechariah as the chosen ones of God, poor as they were. Reach out to someone in need today.

(for years other than 2007)

DECEMBER 24: THE MERCY PROMISED
2 Samuel 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16; Luke 1:67–79
There is in my heart a very deep union with the will of God. I accept not in my feelings—but with my will, the Will of God....The hardest to bear—is this terrible longing for God. —Mother Teresa

Now that Christmas is arriving, do you feel the breathless excitement of Zechariah, the fulfillment of something long promised? Savor these last quiet moments of waiting.

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT: A RIGHTEOUS MAN

Isaiah 7:10–14; Romans 1:1–7; Matthew 1:18–24
You have only to say it and I shall do it. —Mother Teresa

The Gospels do not record Joseph’s feelings upon learning of his predicament, though he planned to dismiss Mary quietly. When the angel instructed him otherwise, he hastened to shoulder this even more difficult burden. Ponder how you can follow the path to which God is calling you.

CHRISTMAS DAY: THE GREATEST GIFT
Isaiah 52:7–10; Hebrews 1:1–6; John 1:1–18
Why must we give ourselves fully to God? Because God has given Himself to us. If God who owes nothing to us, is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves? —Mother Teresa

Recall your fondest Christmas memories: Most likely, they are family and friends gathered together to cherish one another. The greatest gift you can offer your loved ones is the gift of yourself—your time, your attention, your presence.

Kathleen M. Carroll is a freelance author and is managing editor at St. Anthony Messenger Press. She is the author of Keeping the Faith in Ohio: Words of Hope and Wisdom from Our Spiritual Leaders (Emmis Books).

Words of Mother Teresa © 2007 The Mother Teresa Center. From the book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, Edited and with Commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Next: Praying for Christian Unity (by James F. Loughran, S.A.)

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