Mother Teresa said, “Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
We’ve survived the ice and thaw of January and look ahead to all things related to the heart in February. No, not Valentine’s Day filled dinner, flowers, and sugary sentiments, but something else. February is Heart Health Month, and encourages healthy diet and exercise, to help us avoid cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and strokes.
But let’s consider the heart of virtue. First, what is it? According to the Catechism, (CCC 1803) “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of themselves. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all their sensory and spiritual powers; they pursue the good and choose it in concrete actions. The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.
Mother Teresa said “be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” This can take some practice. She wanted us to “be the sunshine of God’s love” to all we meet, beginning in our own homes and in our own families. Sometimes we give our grumpiest and worst behavior to those we love most — those with whom we live — and even Mother Teresa understood the reality that it is sometimes easier to give a cup of rice to someone who is hungry in India than it is to be kind, loving, and gentle to someone in our own family who is testing our patience and kindness. (Also known as getting on your last nerve.) Yet she constantly reminded us that “love begins at home.” “Family first,” she said. Practice patience, kindness, goodness, and humility with your own loved ones at home, and be sensitive to the needs of those around you. Be concerned for your next-door neighbor. Do you know your neighbors? Do you know of anyone who is depressed? Do you know of anyone who is lonely? Do you know of anyone with chronic illness? Mother Teresa would say: “Find them. Love them. Put your love for them into living action — and become a channel of God’s peace right where you are.”
Mother Teresa also taught “never drift away from the humble works — the work that nobody else wants to do.” She said that there will always be people who want to do the big and great and important things, but we must stay close to the lowly works, like washing our floors and mending our clothes. Mother Teresa lived what she taught. Often, she could be found on her hands and knees washing the floor.
God comes to humble hearts; he makes His dwelling in humble souls. Without humility, there is no holiness, because in the words of Mother Teresa, even God Almighty “cannot fill what is already full.” We cannot be full of ourselves if we hope to be filled with God’s love and goodness and grace. We must be humble of heart.