October 25, 2020

What’s the Point?

I’m generally pretty pragmatic.  Before I do something, I like to know that it’s a good use of my time and resources.  I like to be able to anticipate a return for my effort.  I’m aware that I can’t do everything, so I try to choose deeds that will count, will really make a difference.

From the world’s point of view, that’s a good way to be.  Auditors and stockholders, employers and creditors all like to see that sort of attitude in people.

But here’s the question:  If I saw that woman pour out expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet, would I echo Judas’ words and complain about how that just isn’t practical?

I don’t like that question and would prefer not to answer it.  Instead I’ll copy this poem, written by someone, and about someone, who can understand impractical love far better than I.

• • •

Mother Teresa
By Sydney Carter

No revolution will come in time
to alter this man’s life
except the one
surprise of being loved.

It is too late to talk of Civil Rights,
or any kind of sex.

He has only twelve more hours to live.
Forget about
a cure for cancer, smoking, leprosy
or osteo-arthritis.

Over this dead loss to society
you pour your precious ointment,
wash the feet
that will not walk tomorrow.

Mother Teresa, Mary Magdalene,
your love is dangerous, your levity
would contradict
our local gravity.

But if love cannot do it, then I see
no future for this dying man or me.
So blow the world to glory,
crack the clock.  Let love be dangerous.


  1. Margaret Catherine says

    Mother Teresa always trusted the work entirely to Christ…let it be His to make or not make a success of. Her part was simply to try. I could perhaps pour the ointment, I could perhaps love that impractically – I just can’t *trust* that impractically. Not without a plan and some kind of assurance. Which is the millstone around my neck, as I go up to visit her order in December in hope of entrance – not knowing if I will “succeed”, not knowing if the support my parish has shown me will find any “return” or instead appear a failure.

    • May God’s leading be clear to you, Margaret Catherine, even if the goal he’s leading you to isn’t.

    • Matthew Johnston says

      Mother Teresa allegedly denied that Jesus was the ONLY way to God.

      She had pictures of numerous false gods around her establishments.

      • Margaret Catherine says

        Matthew…either she did or she didn’t; there’s no room for “allegedly”. There are any number of books collecting her sayings and writings; the record is there and easily enough found. She’s owed that much, to be considered for what she did and said rather than what it’s rumored she did and said. (Been in a number of MC convents, by the way, in the States and in Europe – nary an idol in sight.)

        • Matthew Johnston says

          The word allegedly was used as I had only heard my pastor and other pastors recount what they have read. Therefore I chose to say alleged.

          But seeing as I am writing this I thought I would now provide some more information;

          “Mother Teresa, as goes without saying, was a devout Roman Catholic. As such, some of her beliefs would necessarily have to stand at odds with core Christian beliefs. This has not appeared to trouble many Christians who continue today, even in Protestant churches, to uphold her as a prime example of Christian virtue, love and self-sacrifice. Her devotion to Catholic theology is obvious in her speeches and writing.” [1]

          While she worked with the poor, Mother Teresa was adamant that any type of evangelism was unnecessary. Here is a quote from her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers;

          “We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied.

          If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.” (Pages 81-82)

          “With such a statement we can only be left believing that she was more than a Catholic, but was a Universalist, believing essentially that all religion leads to the same God. Time and again we see her expounding such universalist beliefs. In an interview with Christian News a nun who worked with Mother Teresa was asked the following in regards to the Hindus they worked with, “These people are waiting to die. What are you telling them to prepare them for death and eternity?” She replied candidly, “We tell them to pray to their Bhagwan, to their gods.” [2]

          — [1] & [2] are from Tim Challies @ challies.com

          I hope that helps in some small way to show that Mother Teresa was a heretical universalist.

          ““I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic” – Mother Teresa

          • “A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.”
            ? John Calvin

          • Margaret Catherine says

            “We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied.”

            This is a type of evangelism. Not the only type; but her type. She never mistook the work of her order for the work of the Church as a whole. There’s too much work and need for any one person to address all kinds, and she knew that better than any.

      • I thinks some people are sincerely critical of the following quotes by Mother Teresa. I think she thought as a devout Catholic: we are saved by grace. Some people, through no fault of their own, never hear the gospel or understand it, but they do respond to the grace that God gives them. The Church states that they too, by responding to Grace, are saved by Jesus. Mother Teresa invited Muslims and Hindus to pray with her and to hear the gospel–but it is up to the Spirit to give the grace.

        “There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people. We have among us 475 souls – 30 families are Catholics and the rest are all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs—all different religions. But they all come to our prayers.”

        “There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ:
        Jesus is my God,
        Jesus is my Spouse,
        Jesus is my Life,
        Jesus is my only Love,
        Jesus is my All in All;
        Jesus is my Everything.”


      • Hey Matthew,

        You have been away for a while. We appreciate your comments, but try to have a little more of a generous spirit.

        • Matthew Johnston says

          Thanks Michael,
          If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.” – Mother Teresa

          • flatrocker says

            Sounds like a compassionate and brilliant re-statement of Romans 2:12-16.
            Thanks for the insights concerning her beliefs.

            Now let’s return to the comfort of our keyboards and morning coffee and let the dirty work of ministering to the poorest of the poor be done by those heretics in India.

          • Mother Teresa is credited with the conversion of many Muslims and Hindus. People saw the love that she shared and naturally wondered what propelled her sacrifice: the love of Jesus Christ. Her type of low-key evangelism probably works very well in Muslim and Hindu countries where persecution and martyrdom are realities. Christians in India are treated very poorly and are often violently silenced. Mother’s silent witness of Christian love is a profoundly insightfuly way to proclaim the good news.

          • Yes, Rick, exactly. Not only in India but around the world, I meet more people who are impressed with Mother Teresa’s witness of love than are compelled by a doctrinal argument. Both action and apologetics are necessary. One without the other would be an incomplete representation of the beauty of the faith.

            Matthew, look at the poem itself as evidence of what one observer at least got from Mother Teresa. In her he saw extravagant grace and love that didn’t keep a record of wrongs or differences of opinions. Is that an inaccurate representation of our Savior?

          • Matthew Johnston says

            Well thump my pumpkin & crank my scooter!

            The lady is a universalist and here we are defending her.

            You can feed and cloth the poor til the cows come home but unless they know that Jesus is Lord and the ONLY way to God they are cactus!

          • Margaret Catherine says

            Heaven as a cactus garden, in bloom. I like it. 🙂

  2. That is a lovely poem. I like the last stanza quite a bit. What I like about that poem is how it communicates love. It leaves me wondering…how and more importantly why did I spend almost 10 years in fundementalism? There was no love, grace, and a very shallow approach to life. To borrow from CS Lewis’ thoughts about people playing in a puddle when they could be swimming in an ocean. I think many people go to mega churches or legalisitc ministries when what they really crave is grace and genuine faith community. That’s what I want. But instead the mega chruches of McLean Bible, etc.. offer something very shallow and legalistic. There’s little hope in a facade like that, and all too often those types of facades dot the American landscape. From Mars Hill in Seattle to Saddleback in California.

    If I’m going to believe in God again and have faith its going to be the result of the love that Mother Theresa has written about. In my mind genuine Christianity is full and overflowing with love, grace, and reconciliation. Amercian Christianity has little to none of that…and then to make it worse it’s wrapped in the American flag, sold and marketed like Perry Ellis. Wheres’ my barf bag (Eagle heaves at the thought….) If I can find love….maybe…just maybe I’ll give it a chance again. But its only after much hesitation and when I can feel safe.

    I wish I could have peace…………..

    • That love is what you should be looking for, Eagle, but very few of us show it, and none of us shows it perfectly.

    • Eagle ~ your story is so similar to mine. I too spent 10 years in Fundamentalism. I was going to say that when I came out…actually a Bible teaching pastor threw us out, of his independent church, from the pulpit on Easter Sunday (he proceeded to empty the whole church over time, including his own sons and their families.) He died of a massive heart attack and I wonder if there wasn’t something very wrong in his brain to make him act the way he did. Anyway my husband never set foot in a church again. It took me 2 years to have the courage to attend a church again. This was about 30 years ago. But I have found love in Christians. Some very involved in their churches, some just marginally involved in a church. I mean real love. And interestingly it has come from others who have been battered and bruised by the church. As a matter of fact most of them. I don’t know how to say this without sounding as if I am preaching. Forgive ~ I only want to tell you that God is not interested in anything but in molding us into His Son’s image. And that means, I believe, that we will experience all of what Christ experienced when He walked among us.

      “And one shall say unto him, “What are these wounds in thy hands?” Then he shall answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” Zech 13:6

      We will never find true peace on this earth Eagle. We are flawed – all of us. I don’t love as I should. None of us does. As I am sure you know Mother Theresa lived with doubt and darkness, with torturing feelings of the absence of God, wondering if she was LOVED. I would imagine she was a terribly lonely person. Yet she went on. The struggle won’t end until we go home. We will never find one single human being who loves well. Churches in America set such a trap for pastors as it has the business appeal of a CEO – EGO. Then church leaders jockey for position, for recognition, for power. Very, very few really understand the message of the Cross. Pray that God will lead you to His true people, His battered and broken people. You will be amazed where He leads you. All we can do right now is believe the children’s song – Jesus loves me, this I know.

    • Margaret Catherine says

      Eagle…perhaps you might try volunteering with her order, in DC? They have several homes (including a 40-bed men’s hospice in Brookland), and there are no religious tests nor requirements for volunteers. They only ask that those who come, come to serve and to love the people they help; and they always welcome those who come to help. I suggest this partly remembering how the lay branch of the Missionaries of Charity got started…a bunch of lay people got together and went to the MCs, saying that they were fed up with the “institutional church” and wanted to join “the church of Mother Teresa” instead; they wanted to belong somewhere that showed the love that Jesus had showed.

    • But you know what – this was about the individual, not the organization of ‘the church’. Clearly your hurt with the organization goes deep and, while I can truely understand it and share 90% of it,, there is no article or spoken word that is going to heal that wound, only personal action. I think the point of this work was taking up the radical love that Jesus modeled as an individual and not expect the group/organization to support it.

      I think the suggestion of working with an organization doing active hands-on ministry is a very good one.

  3. If Mother Theresa is your idea of how a person behaves when they are loving, then I seriously worry.

    • flatrocker says

      Maybe we all should “seriously worry” a lot less and just go to the bedside of those seriously in need.

      That’s seriously what Mother Teresa did.

      • No.. what we should do is try to lessen their pain. Not stand around and glorify it.

        • flatrocker says

          Maybe if we focused on the glory that is present in our suffering, we might all find a wee bit more solace.

          I think I’ll stand with the good Mother.

    • David Cornwell says

      How then, should one love?

  4. And isn’t that the whole point of the Jesus message? It is not about the practicality, neither is it about the global impact. Rather, it is about the impact on one single soul. Yes, Jesus preached to the multitudes, but his healing was done one person at a time. Here then is our invitation. How can we be a vessel through which God’s healing love can be revealed in our world…one person at a time. Do we love enough (as Mary Magdalene and Mother Teresa did) to push our eager “I want to change the world” ego and simply love each other…one person at a time?

    Lauri Lumby
    Authentic Freedom Ministries



  6. Maybe one of the points of that story of Jesus is to mind one own business. It cost no one, but Mary anything to give Jesus the gifts she did.

    • Margaret Catherine says

      As an incidental, I’ve always loved that story of Mary just for the way John tells it – as one who was there and, looking back in light of what happened after, could never forget that moment. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”