Jesus, the Leper, Blessed Teresa and Social Justice

Jesus Heals the Leper

[40] And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” [41] Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” [42] And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. [43] And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, [44] and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” [45] But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. (Mark 1.40-45)

“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him”

“The poor are thirsty for water but also for peace, truth and justice. The poor are naked and need clothing, but also need human dignity and compassion for those who sin. The poor have no shelter and need shelters made of bricks, but also of a joyful heart, compassionate and full of love. They are sick and need medical attention, but also a helping hand and welcoming smile. The outcasts, those who are rejected, the unloved, prisoners, alcoholics, the dying, those who are alone and abandoned, the marginalized, the untouchables and lepers…, those in doubt and confusion, those who have not been touched by the light of Christ, those starving for the word and peace of God, sad and afflicted souls…, those who are a burden to society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have forgotten how to smile and no longer know what it means to receive a little human warmth, a gesture of love and friendship – all of them, they turn to us to receive a little bit of comfort. If we turn our backs on them, we turn our backs on Christ.” Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), Missionary Sisters of Charity, Letter of 10/04/1974 to her co-workers (borrowed from the “Daily Gospel,” a publication of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine of the USCCB)


My desire this season is to be focused deeply on the themes of Theophany and the aspect of it that involves the bursting forth of the transformative light of Christ through us. As a result, I have been doing some research on Blessed Mother Teresa as an example of authentic Theophany. I have come across many articles and “awards” associated with social justice that have Mother Teresa’s name attached to them – “Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice,” awarded by the Global Harmony Foundation – is one example. The Nobel Peace Prize, of which Mother Teresa was a recipient, is another example.

Okay, so I have a question which should spark some deep thought and a couple of comments … What was her “strategy?” Did she have a “strategy” or was she simply caring for a poor and/or dying person who needed tangible love as a member of a community who had recognized that was the way Christ Jesus desired to touch others in and through them? Could it be summed up in one of the statements of the “City Wide Prayer Movement” as an effort to “… mobilize a united, praying Body of Christ to leverage a sustained kingdom influence that impacts all spheres of local culture and results in measurable societal impact.”? Am I comparing apples and oranges?Was the ministry of Mother Teresa inspired and fueled primarily by a desire for social justice or was it a bursting forth of a beatific manifestation of social justice the fruit of her efforts?! Does it matter as long as it gets done or does the reason, apart from a sinister one, really matter?! Has Mother Teresa been co-opted?!

My questions may be regarded by some as passé. Nonetheless perhaps they are important …

Fr. Thomas