Jesus only affected a small area of the world. In His lifetime, He had no impact on the Celts or the Chinese or the Aztecs. Rather, He set in motion a mission that was to spread throughout the world, responding to human needs everywhere. Although we cannot change everything in the world, together we can strive to fill the earth with God’s presence and love. When we stretch out a hand to help, we stretch out the hand of Christ’s Body.
I was privileged to know Mother Teresa. Her order or sisters sought out the sick and dying in the streets and garbage dumps of Calcutta’s alleys, and among these were beggars deformed by leprosy. Several times I consulted with her on the proper treatment of the disease.
When her followers in the Missionaries of Charity find beggars in the street, they bring them to the hospital and surround them with love. Smiling women dab at their sores, clean off layers of grime, and swaddle them in soft sheets. The beggars, often too weak to talk, stare wide-eyed at this seemingly misdirected care.
Why this sudden outpouring of love and the warm, nutritious broth being gently spooned into their mouths?
A reporter in New York once confronted Mother Teresa with those very questions. Why indeed should she expend her limited resources on people for whom there was no hope? Why not attend to people worthy of rehabilitation? What kind of success rate could her clinic show when most of its patients would die in a matter of days or weeks?
Mother Teresa stared at him in silence, absorbing the questions, trying to comprehend what kind of a person would ask them. She had no answers that would make sense to him, so she said softly, “These people have been treated all their lives like dogs. Their greatest disease is a sense that they are unwanted. Don’t they have the right to die like angels?”
Another journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, struggled with the same questions. He observed firsthand the poverty of Calcutta and returned to England to write about it with fire and indignation.
But, he comments, the difference between his approach and Mother Teresa’s was that he returned to England while she stayed in Calcutta.
Statistically, he admits, she did not accomplish much by rescuing stragglers from a sump of human need.
He concludes with the statement, “But then Christianity is not a statistical view of life.”
Indeed, it is not. Not when a shepherd barely shuts the gate on his ninety-nine before rushing out, heartbroken and short of breath, to find the one that’s missing. Not when a laboror hired for only one hour receives the same wage as an all-day worker (Matthew 20:1-16) Not when one rascal decides to repent and ninety-nine upstanding citizens are ignored as all heaven erupts in a great party (Luke 15:4-7).
God’s love, agape love, is not statistical either.
-Dr. Paul Brandt