In His Light: There is no greater love than this

May 10, 2016

With our multimedia conglomerates (and to a shameful degree ourselves) being enamored with the circus atmosphere of this presidential primary debacle with its ensemble of clowns, tightrope walkers and jugglers we have completely overlooked the martyrdom of four religious women of color, members of the Missionaries of Charity along with 11 of their lay ministers and five others that they were caring for at their retirement complex in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden. Gunmen stormed the compound ministered to by the sisters on March 4 slaughtering all 20. Pope Francis called the four Sisters “today’s martyrs.” 

His Holiness went on to say, “Their names do not appear on the front page of the newspapers, but they gave their blood for the Church.” Those saintly women were Sister Anselm from India, Sisters Margherite and Reginette from Rwanda and Sister Judith from Kenya. All were members of the religious congregation founded in 1950 by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. The cowardly and heartless demons that perpetuated this vindictive and malicious act as of yet have not claimed responsibility for their spineless atrocity. 

Another fact that the media has failed to mention is that this is the second group of Missionaries of Charity to be martyred in Yemen. The compound where the March 4 killings took place was the same location where three Missionaries of Charity were sacrificed in 1998. The leadership of the congregation informed the sisters in 1998 they could no longer guarantee their safety in this war-torn region of our world and gave them the opportunity to be assigned to another mission. However, the sisters collectively decided to remain with their Yemen ministry. 

It is easy for us in our sinful and selfish human imperfection to love those who love us! Jesus of Nazareth tells us, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” The Master was commanding His disciples and us to love the “other.” He was not calling His disciples and us not to feel affection or emotions, but to act in loving ways. Jesus is teaching us, we might not always be able to feel affection for the “other,” but we can always act kindly toward them! The “other” are those that do not look like us, speak like us, pray and worship like us, do not share our same political philosophy or financial ability. The “other” are those that do not reside in our neighborhood, do not have the financial capacity to drive the same type of automobile as ours or dine at our favorite eatery.

When Jesus calls us to love one another, He is calling us to love and care for the senior-aged couple that have been our neighbors for years. However, the Master is also calling us to love and care for the unwedded-working mother with the four young children who moved into the rental house across the street from ours. When Jesus calls us to love one another, He is calling us to love our co-workers we commute with every day; however, He is also calling us to love the co-worker who wounds us with their lies and slanderous talk behind our backs. When Jesus calls us to love one another, He is calling us to love the nicely dressed elderly lady who reminds us of our grandmother in front of us in the check-out line at the grocery store, who is short a few dollars on her order. Likewise, He is calling us to love the old man standing in front of the store in worn-torn clothing and engulfed in foul body odor who is asking for our “loose change.” When Jesus calls us to love one another, He is calling us to bear witness, to show the world what He has done for us! He said, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

These seven sacred women followed in the path of love and mercy of their Foundress and took her words to heart, “There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.” 

These holy women are now gleaming in the heavenly presence of Mother Teresa and their Lord, Savior and Brother. These seven angels who fulfilled their divinely appointed mission will now and forever have their praises sung with all the holy women whose works are glorified in sacred Scripture and the litany of saints, Monica, Catherine of Alexandria, Josephine Bakhita, Victoria, Felicitas and Perpetua. 

Let us continue to pray unceasingly for the canonization of our first two women of color saints from the United States in the person of Venerable Henriette Delille of New Orleans and Servant of God Mary Elizabeth Lange of Baltimore. As we joyfully await the canonization of Teresa of Calcutta on Sept. 4, let us pray that her spirit and the spirit of all the holy women of God will be an example and blessing to us all as we too long for that glorious day when we are blessed to glow forever In His Light. 

Deacon Leonard Paul Lockett is the vicar for Catholics of African Descent.