There’s Something Different About This.

Missionaries of Charity House in Houston — A place of boundless compassion.

There’s something different about this.

It’s 1:47pm here at the Missionaries of Charity house in Houston, Texas and I have to repeat again: there’s something different about this place, these people, and this feeling of deep joy/purpose I feel here.

For context, the Missionaries of Charity is an order of sisters, brothers, priests and lay people (known as Coworkers) which was founded by the world-renowned simple nun in a blue and white sari: Mother Teresa. She began her work of free and wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor when she was in the later years of her life and experienced a “call within a call” on September 5th in India where God wanted her to found an institution to satiate His thirst on the cross by serving the poorest of the poor around the world.

“I thirst.” John 19:28

And Mother Teresa had to simply look in her backyard in Calcutta to see the slums where Jesus wanted her to serve Him in the poorest of the poor. Now the Missionaries of Charity serve Jesus in His distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor all over the world; and they are a collective of thousands of religious who have dedicated their lives to this important work. From soup kitchens to orphanages to houses for the dying, the Missionaries of Charity carry out their work in a spirit of joy on the path of loving compassion centered around loving the one who called them into being: Jesus.

When I first came to serve with the Missionaries of Charity here in Houston, I stayed for a few hours and felt like I honestly was not doing much. All the men (5 in total) in the house were immigrants from Latin American countries and did not speak English, and the one who did was blind and oftentimes reverted to talking to himself out loud. I was left to communicate with these men with my broken Spanish and attempt to learn all the rules to a card game that one of them was very insistent I play. And I played that card game for almost 2 hours straight (just that man and I by ourselves), and the first 30 minutes of it was full of being reprimanded for not playing to the rules that I was never told about but had to figure out by myself.

I came back again a couple of days later and jumped right back into the card game I now knew like the back of my hand. And for 2 hours me and that man played the same game over and over again. Eventually we all ate lunch and I had to leave, but I really tried to be like the Missionaries of Charity and truly attempt to see Jesus in this man who was very insistent in playing this game and making sure I played by all the rules, not letting any misstep go by without an outburst of “Hoy! *And a bunch of Spanish I couldn’t understand.” I didn’t feel like I could see Jesus in this man, but I really wanted to.

The next day I come back and the man I played cards with now has a black cowboy hat on and was excited to play cards again with me. Surprisingly, I didn’t internally groan at the thought of having to play this card game for two more hours, but I sat down with grace and began the now normal routine of passing out the cards and playing by the rules as best as I could. And as we played, I was distracted by a conversation in English that I was excited at having with another volunteer. As I played the card game, I would mess up because I was caught up in a thought in the conversation, and the man playing with me would tap his finger in frustration pointing at the game he was so intently fixed on playing. This happened again and again, and the man began to lecture me (in Spanish) about the game with his arms flying up and down.

And then it clicked.

The man playing cards with me doesn’t want half of my attention, He needs my full attention. Am I really present with Him if I am talking to someone else and making mistakes that are obvious in the game and upsetting Him?

And He is just like God.

Our God is a jealous God who does not just want half of our attention or love, but He wants it all. He is a lover that wants your all and your everything including your baggage and broken heart; and He won’t settle for anything less. He especially wants you to want all of Him: it’s a mutual love affair. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, that’s the reason why God relentlessly pursues our hearts past the point of letting his only born son be put to death as an innocent man who committed no crime. He gave us all that we have and all that we are, so I don’t blame Him for thirsting for all that we are and have. This is not to say that God is some being who gives only to expect something in return, but it is by necessity that the one whom is infinite infinitely desires for the finite love and wholeness of His created because He is what is truly in our best interests and seeks fulfillment of our finite selves through His own infinite power and self. It brings Him infinite and perceptibly incurable suffering to watch His free beings created in His own image not flourish and to sin against Him. He made the natural laws of the universe and of life (like the likes of gravity), so He knows how to order things rightly and use things towards their flourishing end. He is fully omniscient. He is love itself.

There’s something different about this.

To expound in this: To love is to seek the good of the other, and I love the man playing cards with me for hours on end in an almost rote series of events by being present with Him and truly “playing” with Him. In turn, I see the face of Jesus in this man, who truly is the poorest of the poor, by treating Him as I would treat God and how God treats me: by seeking His good and giving Him my all. I obviously don’t do this perfectly, that is giving my whole self to this man, let alone God; and this is why I need God, precisely because I am not perfect and by recognizing this weakness of mine He can make me more perfect through the outpouring of His perfect and infinite love into my heart and life. The way He does this is a mystery, it oftentimes is nuanced from person to person, and it’s something that you enter into and allow God to wrap His loving arms around you rather than you trying to figure out how God pours out His love.

“Some things are understood not by grasping, but by allowing yourself to be grasped.” — Karl Rahner

And the only way to allow God to do this is to stop squirming and stay still.

Thought experiment: Imagine that the love of your life has been gone for 5 years and just came back home to you. You’re want to hug that someone whom you love with your whole heart but they are constantly squirming violently, perhaps even running away from you — it’s nearly impossible and it’s heartbreaking. You want to hug the person, but you physically can’t. How often do we try to squirm our way into God’s love or even run away from our misguided “idea” of God rather than God Himself? We have to simply be still, perhaps play a card game for 2 hours a day with a man you don’t speak the same language with, and allow ourselves to be slowly, perhaps imperceptibly, hugged by the One who knows our good better than we know ourselves.

I had no idea God would slowly reveal Himself to me in the act of playing a simple card game, but God is all-powerful —so powerful that He can use the smallest of things to impart the deepest of wisdom.

So there definitely is something different here…

…because I’m different here.

Your brother,

Zac

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