Throughout our time in Kolkata my mindset has been swinging between two states—the first, of thinking that this is the most wonderful experience of my life. How could one not think that, after praying a rosary at the tomb of Mother Teresa, or having watched a mentally handicapped child dance with the most joy you have ever seen? Or to walk through Khalighat, the home for the dying, and be overwhelmed with the sense of peace surrounding the dying as they’re loved while they leave this life? And the chance to get to live in such a poverty-stricken place, where we can learn to appreciate just how blessed we are with everything we have—I never wanted the trip to end.
But the other mindset is one of being afraid to eat the food, impatient with the children who spit up half the food I’m attempting to feed them, angry at the child who consistently tried to spit on me, scared of getting sick from touching—let alone cleaning—the dying at Khalighat, overwhelmed by the incessant sounds and overpowering smells of the city, actually getting sick from the food, and, all in all, wanting to be anywhere in the world other than Kolkata.
What can account for these contradictory feelings? The Sacred Heart holds the answers. If you look at the Sacred Heart, you notice the fire of love surrounding it, the crown of thorns circling it, and blood dripping out of it. The heart that loves so much is suffering so much. The Sacred Heart could not be burning with love if it were not on fire. Fire hurts, it consumes. But it also provides heat and light. So too with the experience of Kolkata, and with love in general. It’s through the sacrifices that we make, the challenges that we endure, that we may love more purely.
The Lord provides periods of rest for us, in the Mass and our Holy Hour before Him in adoration. But then he asks us to care for the poorest of the poor, and it’s hard, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. But after every challenge, we come away feeling more open to receive His love and ready to give it to others. Let’s ardently ask Jesus and his Sacred Heart to have mercy on us and to teach us to love like Him.
St. Theresa of Calcutta, pray for us.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like unto thine.
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