“Why am I doing this?”
Did St. Mother Theresa look tired? You’d think with all the work she did, day after day with the poor in the streets, literally forcing entire wars to pause so that she could care for the sick, meeting with the Pope, and all the other stuff that she did in her life—you’d think that with all that, she’d look tired, especially considering all the suffering and diseased humans who she not only saw but cared for. She took on so much suffering. I just googled a few images of her though, and all I saw was energy, alertness, even an unmistakable joy. I’m left speechless. Why? How?!
But I think I know why, and how. It’s simple. She knew why she did all of it. So often we do the right thing, but we do it for the wrong reasons. Actually, I think that deep down in our heart, we really are doing it for the right reason, we just forget that truth, that reason, in our daily lives, so it becomes an obligation instead of an act of love. Then, we start to pity ourselves for how much work we have to do, how hard our life is, how people don’t appreciate us or our work for them, etc. If we think like that, then we’ll always feel tired, hopeless, and worn down on the inside. Why? Because we have forgotten why we said "yes" to the struggle to begin with. We’ve forgotten our love! That’s what St. Mother Theresa never forgot.
But we don’t have to live that way. We could benefit so much more from our good actions if we cultivate an awareness of why we are doing them: for the sake of the One we love. That is, let’s do good for the sake of love, and remember that when we feel that sense of obligation coming up. (Obligation isn’t bad in itself, but it is if that's all we think about) Love gets rid of all pride, all tiredness, and provides us with so much enthusiasm and fervor, because who wouldn’t even lay down their life for one who they love? With love, it’s easy! If you don’t believe me, look at the lives of the saints, at the life of St. Mother Theresa. They made it look so easy, and it is because they loved Jesus.
I’m convinced that those who strive to remember why it is that they persevere through the difficult times are the ones who never grow weary of doing good. They are the ones who, at the end of the day, even though they are dead-tired, are unappreciated, and have many things on their plate the next day—they are the ones who, despite all that, go to bed resting in the peace that they did the right thing, and looking forward to loving all over again the next day. The saints often speak of their greatest sorrows becoming their greatest joys. This is not because they enjoy sorrow; no, it is because they love Jesus so much that they delight in doing whatever they can to take away His suffering; they delight in sharing His burden, because it means being close to Him, and loving Him. They never forgot why they did what they did. Saint Mother Theresa was able to care for the poor because she loved Jesus in them. She was motivated by love.
I’m also convinced that Scripture is speaking the truth that those “that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” In short, no matter how much they do, and how much struggle they encounter, “they never grow weary of doing what is right.” Why? Because their hope and love are fixed on the Lord, who is their reward in this life, and in the next.
So the next time you make a sacrifice for someone, whatever that is, realize what you are doing, and why you are doing it, because doing things out of obligation will run you dry, while anything done for the sake of love will renew you with greater enthusiasm and fervor as you continue your journey to follow Christ, all the way to Heaven. If you live with this hope and love, then you will never grow tired of doing what is right.
Written by: Matthew Prosperie, seminarian of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana