Che Guevera and Mother Teresa

che guevera

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
Mark 1:40-45

Marian FreeMother Teresa

In the name of God who longs that all people should be free and whole. Amen.

What do Che Guevara – Argentinian Marxist revolutionary, politician, author, physician, military theorist, and guerrilla leader and Mother Teresa – Albanian Roman Catholic nun with Indian citizenship who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata and ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, and Jesus Christ – Saviour of the world – have in common?

Do you give up? I imagine that most of you found it easier to find connections between Mother Teresa and Jesus, but the answer is, that all of them were driven by their compassion for the poor and the dispossessed and that all dedicated their lives, albeit in very different ways, to alleviate the suffering of those who found themselves outcasts in their society. All of them were determined to make a difference in the world. Jesus, Che Guevera and Mother Teresa refused to allow fear to dominate compassion, social stigma to determine action or the opinion of others to dictate how they behaved.

Further, and this was the link which led me to the comparison – all of them took the very real risk of working closely with those who had leprosy – that most dreaded of diseases which led to separation and isolation from a world afraid of contagion.  In so doing, they gave dignity, hope and healing to people who were outcast, rejected and misunderstood by the societies in which they lived.

Che Guevara’s experience with the poverty in South America led him to believe that the solution to the problem was political, and if necessary military. So convinced was he that he was right that he believed that if people could not be changed by persuasion, they should be changes by force. Mother Teresa was so affected by the poverty in India and the abandonment of the poor to a lonely, ugly death that she set a goal of making the dying moments of the unloved more comfortable, more bearable. Che determined to change the shape of the society which led to the inequities he witness, Mother Teresa accepted the world as it was and tried to make a difference in the lives of those who suffered as a result of injustice and indifference.

Jesus’ programme was different from either and yet has elements of both. His mission is to restore and to transform the world – not through force, but through love. So he challenges the political and religious structures which impose burdens on the people, yet instead of taking up arms against them, he lays down his life. At the same time, he begins the process restoring order and wholeness to God’s creation by healing the damaged and  broken, welcoming the despised and the dispossessed and confronting the forces of evil which limit and constrain. Jesus understand that his task is to re-create the harmony which God intended before it all went wrong.

Jesus is as radical as Che Guevara and yet as compassionate as Mother Teresa. In a broken and unjust world he challenges the structures which limit and confine and he begins the process of healing and rebuilding those whose lives are restricted by illness, disability or possession. Unlike Che Guevara, Jesus does not intend to overthrow the unjust structures of his time. His goal is more ambitious still – his mission is to overcome the forces of evil which have humankind in their throw and to establish God’s kingdom on earth. Unlike Mother Teresa, Jesus’ compassion for those who suffer belongs to this wider programme of transforming the world.

As followers of Jesus, we are invited to join in the revolution – to work for justice and equity and to be agents of his healing and restoring presence in the world.

The leper says to Jesus: “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus replies: “I do choose.”

In the burnt out ruins of homes destroyed by fire, in the homes of the jobless and on the streets of our cities our neighbours are saying: “If you choose, you can make a difference.” How will we choose?

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