Being Present to Others

People who met Mother Teresa all attested one thing that when they were in her presence, she was so present to them that they felt they had all of her attention and care. They felt so loved as she gave all of her loving attention to them as if they were the only person in the world. They truly felt like she cared for them and desire to be with them.

Unlike Mother Teresa, this seems to be a struggle for many of us, especially those who are living in the post-modern, first-world environment because we always seem to be on the move and busy with something. When we are in a conversation, we seem to listen to respond instead of truly being present to the other person. We are there but we are very guilty of not being all there for the other person. I am guilty of this many times because of the numerous appointments or meetings in my own priestly ministry. There were days that I am too tired or overwhelmed with my ministerial schedule that I do not give people who were around me my fullest attention. I know that I am guilty from time to time, yet I also have to make myself aware and try to condition my mind each and every single day to be present to people. I remember an older priest that I respect once said: “The greatest present that you can give to the people of God is being present to them.” 

Behind that small quote is an immense amount of treasured wisdom. I learn every day that the people of God do not really need me, and most of the time, they do not need me to solve their problems. They just need someone who is able to listen and be present to them. In a rat race oriented world, people yearn for genuine care and friendship. They want to be able to share from their hearts, to be loved, and to relate to someone from the bottom of their heart. All of the talks about love in recent time can be boiled down to this simple reality, yet it is so hard, because our world is constantly bombarding us with useless noises and distractions. We all want something so personal and intimate, but at the same time, we are scared of it so we have to subconsciously numb down our heart’s desires by useless things. We constantly seem to talk to each other with text or instant messaging apps, staying in touch with social media, and checking up on others through technological means. Nevertheless, those things are deceptively flawed as they make us think that we really know people by simply knowing what they are doing, what they are trying to portray, or what they are trying to pervade and tell us. Let us be real, those are just simply information, for they do not tell us what the person is really going through from within! It is so easy to get satisfied and be constantly overloaded with information, thinking that we know enough, but reality shows us those are not often the fullness of truth nor do they reveal the true person.

Many are shocked when they found out horrible things that happened to someone that they follow on social media or message a lot. “I never knew…” is often the response when faced with those situations. Again, social media and technological connections are helpful but they can be, many times, deceptive. Many people are trying too hard to portray a (different, attractive, or sometimes, perverted) version of themselves to others. Second, we can never really know a person with what is being said on social media. Technology cannot give us intimacy, for they are often the forum for reactionary or quick, template portrayals of what is going on. Intimacy requires trust, and trust requires that we be opened and are genuine with those who are around us. It begins with us trying to listen, be present, and share from the heart. It grows to a deeper sense of love that is grounded in respect, courage, and truth as we help one another along the journey of life. True friends and people who care for us want to give us not just the things that will be appealing or satisfying at the moment, but what is good for us beyond ourselves or what is in front of us now. To truly care is to give the gift of ourselves in all its genuineness as a present, in the present moment, to the other person. 

Mother Teresa invited us:

“Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

Like her, the sisters are living this charism and personal caring in every one of their encounter with the poor and those who come to know them. I have come to love them because they have chosen to love in their everyday encounters, ministries, and cares of the poor. Like Mother Teresa, they choose to be present with each and every one of the poor whom they are serving. When I hear them share about their failures, they are often about how they failed to be present to their sisters and to those who are around them. I imagine our world would be much better if every one of us is willing to seek and live this genuine and caring presence with one another! I always feel so welcomed and at home when I am with them because I can be who I am since they are true to themselves. I feel at home because they make it homey, letting God be the head of the household and us be loving brothers and sisters to one another.

Yes, we are weak; and yes, we can never truly be perfect; but, we can all try to perfect our love for one another because Christ has loved us with His own personal and immense love. I believe this is what we are called to be and what our world needs in the midst of many things that distract, divide, and turn us against one another. That is why Mother Teresa also said:

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

Therefore, I would like to invite each and every one of us to begin our days by grounding ourselves in the love of God. As we pray, we condition ourselves to seek His loving presence in other people so that we can seek Him in each and every encounter. We hurt one another when we are too focused on our own self and lose focus on who is in front of us and what we are called to do. If we can recognize and understand the presence of God in one another, I believe our world would be more compassionate, our society becomes more understanding, our friendships and relationships are more treasured as we love and challenge one another to grow in what God calls us individually and communally to be. We build a real society when we can be genuinely present and give the gift of ourselves without pretension and worrying about nonsense fears and reservations. We can and are able to love one another in the truth and challenge each other with patience and love when we are able to recognize, understand, pray, reflect, and discern the will of God who is present in our midst. True love is hard but it is totally possible when we allow ourselves to be humble, genuine and loving in and through the love of Him of who loves us first. Simply put, to truly care is to give the gift of ourselves in all its genuineness as a present, in the present moment, to the other person.