Here is another excellent passage from Heart of Joy by Mother Teresa. This comes from a section of a collection of her statements to her daughters in the Order. This is one particular statement, titled in the book as “The Oil and the Lamp.”
Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.
How does a lamp burn? Through the continuous input of small drops of oil. If the drops of oil run out, the light of the lamp will cease, and the bridegroom will say, “I do not know you” (Mt 25:1-13).
My daughters, what are these drops of oil in our lamps? They are the small things of daily life: faithfulness, punctuality, small words of kindness, a thought for others, our way of being silent, of looking, of speaking, and of acting. These are the true drops of love that keep your religious life burning like a lively flame.
Do not look for Jesus away from yourselves. He is not out there; he is in you. Keep your lamp burning, and you will recognize him.
The Biblical passage alluded to is the parable of the ten virgins, half who have run out of oil for their lamps and cannot meet the bridegroom. What I find remarkable here is that Mother Teresa considers the oil that burns the lamp to be our little efforts of love and faith. Those efforts are little drops of oil into the lamp. And therefore it’s what brings light to the dark places of life. I would read this passage to coincide with her order’s purpose, which she quotes a few pages later: “A Missionary of Charity is a messenger of God’s love, a living lamp that offers its light to all, and the salt of the earth. We are to take Christ to those places where he has not been taken yet.”