Lessons from St. Teresa: How to Be the Eyes, Hands, and Feet of Christ

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours. — St. Teresa of Ávila

When I first read the words of this beautiful prayer by St. Teresa of Ávila, I felt they truly summed up how I wanted to live my life — by sharing God’s love with those around me. My own prayer became focused on finding ways to love the people I meet, even in the routine circumstances of my day.

He was perhaps 5 years old, standing in my open doorway and waiting for me to notice him. When I greeted the little boy, he whispered in his best English: “My mother asks you give her painkillers. Her tooth is hurting.”

Because my husband and I run a tourist lodge in Gambia, I spend the winter months in this tiny West African country. Many people live hand-to-mouth, and finding money to go to a health clinic is beyond them. Our neighbors know I keep a basic first aid kit and painkillers on hand, so it’s a rare week when someone doesn’t appear at our door asking for help. It’s one small way I can show love to my community.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself, and he lived out that commandment daily. He brought God’s love to those on the margins of society, stood up against injustice, and showed compassion for those he met.

RELATED: Who Is St. Teresa of Ávila?

St. Teresa was born in Spain in 1515. As a young woman, she became a Carmelite nun, but for many years she found it difficult to devote herself as fully to God as she wanted. But eventually, after a series of visions, she felt herself becoming closer and closer to God, founding her own religious order despite much opposition. She focused on living a life of simplicity and experiencing God’s love, motivating her to show that love to those around her. This famous prayer sums up her attitude.

It’s become a very real inspiration for me here in one of the poorest countries in Africa. Here are a few ways you too can bring this prayer to life:

Yours are the eyes that look with compassion

When Jesus looked at people he met, he didn’t judge them by the standards of the day. He looked beyond the outward circumstances of their lives — circumstances that sometimes invited condemnation from the religious leaders and the community — and showed love toward them. Think about his compassionate exchange with the woman caught in adultery or his interactions with Zacchaeus, the tax collector reviled in his community. With these examples in mind, I’m trying to look at others with the same compassion, without judging or condemning, even those who perhaps don’t invite it easily.

Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world

Jesus used his hands to work as a skilled carpenter. We, too, have skills we can use to help others, such as helping a friend fix their car, using your gifts to update the church website, or cleaning up a neighbor’s yard after a storm.

Jesus also blessed people with his hands, like the children who were brought to him despite the disciples’ disapproval. In the past, I’ve cooked a meal for an elderly neighbor, sewed drapes for a friend’s new home, and soothed a fretful baby so a new mom could steal some sleep. These are all practical ways we can use our hands to bless others.

And Jesus also used his hands to heal. He spread mud on a blind man’s eyes, lifted Jairus’ daughter from her deathbed, and even touched lepers despite the fear and revulsion of most people at the time. We can all hold the hand of a sick friend when praying for their healing, console a teen who’s disappointed after not making the team, or hug a grieving friend.

RELATED: 9 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend (That Aren’t Bringing a Meal)

Yours are the feet that walk to do good

Jesus walked everywhere, crisscrossing the region constantly because walking was the only way to travel unless you were rich. During his journeying, Jesus reached out to others. He talked with the woman at the well and taught those who walked miles and sat for hours just to listen to him speak. He even walked to Bethany, knowing that his friend Lazarus had died, to comfort Martha and Mary and ultimately raise Lazarus to life again.

Use your feet to do good by doing a walk or run for charity. A few years back, I raised money for Cancer Research UK by taking part in a 5K run. The thought that I was helping others was a great motivation when I was training! By extension, drive a friend to a doctor’s appointment or take a neighbor to the grocery store. You might travel yourself to visit a friend in the hospital or volunteer at a shelter for the homeless. Some might even feel called to travel worldwide, perhaps to serve on a hospital ship or volunteer their medical expertise.

Learning to live St. Teresa’s prayer means looking for opportunities to bring God’s love to others, including small acts of compassion in our daily lives. Praying St. Teresa’s prayer has made me much more aware of God’s compassion toward people I meet every day — in line at the grocery store, waiting for the bus, or simply someone I pass in the street. I feel closer to God because I’m learning to see others through his eyes. So every day, I’m trying to look for ways to use my hands, feet, and whole body to show God’s love to everyone.