Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 27 January 2013
For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
Mother Teresa 02 – Communion with Jesus
It was only after her death (1997) that the faith life of Mother Teresa became known and there were immense surprises. Except for her spiritual directors (to whom she owed obedience in the church) and the archbishop, almost no one knew anything about her innermost experiences of God and how she was called into the work that made her famous across the world. She wanted these experiences to remain a secret – holy – and there was to be nothing that would draw attention away from Jesus to her own person:
[The underlining is not Mother Teresa’s but the author’s highlighting for preaching purposes.]
Mother Teresa – Come Be my Light. The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, New York: Image, Doubleday 2007, p4-5: [Letter to Archbishop Perier.] Father [Van Exem] has also many letters I wrote to him re – the work while still at Loreto. – Now that the plan of Jesus entrusted to us is in the Constitutions – those letters are not necessary. Please may I have them – as these were the very expression of my soul in those days. I would like to burn all papers that disclose anything of me in them. – Please Your Grace I ask, I beg you to grant me this desire – I want God’s secret to remain ours – the world does not know and I want it to remain so ... I have never told – not even in Confession – of how the Society started. – You and Father [Van Exem] know it – this is enough. I was His little instrument ... all those letters are useless. [Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, July 24, 1967.]
P5: [A year later.] I have a very big request to make to you. – I have never asked you for anything personally ... With you and Fr. Van Exem I have entrusted my deepest thoughts – my love for Jesus – and His tender love for me – please do not give anything of 1946. I want the work to remain only His. When the beginning will be known people will think more of me – less of Jesus ...
[P8-9: Although knowledge of her inspiration remained the privilege of Father Van Exem and Archbishop Perier, a number of priests over the years came to know of Mother Teresa’s spiritual darkness. She revealed her interior state only because she felt God urging her to do so ... Him she could not refuse ... The recipients of these letters were the first ones to realize that the darkness was an essential element of her vocation ... Father Neuner explained: “Against her explicit request to burn these pages after I had read them I felt I had to persevere them ... the spiritual darkness remained her secret. She seemed cheerful in her daily life ... These pages reveal the supporting power on which her mission rested ... root in the mystery of Jesus’ mission, in union with him who dying on the cross felt abandoned by his Father.”]
Mother Teresa’s church – the Catholic Church – after her death – decided to publish Mother Teresa’s letters and personal writings because – according to traditional understanding – her faith walk was not just her own but belonged to all of God’s people as a source of instruction and encouragement. This morning and next week – as we reflect on her life, we will be blessed – God will teach us through her life – but – before I begin – can we make the commitment of honouring Mother Teresa’s wishes? We let her point us to Jesus – Jesus alone – and not his human instrument (Mother Teresa).
Mother Teresa knew Jesus’ teaching in the Bible:
Matthew 6:1: Be careful not to practice your righteousness [as you pray, fast and donate money] in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Matthew 6:16-18: When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
John 5:44: How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
Now we get to today’s topic: Mother Teresa knew intimacy with Jesus – the joy of prayer, the experience of his love and conversing with him. This had always been with her: “From childhood the Heart of Jesus has been my first love” (p14). The experiences of Jesus kept intensifying until – at the age of thirty-six – Jesus met her on a train:
P38-39: In September 1946 Mother Teresa, then thirty-six years old, was sent for her annual retreat and a needed rest to the Loreto Convent in Darjeeling, a town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas some four hundred miles north of Calcutta. During the journey by train, on Tuesday, September 10, 1946, she had a decisive mystical encounter with Christ ...
She further explained: “It was on this day in 1946 in the train to Darjeeling that God gave me the “call within a call” to satiate the thirst of Jesus by serving Him in the poorest of the poor.”
To the end of her life, Mother Teresa insisted that the single most important reason for the existence of the congregation she founded was to satiate the thirst of Jesus ... “The General End of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls.”
That the aim of the congregation is “to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the Cross” indicates that her mystical experience took place in the context of Calvary, at the time when Jesus, dying on the Cross, cried out “I thirst.” It was this Scripture quote that stood for her as a summary and a reminder of her call. While instructing her sisters, she would explain:
“I thirst, Jesus said on the Cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst – not for water – but for love, for sacrifice.
Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man ...”
[She wrote a few years before her death:] “Jesus wants me to tell you again ... how much is the love He has for each one of you – beyond all what you can imagine ... Not only He loves you, even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy ...
For me it is so clear – everything in MC exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel [On the wall of every chapel of the Missionaries of Charity, the words of Jesus ‘I thirst’ are placed next to the crucifix as a reminder of the aim of the Institute’s spirituality and mission.], they are not from [the] past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? ... Why does Jesus say, “I thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words – ... I thirst is something much deeper than just Jesus saying I love you. Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirst for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for him.
P310 [From a priest who was a confessor in the novitiate in Rome]: On Palm Sunday of 1987, I was sitting in our prayer chapel in our general house ... I suddenly had a thought insinuated in my head – as if someone had spoken, but I didn’t hear it with my ears. But, it seemed quite clear: “Tell Mother Teresa, ‘I thirst.’” I thought to myself, “What an odd interruption in my prayer.” Thinking no more of it, I returned to praying the office. A couple minutes later, I “heard” again (in my thoughts): “Tell Mother Teresa, ‘I thirst.’” I thought once again, “How strange!” Then I looked up at the large crucifix hanging on the wall and said (not out loud), “Are you talking to me?” And I “heard” once again (as a strong thought coming into my mind), “Tell Mother Teresa, ‘I thirst.’”
At that point, I felt like the inspiration was coming from Jesus and heard not as a request, but more as a command. At this point, I must clarify that I had never had an experience like that before – I have never had one since ...
When I met Mother Teresa, her first question was ... She looked at me for a moment and asked, “What else did He say?” I was surprised by the question, but answered immediately, “Nothing. That was all I ‘heard’.” Then she asked, “What did he mean?” I said, “I don’t know. I know only what I felt compelled to communicate to you. I am only a messenger.”
What happened? On that train (on the 10th of September 1946), she met Jesus and it was the Jesus, who was hanging on a cross, crying out: “I thirst.” And she understood that Jesus wanted more than water. In agony, abandoned, covered with blood, his torn flesh rubbing against the wood of the cross, Jesus thirsted for people – their love and his desire to love them. All of the body pains of the cross were expressions of his innermost heart pains – the pains of a loving God that would do anything to save people and be with them. It was the thirst for souls that made Jesus come and be thirsty on a cross – dying with parched lips – for us. Mother Teresa met – experienced – was touched by – the thirsting Jesus on the train and it changed her life.
However, this was not the end of her experiences of Jesus (which she kept a secret from others):
P45: That same September 10, Mother Teresa began to receive a series of interior locutions [Locutions (or supernatural words) are “manifestations of God’s thought” which may come through words heard externally (exterior or auricular locutions) or in the imagination (interior imaginative locutions) or immediately without any words.] that continued until the middle of the following year. Mother Teresa was actually hearing Jesus’ voice and intimately conversing with Him ... From the beginning of this extraordinary experience Mother Teresa had no doubt that it was Jesus who was speaking to her. Yet she would mostly refer to these communications as the “Voice”.
P48-49: ... the voice kept on saying “Wilt thou refuse.” ...
On another day. “You have become My spouse for my love – you have come to India for Me ... The thirst you had for souls brought you so far. – Are you afraid to take one more step for your Spouse – for Me – for souls? – Is your generosity grown cold – am I a second to you? You did not die for souls – that is why you don’t care what happens to them ...
These words or rather this voice frightened me. The thought of eating, sleeping – living like the Indians filled me with fear. I prayed long – I prayed much – I asked our Mother Mary to ask Jesus to remove all this from me. The more I prayed – the clearer grew the voice in my heart and so I prayed that He would do with me whatever He wanted. He asked again and again.
Then once more the voice was very clear – “You have always been saying ‘do with me whatever You wish’. – Now I want to act – let Me do it – My little spouse – My own little one. – Do not fear – I shall be with you always. – You will suffer and you suffer now – but if you are My own little spouse – the spouse of the Crucified Jesus – you will have to bear these torments on your heart. – Let Me act. – Refuse Me not. – Trust me lovingly – trust me blindly.” “Little one give Me souls – give Me the souls of the poor little street children. – How it hurts – if you only knew – to see these poor children soiled with sin. I long for the purity of their love. – If you would only answer My call – and bring Me these souls – draw them away from the hands of the evil one. – If you only knew how many little ones fall into sin every day. There are convents with numbers of nuns caring for the rich and able to do people, but for My very poor there is absolutely none. For them I long – them I love. – Wilt thou refuse?” ...
Jesus spoke confronting words but also loving words: “You have become My spouse for my love ... My little spouse – My own little one. – Do not fear – I shall be with you always ...” Mother Teresa heard Jesus’ audible voice for about nine months and in this time also experienced visions of Jesus. What a privilege she was given – what grace – what awesome wonder! Jesus loved her so much and she sensed his love in a state of almost continuous communion with him. Yet – suddenly – it all came to an end. From one day to the next: nothing – no sense of Jesus in her prayer time.
We may not have reached the same heights of Mother Teresa – such as hearing the audible voice of Jesus – but if you know what it is to have communion with Jesus, how would you feel, if – suddenly – the experiences of intimacy with Jesus stopped? Mother Teresa did not see this coming:
P3: Initially, the experience of darkness took her off guard. Since she had experienced a high degree of union with God, the change was not only surprising but also agonizing: unable to feel His presence as she had earlier, she was bewildered and afraid. Was she going the “wrong way”? ...
How would you feel, if the sense of God’s presence was taken from your life – the enjoyment of God in worship – even the still small voice? Would you conclude that there was something wrong?
For the next forty-seven years (until her death in 1997), Mother Teresa never regained any tangible experiences of God’s love – no more impressions that Jesus called her “my little one” – no further sense of being in the presence of God? Listen to her words:
Introduction & p210 [probably April 1961]: ... since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss – this untold darkness – this loneliness – this continual longing for God – which gives me that pain deep in my heart ... The place of God in my soul is blank. – There is no God in me. – When the pain of longing is so great – I just long & long for God – and then it is that I feel – He does not want me – He is not there. - ... God does not want me. – Sometimes – I just hear my own heart cry out – “My God” and nothing else comes. – The torture and pain I can’t explain.
What happened to Mother Teresa? Before I give you a few more excerpts from her letters – can you pick up the basic contradiction? On the one side – there is this terrible sense of loss – “the place of God in her soul is blank” – but – on the other side – there is her longing for God – “the pain of longing is so great”.
P169: ... There is so much contradiction in my soul. – Such deep longing for God – so deep that it is painful – a suffering continual – and yet not wanted by God – repulsed – empty – no faith – no love – no zeal ...
P165: ... the agony of desolation is so great and at the same time the longing for the Absent One so deep, that the only prayer which I can still say is – Sacred Heart of Jesus I trust in Thee – I will satiate Thy thirst for souls.
Mother Teresa felt unwanted by God but could not stop longing for him and this kind of suffering continued year after year – more than forty years – and then she died – mourned by the world – celebrated as a model Christian. How could this be when – inside of her – there was only darkness? We take some time to enter into her pain:
P186-187: In the darkness ...
Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The child of Your love – and now become as the most hated one. You have thrown away as unwanted – unloved. I call, I cling, I want – and there is no One to answer – no One on Whom I can cling – no, No One. – Alone. The darkness is so dark – and I am alone. – Unwanted, forsaken. – The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable. – Where is my faith? – Even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing. – I have no faith. – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy. – If there be God, please forgive me. – Trust that all will end in Heaven with Jesus. – When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. – Love – the word – it brings nothing. – I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Before the work started – there was so much union – love – faith – trust – prayer – sacrifice. – Did I make the mistake in surrendering blindly to the call of the Sacred Heart? The work is not a doubt – because I am convinced that it is His not mine. – I don’t feel – not even a single simple thought or temptation enters my heart to claim anything in the work.
The whole time smiling. – Sisters & people pass such remarks. – They think my faith, trust & love are filling my very being & that the intimacy with God and union to His will must be absorbing my heart. – Could they but know – and how my cheerfulness is the cloak by which I cover the emptiness & misery.
In spite of all – this darkness & emptiness is not as painful as the longing for God. – The contradiction I fear will unbalance me. – What are You doing my God to one so small? When You asked to imprint Your Passion on my heart – is this the answer?
If this brings You glory, if You get a drop of joy from this – if souls are brought to You – if my suffering satiates Your Thirst – here I am Lord, with joy I accept all to the end of life – & I will smile at Your Hidden Face – always. [written some time in the 1950s]
There is so much in her words that do not seem to add up. She writes again about feeling unwanted but – at the same time – longing for God:
P186-187: ... this darkness & emptiness is not as painful as the longing for God. – The contradiction I fear will unbalance me. – What are You doing my God to one so small?
She remembers how her relationship with God used to be. There had been such wonderful communion. She had been loved by God but now only abandonment:
... Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The child of Your love – and now become as the most hated one. You have thrown away as unwanted – unloved ... Before the work started – there was so much union – love – faith – trust – prayer – sacrifice ...
[P209: In Loreto, Father I was very happy. – I think the happiest nun. – Then the call came ... ]
On the one hand – Mother Teresa struggles to maintain faith and writes: “If there be God ... When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness ... the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul” but – on the other hand – she cannot join the ranks of scoffing atheists: “I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd my heart ... So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy ...”
P192-193: My own Jesus, ... That darkness that surrounds me on all sides – I can’t lift my soul to God ... If there be no God – there can be no soul. – If there is no soul, then Jesus – You also are not true. – Heaven, what emptiness ... there is no hope. – I am afraid to write all those terrible things that pass in my soul. – They must hurt you.
... I don’t pray any longer – I utter words of community prayers – and try my utmost to get out of every word the sweetness it has to give. – But my prayer of union is not there any longer. – I no longer pray. My soul is not one with you – and yet when alone in the streets – I talk to you for hours – of my longing for You. How intimate are those words – and yet so empty, for they leave me far from You ...
P211: Before I could spend hours before Our Lord – loving Him – talking to Him – and now – not even meditation goes properly – nothing but “My God” – even that sometimes does not come. – Yet deep down somewhere in my heart that longing for God keeps breaking through the darkness.
P273: ... people would say, “After two minutes, she will be on Jesus.”
P270: People were fascinated just watching Mother pray. They would sit there and watching her be really drawn into this mystery.
[p271: A letter reveals one of her ways of praying during these years of impenetrable darkness: “often during Adoration – faces of the people I have met come before me and I remember them to Jesus. – Do this for me as I do for you – remember my face before Jesus.”]
[p225: Today I made a new prayer – Jesus I accept whatever You give – and I give whatever You take. – There is no meaning in my words, but I am sure He will understand.]
Was Mother Teresa living a lie? She asked herself the same question and I repeat her words:
P186-187: The whole time smiling. – Sisters & people pass such remarks. – They think my faith, trust & love are filling my very being & that the intimacy with God and union to His will must be absorbing my heart. – Could they but know – and how my cheerfulness is the cloak by which I cover the emptiness & misery.
P176: If you only knew what goes on within my heart. – Sometimes the pain is so great that I feel as if everything will break. The smile is a big cloak which covers a multitude of pains. Pray for me, please.
p209: ... Mother Teresa began to speak about the trials of her inner life ... She had to lead her Sisters, initiate them into the love of God and into the life of prayer, which had been wiped out in her own life as she lived in total emptiness: Had she become a shameful hypocrite ...
P238: ... People say they are drawn closer to God – seeing my strong faith. – Is this not deceiving people? Every time I have wanted to tell the truth – “that I have no faith” – the words just do not come – my mouth remains closed. – And yet I still keep smiling at God and all.
P166 [resolutions made during a prayer retreat]: My resolution – 1st is to follow Jesus more closely ... 2nd to smile at God. Pray for me that in the first & second resolution I give glory to God.
P219: ... so the darkness is so great and the pain is so great, but in spite of it all – my retreat resolution was the same: A hearty “Yes” to God, a big “Smile” to all – and it seems to me that these words are the only thing that keep me going ...
P171: My second resolution is to become an apostle of joy – to console the Sacred Heart of Jesus through joy.
P217: ... I need not force myself to be happy or to keep up a smiling face to others. – I am very happy for the good God has given me one big grace – I have surrendered completely – I am at his disposal.
“A hearty ‘Yes’ to God and a big smile for all.” ...
P33: When I see someone sad, I always think, she is refusing something to Jesus  ... Cheerfulness is a sign of a generous and mortified person who forgetting all things, even herself, tries to please her God in all she does for souls. Cheerfulness is often a cloak which hides a life of sacrifice, continual union with God, fervor and generosity. A person who has this gift of cheerfulness very often reaches a great height of perfection. For God loves a cheerful giver and He takes close to His heart the religious He loves.
P272: Mother Teresa had reached the point in her life when she no longer ventured to penetrate or question the mystery of her unremitting darkness. She accepted it, as she did everything else that God willed or at least permitted, “with a big smile.” Though the pain was deepening as the years went by, she had made friends with it, and had even come to love it.
P269 [from Father van der Peet]: Whenever I met Mother, all self-consciousness left me. I felt right away at ease: she radiated peace and joy, even when she shared with me the darkness in her spiritual life. I was often amazed that someone who lived so much face to face with suffering people and went through a dark night herself, still could smile and make you feel happy ... I believe that I can say that I felt in God’s presence, in the presence of truth and love.
Are you smiling on a bad day? Am I cheerful in the midst of pressure? We can make the same resolutions as Mother Teresa – follow Jesus more closely and smile at God – and it is good to be intentional in what we want in life but do we understand the big grace which Mother Teresa had received – complete surrender – which makes genuine cheerfulness possible? There is something from God when you smile even in pain!
Why was Mother Teresa in darkness – why the pain – why the emptiness – the loneliness? She asked herself the question:
P209 [from Father Neuner]: In our meetings, Mother Teresa began to speak about the trials of her inner life ... Why had God abandoned her totally? Why this darkness whereas in her earlier life she had been so close to God?
An early answer was that Mother Teresa was suffering from the “dark night of the soul” which is a term coined by St. John of the Cross (1542–1591) and a common stage of maturity in a Christian’s life.
The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, Washington: ICS Publications 1991, p361-362: It should be known, then, that God nurtures and caresses a soul, after it has been resolutely converted to his service, like a loving mother who warms her child with the heat of her bosom, nurses it with good milk and tender food, and carries and caresses it in her arms. But as the child grows older, the mother withholds her caresses and hides her tender love; she rubs bitter aloes on her sweet breast and sets the child down from her arms, letting it walk on its own feet so that it may put aside the habits of childhood and grow accustomed to greater and more important things.
The grace of God acts just as a loving mother by re-engendering in the soul new enthusiasm and fervour in the service of God. With no effort on the soul’s part, this grace causes it to taste sweet and delectable milk and to experience intense satisfaction in the performance of spiritual exercises, because God is handing the breast of his tender love to the soul, just as if it were a delicate child [1 Peter 2:2-3].
The soul finds its joy, therefore, in spending lengthy periods at prayer, perhaps even entire nights; its penances are pleasures; its fasts, happiness; and the sacraments and spiritual conversations are its consolations. Although spiritual persons do practice these exercises with great profit and persistence, and are very careful about them, spiritually speaking, they conduct themselves in a very weak and imperfect manner.
Since their motivation in their spiritual works and exercises is the consolation and satisfaction they experience in them, and since they have not been conditioned in the arduous struggle of practicing virtue, they possess many faults and imperfections in the discharge of their spiritual activities ...
These beginners feel so fervent and diligent in their spiritual exercises and undertakings that a certain kind of secret pride is generated in them that begets a complacency with themselves and their accomplishments, even though holy works do of their very nature cause humility. Then they develop a somewhat vain – at times very vain – desire to speak of spiritual things in others’ presence, and sometimes even to instruct rather than be instructed; in their hearts they condemn others who do not seem to have the kind of devotion they would like them to have ...
P371: A great deal can be said on spiritual gluttony ... There are hardly any persons among these beginners, no matter how excellent their conduct, who do not fall into some of the many imperfections of this vice ...
P376: ... it is at the time they are going about their spiritual exercises with delight and satisfaction, when in their opinion the sun of divine favour is shining most brightly on them, that God darkens all this light and closes the door and the spring of sweet spiritual water they were tasting as often and as long as they desired. For since they were weak and tender, no door was closed to them, as St. John says in the Book of Revelation [Rv. 3:8]. God now leaves them in such darkness that they do not know which way to turn in their discursive imaginings. They cannot advance a step in mediation, as they used to, now that the interior sense faculties are engulfed in this night. He leaves them in such dryness that they not only fail to receive satisfaction and pleasure from their spiritual exercises and works, as they formerly did, but also find these exercises distasteful and bitter. As I said, when God sees that they have grown a little, he weans them from the sweet breast so that they might be strengthened, lay aside their swaddling bands, and puts them down from his arms that they may grow accustomed to walking by themselves. This change is a surprise to them because everything seems to be functioning in reverse.
[There are parallels to the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues which likewise moves away from the intellect to the spirit of a person.]
Mother Teresa – Come Be my Light. The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, New York: Image, Doubleday 2007, p22-23: Interior darkness is nothing new in the tradition of Catholic mysticism. In fact, it has been a common phenomenon among the numerous saints throughout Church history ... St. John the Cross termed the “dark night”. The spiritual master employed this term to designate the painful purifications one undergoes before reaching union with God. They are accomplished in two phases: the “night of the senses” and the “night of the spirit.”
In the first night one is freed from attachment to sensory satisfactions and drawn into the prayer of contemplation. While God communicates His light and love, the soul, imperfect as it is, is incapable of receiving them, and experiences them as darkness, pain, dryness, and emptiness. Although the emptiness and absence of God are only apparent, they are a great source of suffering. Yet, if this state is the “night of the senses” and not the result of mediocrity, laziness, or illness, one continues performing one’s duties faithfully and generously, without despondency, self-concern, or emotional disturbance. Though consolations are no longer felt, there is a notable longing for God, and an increase of love, humility, patience, and other virtues.
Having passed through the first night, one may then be led by God into the “night of the spirit” to be purged from the deepest roots of one’s imperfections. A state of extreme aridity accompanies this purification, and one feels rejected and abandoned by God. The experience can become so intense that one feels as if heading toward eternal perdition. It is even more excruciating because one wants only God and loved Him greatly but is unable to recognize one’s love for Him. The virtues of faith, hope, and charity are severely tried. Prayer is difficult, almost impossible; spiritual counsel practically of no avail; and various exterior trials may add to this pain. By means of this painful purification, the disciple is led to total detachment from all created things and to a lofty degree of union with Christ, becoming a fit instrument in His hands and serving Him purely and disinterestedly.
P167 [from Archbishop Perier, 1956]: With regard to the feeling of loneliness, of abandonment, of not being wanted, of darkness of the soul, it is a state well known by spiritual writers and directors of conscience ... [cf. p164].
P265: ... the works of St. John of the Cross seem to be books I am able to understand a little & enjoy sometimes ...
The darkness in her blessed Mother Teresa with a life of faith – rather than living by pleasant experiences:
P195 : I have loved Him blindly, totally, only ...
P154: Surrendering anew, she sacrificed willingly the consolation of felt union with Jesus for the challenge of living by pure faith.
However, her darkness was not the common “dark night of the soul”. It was more than a “temporary trial” (p158) because it lasted for the remainder of her life – and (slowly) – with the help of another spiritual director (Father Neuner) – a deeper understanding of her suffering grew in her.
P218: Though familiar with the Carmelite saint’s (St John of the Cross) thought, she did not label her own suffering as a “dark night.” She had the intuition and now a confirmation from her spiritual director, that, though the sufferings were similar, their purpose was different.
On a train – in September 1946 – Jesus met Mother Teresa and revealed himself as the Jesus who hung on a cross and said: “I thirst.” Jesus was longing for people. [The thirst for water was an expression of his thirst for people because his absolute desperation to be in communion with us made him go to the cross and even die for us.] Now Mother Teresa suffered the same fate. She – just like Jesus – longed and longed for communion but experienced nothing but thirst. She herself became an image of the suffering Jesus who cried out: “I thirst,” and this had value.
[She loved him back with the same strength – (as much as is possible for a human soul) – as he loved on the cross.] Mother Teresa’s thirst was part of her spiritual work – what the Bible calls “the fellowship of sharing in Jesus’ sufferings” (Philippians 3:10) for saving work.
P203: For my meditation I am using the Passion of Jesus. – I am afraid I make no meditation – but only look at Jesus suffer – and keep repeating – “Let me share with you His pain”!
P214: For the first time in 11 years – I have come to love the darkness. – For I believe now that it is a part, a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness & pain on earth. You have taught me to accept it [as] a “spiritual side of ‘your work’” as you wrote. – Today really I felt a deep joy – that Jesus can’t go anymore through the agony – but that He wants to go through it in me ...
P300: The joy of loving Jesus comes from the joy of sharing in His sufferings. So do not allow yourself to be troubled or distressed, but believe in the joy of the Resurrection. In all of our lives, as in the life of Jesus, the Resurrection has to come, the joy of Easter has to dawn.
P297: During this year I have had many opportunities to satiate the Thirst of Jesus for love – for souls. It has been a year filled with [the] Passion of Christ. – I do not know whose Thirst is greater, His or mine for Him.
P216 [from Father Neuner]: It was the redeeming experience of her life when she realized that the night of her heart was the special share she had in Jesus’ passion ... [Thus we see that the darkness was actually the mysterious link that united her to Jesus. It is the contact of the intimate longing for God. Nothing else can fill her mind. Such longing is possible only through God’s own hidden presence. We cannot long for something that is not intimately close to us. Thirst is more than absence of water. It is not experienced by stones, but only by living beings that depend on water. Who knows more about living water, the person who opens the water tap daily without much thinking, or the thirst tortured traveller in the desert in search for a spring?]
P223: No, Father, I am not alone. – I have His darkness – I have His pain – I have the terrible longing for God – to love and not to be loved. I know I have Jesus – in that unbroken union – for my mind is fixed on Him and in Him alone, in my will.
This is a little mysterious but grounded in the Bible:
Colossians 1:24: Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
Philippians 3:10-11: ... that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Jesus died for us and now we share in his sufferings – the thirst that is still current as long as people are lost in this world – and we suffer his love which has compassion and overcomes the world:
John 12:24-26: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain ... If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me ...
I think that another – general – spiritual principle is at work here. As Jesus identified with us sinners on the cross, his missionaries identify with the people whom Jesus wants to save. [See the sufferings of the prophets in the Old Testament (e.g.: Ezekiel lying on his side – one day for each year that the nation will be punished) and the book “Rees Howells Intercessor”.) As we identify with the lost – their specific conditions – our prayers and work gain in power because of love:
P216: Her darkness was an identification with those she served: she was drawn mystically into the deep pain they experienced as a result of feeling unwanted and rejected and, above all, by living without faith in God. Years before, she had been willing to offer herself as a victim for even one soul. She was now called to be united in the pain, not only with one soul, but with a multitude of souls that suffered in this terrible darkness.
P220: My dear children – without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption. – Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death. All that He has taken upon Himself, and has carried it in the darkest night. Only by being one with us He has redeemed us.
We are allowed to do the same: all the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must have our share in it. – ... let us share the sufferings – of our poor – for only by being one with them – we can redeem them, that is, bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God.
P250-251: At the Incarnation Jesus became like us in all things except sin; but at the time of the Passion, He became sin. – He took on our sins and that was why He was rejected by the Father. I think that this was the greatest of all the sufferings that He had to endure and the thing He dreaded most in the agony in the Garden. Those words of His on the Cross were the expression of the depth of his loneliness and Passion – that even His own Father didn’t claim Him as His Son. That, despite all His suffering and anguish, His Father did not claim Him as His beloved Son, as He did at the Baptism by St. John the Baptist and at the Transfiguration. You ask “Why?” Because God cannot accept sin and Jesus had taken on sin – He had become sin. Do you connect your vows with this Passion of Jesus? Do you realize that when you accept the vows you accept the same fate as Jesus’
P232: The physical situation of my poor left in the streets unwanted, unloved, unclaimed – are the true picture of my own spiritual life, of my love for Jesus, and yet this terrible pain has never made me desire to have it different. – What’s more, I want it to be like this for as long as He wants it ...
P264: ... but be happy for we share the Passion of Christ and so go through our sharing, give the world another proof that Christ is the same yesterday – today – tomorrow in His Church.
P273: His ways are so beautiful. – To think that we have God almighty to stoop so low as to love you & me & make use of us - & make us feel that He really needs us. – As I grow older my wonder at His humility grows more and more & I love Him not for what He gives but for what He is – [the] Bread of Life – the hungry One.
P281: Sorrow, suffering . is but a kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come close to Jesus that He can kiss you. – I think this is the most beautiful definition of suffering. – So let us be happy when Jesus stoops down to kiss us. – I hope we are close enough that He can do it.
P282: Suffering, pain – failure – is but a kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the Cross that He can kiss you. – So my child be happy ... Do not be discouraged ... so smile back ... For you it is a most beautiful chance of becoming fully & totally all for Jesus.
[Consider also Mother Teresa’s teaching on the suffering of a spiritual twin: p146, 153.]
As Jesus identified with us sinners on the cross, his missionaries identify with the people whom Jesus wants to save. As we identify with the lost – their specific conditions – our prayers and work gain in power because of love but there is more. As we identify with the lost – to our surprise – Jesus himself meets us in the very people with whom we identify.
This is a little complicated but we let me unravel something very beautiful. [This is what we have learned so far through Mother Teresa’s experience of darkness – points 1 & 2.] 1) On the cross, Jesus thirsted for love and souls and he wants you to share in his thirst which is the fellowship of his sufferings. Even this morning – you can allow his compassion to move you until it hurts. Jesus invites us to share his pain for lost souls.
2) On the cross – thirsting for the lost – Jesus identified with them and we do the same. As Jesus became sin for us, we identify with the misery of the lost – become poor with them. This was part of Mother Teresa’s suffering and – working salvation through love – it begins to satiate Jesus’ thirst.
3) Then – to our surprise – Jesus meets us in the lost and poor because he identified with them before we did. Thus – in loving the poor – we (directly) quench the thirst of Jesus for love and souls:
Matthew 25:34-40: Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
P264: ... Christ cannot deceive. – Therefore whatever we do to the least. – we do it to Him ...
P168: From the time the darkness had set in and thwarted the feeling of Jesus’ presence, Mother Teresa had nonetheless been recognizing Him in the distressing disguise of the poor: “When I walk through the slums or enter the dark holes – there Our Lord is always really present.”
P266: Today in 1948 – I went for the first time to the slums – my first meeting with Christ in His distressing disguise. Pray for me.
P283: No greater love not even God could give than in giving Himself as Bread of Life – to be broken, to be eaten so that you & I may eat & live – may eat and so satisfy our hunger for love. – And He seemed yet not satisfied for He too was hungry for love. – So he made Himself the Hungry One, the Thirsty One, the Naked One, the Homeless [One] and kept on calling – I was hungry, naked, homeless. You did it to Me. – The Bread of Life and the Hungry One – but one love – only Jesus ...
P291: [Jesus] makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the sick one, the one in prison, the lonely one, the unwanted one, and he says: “You did it to me.” He is hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home ...
Mother Teresa’s darkness was deep but it had meaning and she sensed its purpose:
P211: ... When outside – in the work – or meeting people – there is a presence – of somebody living very close – in very me. – I don’t know what this is – but very often, even every day – that love in me for God grows more real. – I find myself telling Jesus unconsciously most strange tokens of love.
Yet, how do you live? Your suffering may have purpose but what sustains you when the pain is unrelenting and growing? Some like to keep talking about their pain but this was not Mother Teresa’s way:
P215: ... I do not believe, Father, in that continual digging into one’s spiritual life – by long & frequent visits & talks. The help you have given me – will carry me for a long time. – Our spiritual life must remain simple – so as to be able to understand the mind of our poor.
Mother Teresa could look at her labours and judge its fruit. In her darkness, she was never confused about the work being the work of God – not her own – which strengthened her:
Matthew 7:17-20: Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
P175: ... I could not but just kneel and thank God for all. Ten years ago “the call” was but a longing – today it is a real living reality. The Society lives with His life – works with His power. – I love the Society with all the powers of my soul – yet the conviction that it is wholly His keeps me in the spirit & feelings that I am His little instrument – His little nothing. That it is He and not I that works.
P211: I want only God in my life. – “The work” is really and solely His. – He asked – He told me what to do – He guided every step – directs every movement I take – puts the words in my mouth makes me teach the Sisters the way. – All that & everything in me is He. – This is why when the world praises me – it really does not touch – not even the surface – of my soul. About the work I am convinced it is all He.
P250: ... The only thing that still remains – is the conviction that the work is His – that the Sisters & Brothers are His. – And I cling to this as the person having nothing clings to the straw – before drowning ...
However, the fruitfulness of her work was not enough. Mother Teresa longed and longed for Jesus. Where do you go when you cannot sense his love? Where is something in the Bible that helps you in darkness – feeling absolutely abandoned by God in your senses? What about these Bible verses:
1 Corinthians 11:23-26: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Jesus established a holy meal where he identified the bread as his body and the wine as his blood. He said – simply but powerfully: “This is my body. This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Other Bible verses report his words as saying: “This is my blood” (Matthew 26:28). Christians may argue about the precise manner of Jesus’ presence in the meal (consubstantiation, transubstantiation) but this is not that important. What matters – and mattered most to Mother Teresa – is that he is – present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
The meal is so holy (Jesus is so present) that unworthy consumption causes death – 1 Corinthians 11:27-32: So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
Jesus made Mother Teresa endure darkness – the pain of longing for him – she felt nothing for more than forty years – but Jesus gave her a revelation of Holy Communion which helped her to survive:
P15: An exceptional grace she had received on the day of her first Holy Communion had fuelled her desire to take this daring step into the unknown: “From the age of 5½ years, - when first I received him [Jesus] – the love for souls has been within. – It grew with the years – until I came to India – with the hope of saving many souls.”
P48: One day at Holy Communion I heard the same voice very distinctly – “I want Indian nuns ... Wilt thou refuse to do this for Me?” P96: In all my prayers and Holy Communions He is continually asking “Wilt thou refuse? ...”
P83-84 : The attraction for the Blessed Sacrament at times was so great. I longed for Holy Communion. Night after night the sleep would disappear – and only to spend those hours in longing for His coming. This began in Asanol in Feb. – and now every night for one hour or two, I have noticed it is from 11 to 1, the same longing breaks into the sleep.
P100: These desires to satiate the longing of Our Lord for souls of the poor – for pure victims of His love – goes on increasing with every Mass and Holy Communion ...
P139: ... there was another reason for Mother Teresa’s joy that day: the long desired permission to have the Blessed Sacrament present in the convent chapel. She had written to the archbishop: “Soon Our Lord will be with us. – Everything will be easy then – He will be there personally.”
P161-162: Your Grace, In 1956 will be the 1st ten years since Jesus spoke of the “work.” May we have the coming year as a “Eucharistic Year” for our Society. We will try to spread through the slums the love and the true devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in thanksgiving for our Society.
P177: You will be very happy to hear the day you offered your Holy Mass for our Holy Father’s soul in Cathedral – I prayed to him for a proof that God is pleased with the Society. There & then disappeared that long darkness, that pain of loss – of loneliness – of that strange suffering of ten years. Today my soul is filled with love, with joy untold – with an unbroken union of love ...
Our Lord thought it better for me to be in the tunnel – so He is gone again – leaving me alone. – I am grateful to Him for the month of love He gave me ...
P210: From my childhood I have had a most tender love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament – but this too has gone. – I feel nothing before Jesus – and yet I would not miss Holy Communion for anything.
P213: Mother received Holy Communion daily with tremendous devotion. If there happened to be a second Mass celebrated in Mother House on a given day, she would always try to assist at it, even if she were very busy. I would hear her say on such occasions, “How beautiful to have received Jesus twice today.” Mother’s deep, deep reverence for the Blessed Sacrament was a sign of her profound faith in the Real Presence of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine. Her adoring attitude, gestures such as genuflections – even on both knees in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, and that well into old age – her postures such as kneeling and joining hands, her preference for receiving Holy Communion on the tongue all bespoke her faith in the Eucharist.
P232: How cold – how empty – how painful is my heart. – Holy Communion – Holy Mass – all the holy things of spiritual life – of the life of Christ in me – are all so empty – so cold – so unwanted. The physical situation of my poor left in the streets unwanted, unloved, unclaimed – are the true picture of my own spiritual life, of my love for Jesus, and yet this terrible pain has never made me desire to have it different. – What’s more, I want it to be like this for as long as He wants it ...
P262: Your nephew like so many in this hard & sad time of fight for the faith – is going through his purification. – If he only clings to the living Christ – the Eucharist – he will come from his darkness radiant with new light – Christ ...
P283: Some days back – when giving Holy Communion to our Sisters in the Mother house, suddenly I realized I was holding God between my 2 fingers. The greatness of [the] humility of God. Really no greater love – no greater love than the love of Christ. – You, I am sure, must feel often like that when at your word in your hands – the bread becomes the Body of Christ, the wine becomes the Blood of Christ. – How great must be your love for Christ. – No greater love – than the love of the priest for Christ his Lord & God.
P284: Her profound Eucharistic spirituality was as mystical as it was practical. She believed that “our life must be woven with the Eucharist.” From her realization that God gives Himself totally to man in the Eucharist sprang her desire to give herself totally to Him in serving others ... And she insisted: “Let the poor and the people eat you up ... Let the people ‘bite’ your smile, your time ...”
P286: In every new “tabernacle,” as she called a new foundation, she saw “a great gift of God to the world which is dying for God & His love - & yet does not want God.” Each convent was another shrine where the sisters, nourished with the “Bread of Life,” were spurred on to go in search of the “hungry Christ: hidden in the poorest of the poor and offer Him humble service. Prayer and service flowed from the same contemplation of Jesus’ presence under these two “disguises” ...
P321: ... let us deepen our knowledge of the thirst of Jesus on the Cross, in the Eucharist and in every soul we meet, for this knowledge will help us to be holy like Jesus & Mary ...
P328: Mother had the grace in the latter years, to have the Blessed Sacrament in her hospital room, and she always wanted it with her ... [In August] She had another heart failure right before our eyes. A tube was put down her lungs to assist her breathing and relieve the pressure upon her heart.
Before the tubes were finally removed, [the doctor] ... said, “Father, go home and bring that box to Mother.” For a second I wondered, “what box – shoe box?” He said, “That box, that temple they bring and put in her room and Mother looks at it all the time. If you bring it and put it in the room Mother will become so quiet.” I realized he meant the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament. He said to me, “When that box is there, in the room, she is just looking and looking and looking at that box.” The Hindu doctor was an unknowing witness to the power of the Eucharist over our Mother.
P329: That year , what suffering she had! I never saw in my life the physical suffering that Mother put up with. She could not talk, she could not move with the respirator and bronchial tube fixed with cello tape ... Ultimately, one morning Mother wrote, “I want Jesus.” We asked Father Gary to come that morning, early, at 5.00 am. After the Mass he was just able to give her a drop of the Precious Blood. She began to improve. And that gave a clue ... all believers and non-believers realized that her strength came from Jesus, and only with Him, in love and union, could she go through that terrible pain and agony. [Cf. p330.]
On the cross, Jesus thirsted for love and souls and Mother Teresa entered the fellowship of his sufferings – with a smile on her face. She suffered for love – sharing the thirst of Jesus, quenching his thirst and identifying with the poor with whom Jesus identified – because – in God – there is power in sacrificial love – love that costs something. Hence, Mother Teresa felt unwanted and unloved by God – abandoned – alone – (for the remainder of her life) – but – (and this “but” is not to minimize her pain) – her work was fruitful and she had Jesus in the meal of Holy Communion.
After hearing the testimony of her life, would you want to follow in Mother Teresa’s footsteps? How much suffering can you handle? Jesus first revealed his love to Mother Theresa, saying “I thirst” and then asked her: “Wilt thou refuse Me?” The prospect of much suffering scares me. However, I want to bear fruit in my life and I am encouraged by the grace of Holy Communion – the presence of Jesus in a meal which is not dependent on my emotions. What about you? Do we have the courage to say “yes” to Jesus? Amen.