Skip to comments.Teresa's agony: A meditation on walking by faith
Posted on 09/03/2007 10:55:04 AM PDT by EternalVigilance
According to a recent article in Time Magazine, the person we knew as Mother Teresa endured, throughout her career of ministry to the dying, the travail we would ordinarily associate with damnation, which is the sense of "being without God."
I read the article with what I found to be a surprising sense of confirmation, as when we return to a place long familiar and find there exactly what we remember. Is anything so disturbing as such unexpected familiarity? I have since then been preoccupied with the clues that it immediately brought to mind, the two most important being Christ's agony in the garden of Gethsemane and His cry of seeming desperation shortly before His death on the cross. I have heard sermons and read meditations that purport to see in these moments the ultimate confirmation of Christ's humanity. In the context of Mother Teresa's spiritual suffering, however, I was put in mind of G. K. Chesterton's observation, in his biography of St. Francis of Assisi, that "if Saint Francis was like Christ, Christ was to that extent like St. Francis."
Oneness with God and aloneness
No Christian can fail to appreciate how Teresa's selfless dedication to the "wretched refuse" of Calcutta's teeming byways resembled the Passion of Christ. To that extent, her experience may add something to our understanding of the Passion. As Christ in Gethsemane totally committed himself to do his Father's will for the sake of our salvation, so Teresa totally committed herself to love with the heart of Christ, to surrender every semblance of worldly glory in order to confirm the presence of God in the lives of those condemned to oblivion by the world's unlovely sinfulness.
But in this total commitment to the heart of Christ, one must experience Christ's love of God, which is not the love of one being for another, but the expression of God as He fulfills the promise of His own perfect will. The moment of that fulfillment therefore belongs to God alone as He was before the promise of Creation, as He is in and of Himself, even in the midst of it.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Christ prepared to fulfill God's promise of salvation, the disciples slept. Similarly, in the Garden of Eden, as God prepared to fulfill the promise of human creation ("Let us make man in our image and after our likeness"), Adam slept. The moment of perfection, when every promise is fulfilled, belongs to God alone, who is the be all and end all, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.
Christ on the cross was the instrument of God's perfection, the expression of His absolute commitment to human salvation. But as the fulfillment of that commitment belongs to God alone, in the moment of that fulfillment Christ represents to us in human terms the absolute presence of God, of God alone, of God without the possibility of any other reality.
But from our human point of view, in terms of our human consciousness, what would it mean to be thus absolutely alone, so perfectly identified with the presence of God that we feel in His presence no other being but our own?
It would mean that the closer one comes to becoming the perfect expression of Christ's heart, the closer one gets to His consciousness of complete identity with His Father, God. The presence of God then no longer appears as something that exists outside us, because it exists in and through our faithful representation of Him.
But as we lose the consciousness of being separate from God, we must lose our consciousness of God as a being separate from our own. In that moment, we seem to lose the One who has been the focus of all our love, all our hope, all our longing to be. Our heart cries out with the passion of Christ, "My God, My God hast even thou forsaken me?"
The irony of faithfulness
It is as if these words are written above the gateway of a spiritual wilderness through which Teresa wandered in her heart, even as in her body she walked ever more faithfully in the footsteps of our Lord. Indeed, this was the glorious irony of her faithfulness that every day, she walked as God would have her walk, though without an emotional sense of confidence in her certain, sure reward. Hers was the faith to silence the scornful, who pretend that the essence of Christian living is greed for some other-worldly reward. When the comforting knowledge of God's presence no longer confirms the certainty of that reward, then does the truly Christian heart conclude with Christ, "Into thy hands O Lord I commend my Spirit," staking hope and life and all on faith on lonely faith, on faith alone.
It would do much for the reconciliation of humanity if we take the time to reflect on Mother Teresa's gift her sharing in the loneliness of God. As some faithful Christians of the past received in their bodies the marks of Christ's passion, so she bore its mark upon her spirit, in her soul. Hers seemed a ministry to ease the suffering bodies of Calcutta's dying poor, but in truth she journeyed as well through the spiritual wilderness of this purblind world, feeling in her heart the lonely desperation that is so much the hallmark of our times, particularly among the nations that once acknowledged the light of Christ, but are now relapsing into darkness. She lived for God in that darkness, where He seems no longer to exist, so that all may know that even there His love abides.
New eyes and a new consciousness
When we look for evidence that even now she continues her godly walk amongst us, we should look for miracles of spiritual healing and transformation. She was the patroness of dying bodies, but she is the patron saint of dying souls. Now she walks the byways of their spiritual Calcutta, ministering to their loneliness from her long familiarity with the neighborhoods wherein they waste away.
But she has new eyes now, I think, and a new consciousness, that sees the presence of God where He has seen it all along and that may, at last, take comfort in His sight.
© 2007 Alan Keyes
Oh. For a second, I thought this was about being married to John Kerry.
“Oh. For a second, I thought this was about being married to John Kerry.”
What Mother Teresa did was a good thing but she failed in one thing. She didn’t try to “convert” those folks as “there are many paths to God”.
Ping to read later
Deep, thought provoking statements. The world sure needs another Mother Teresa type person.
The name “Thomas” means a “twin.”
I think we all experience a necessary duality of experience, since, while spiritually redeemed, and knowing it, we remain in the “body of this death,” as Paul called it. Our souls are in a continuing process of “being redeemed” (or sanctification) day by day, until the day we depart this mortal coil.
I think we all experience times when we don’t necessarily feel His Presence.
But, true faith endures, no matter the outward circumstance, or the feelings of the moment.
And the feelings of separation can and should be the thing that drives us to seek Him in an every-deeper way.
Or a few tens of millions of them.
India had (and still has) a hard time dealing with her. Her very presence shamed the government. She did what no one else would do...took care of the unwanted dying, left in their streets alone, neglected, abandoned and in despair.
She shamed the entire population, culture, history and tradition. If she hadn't been so humble, simple living, non-condemning and effective, she could have been forgotten. But she tore at their conscience.
If she had TRIED to convert, she could have been condemned for SOMETHING but, she just did what she did. Her living example was a thorn in the heart of all India.
The entire country was greatly relieved when she died. Now, they can go back to status quo. The sisters who stay there and carry out her work aren't so extraordinary as they weren't "the first." She did exactly the right thing for living in India, she LIVED her faith by example -- no moralizing, no attempts at conversion, no judging. Her impact was/in tremendous.
Here are some incredible quotes of Mother Teresa on the evil of abortion: Mother Teresa of Calcutta on abortion
While it is true that some of her statements and actions seemed a bit synchretistic; however, she did convert and baptize many on their deathbed.
One story I myself heard her tell was this: She picked up a man off the streets who was dying; carried him to their convent; began, with her usual selfless smile to clean him and see in him Jesus in "distressing disguise"; then she asked him,
"Would you like to go to Heaven and be with Jesus for all eternity?"
He replied, "Is Jesus like you?"
She responded, "Oh no, He is infinitely better!"
"Then," he said, "I want to go to Heaven to be with Jesus."
She then instructed him in the basic truths of the Trinity, the Redemption, asked if he believed and then baptized him. He stole Heaven like the good thief through the evangelization of Mother Teresa. I'm told she never baptized anyone against their will; but that she had helped tens of thousands to accept Christ and be baptized before they died.
Can anyone imagine Mother Teresa on such a mission? Is there anything anyone can point to in her spiritual character that would indicate she could ever be that way?
Could anyone imagine her withholding her charity UNTIL those bacame baptized? Like saying "I'll feed you if you say you believe in Jesus!" How REPUGNANT is that?!?! Is that what Christianity has come to? Gathering "scalps" for lip service?
Mother Teresa was the embodiment of faith rooted in Charity! There are as many paths to heaven as there are individuals in the world. And, I believe that those who do not know the Lord in this life are given the opportunity to find Him in the next.
Mother Teresa was a servant of God. Those who are critical best examine themselves because they may find themselves servants of the wretched of Calcutta in the next life!
So "seeking converts" is not about forcing others and threatening them with punishment, but informing and inviting them to salvation so they don't have to face that punishment.
"Neither is there salvation in any other name. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
Jesus said, "Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3
Mother Teresa served the poor out of love for Christ. "Whatever you did to the least of My brethren, you did it to Me." (Mt. 25:40). Although she served all unconditionally, seeing Christ in them, she also endeavored to bring many to the merciful Jesus through Baptism.
No, that is a definition of the process of repentance, reformation and regeneration. My dictionary defines 'convert' as changing one's religious faith.
Orthodox Christian conversion is usually by a compelling THREAT of an angry and wrathful God who has cursed the entire human race. Anyone that comes to the Lord out of FEAR will not have a faith that will last. Faith by approaching the Lord out of love and by reason lasts to eternity.
You obviously have a biased view regarding “conversion”. Not actively sharing the gospel to all who will listen is in direct defiance of Jesus’s command to do so. NO ONE forces anyone to listen nor forces anyone to convert (except Islam)nor withholds charity until conversion.
“There are as many paths to heaven as there are individuals in the world. And, I believe that those who do not know the Lord in this life are given the opportunity to find Him in the next.”
No and no.