With the publication of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (compiled and edited by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk) new light is being shed on the depth and complexity of this little woman of Calcutta. Comprised mainly of her correspondence throughout life, the book reveals the five decade-long struggle Teresa had with the absence of God in her inner and spiritual life.
But yet she loved Christ and she gave her all to serve him and through guidance and grace she even eventually came to embrace the absence itself as a sharing in the Passion of her Lord. A request she herself had made at one point with no expectation of how it was to be ultimately granted. Isn’t God funny that way…
Mother Teresa’s half-century long experience of the absence of God does not call into question her belief rather it unveils her faith’s true depth.
There are many insights to be gained from this survey into the inner life of Mother Teresa but there are two that, for now, seem to stand out for me. One is the true reality of the range and depth of love and the second is the depth of our true anthropology.
We live in a time that so readily, so eagerly and so compulsively equates the fullness of love with feeling – in our relationships with one another and even in our relationship with our Lord. “If I love someone, if I am loved by someone then I will feel it all the time … and if I do not feel it, well then the love must be lost, absent.” Mother Teresa’s fifty-year ache for her Lord starkly contradicts our society’s myopic equation of love solely with feeling. It teaches the truth that love moves beyond the bounds of feeling; even into the exercise of the will. In the absence of God and in the midst of its pain, Mother Teresa chose to love, she chose to believe, she even chose (at some point) to understand the darkness itself as a precious gift from her Lord.
There is such a thing as the dictatorship of feeling and both in contrast and reply to this Mother Teresa’s struggle shows the true freedom of the Christian who is able to move beyond all that binds and seeks to enslave. I have seen this tyranny of feeling in the lives of people I have ministered to and I have even experienced it in my own life at different times. I have also seen it in regards to faith. There is such a thing as a feeling-only approach to faith which is very prevalent in our day and age and which ultimately limits true growth in faith and maturity as a Christian. This temptation to equate faith so stringently with feeling alone does a great disservice I believe to the one who is seeking to understand the things of Christ.
Secondly, the depth of our anthropology. If one wants to know what it looks like to be truly and fully human then don’t look to the business moguls, power brokers or celebrities of society (although they might be fine people in and of themselves). Look to the saints in order to know what it looks like to be truly and fully human.
I believe it is fair to start acknowledging the differing anthropologies that are present in society. We do not all have the same understanding of the human person. For example, an understanding of the human person that seeks to leave God out of the equation is by its nature going to be a limited understanding not just because there is no room left for God in heaven but also because there is no room left for talking of man and woman as being made in the image and likeness of God. When we leave God out of the equation we automatically stunt ourselves, no matter how much we may try to pretend otherwise.
The saints reveal the depth of being that we are capable of precisely because of their connection with God. They reveal the truth of who we are meant to be, what we can achieve, and even what we can endure. The saints are our elder brothers and sisters. To put it bluntly, they are not stunted in their development.
Its interesting to contrast this new revelation of Mother Teresa’s experience of the absence of God with secular society’s imposed absence of God and wonder who is better off? Who, in the end, is more fully human?
Mother Teresa’s letters reveal the depth of her faith and in reading them one quickly comes to realize that it truly is a humbling thing to stand in the presence of a great soul.