Reflecting on Mother Teresa’s Crisis of faith

How strong is our faith?

The tenth anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa brought to mind some interesting insight into her which made me reflect on my own faith.

In Mother Teresa - Crisis of Faith by David Van Biema that was published in the September 3, 2007 edition of Time Magazine, the writer related an incident that revealed Mother Teresa at one time even doubted the existence of God. She was reported to have told Rev.Michael Van Der Peet,

“Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear, the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ....”

Less than 3 months later on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize she reaffirmed her unshakable faith in God and advised us on the need to see Christ around us.

"It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor’, since in dying on the Cross, God had made himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one." Jesus' hunger, she said, is what "you and I must find" and alleviate. Christ is everywhere — Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive.

We all knew Mother Teresa for her unwavering faith and trust in God. Here she was even expressing doubt in the very existence of God himself. This admission by her just goes to show that the Saint of the Gutters, who was beatified on October 19, 2003, was just as human like all of us. The crisis in her faith that Mother Teresa experienced was understandable because of the perpetual challenges she encountered as she lived humbly submitting to the call of God to serve fellow men among the poorest of the poor.

We too face all sorts of challenges in our own ways. We fulfill all our religious duties diligently and therefore believe that God will never forsake us under all circumstances. We never have the slightest doubt in our trust and faith in Him. This may be so when things go right but very often life does not seem to go the way we want it to be. It is in times of these challenges and tragedies that our faith is put to the test. Despite all our earnest prayers, our petitions never seem to be answered. It is during these extreme trying times we begin to doubt the existence of God.

Some of these challenges to our faith today are:

1. Death of loved ones ,terminal illness, permanent disability
2. Divorce and failures in love
3. Failures in examinations and unemployment when our future appears doomed
4. Extreme poverty and hunger
5. Natural disasters
6. Persecution and torture for standing up for truth and justice
7. Loneliness

When we are inflicted by these tragedies and God does not seem to intervene to help us, many of us give up hope and may even leave Him. We are taught that God is so loving, kind and merciful, then why does he forsake us? Why doesn’t he come down to get us out of the misery that had inflicted us.

This is the time we need all the faith and trust in Him like Mother Teresa. Many among us expect God to come down in person and work miracles to help us overcome our problems. We fail to realize that God come to us in forms we do not recognize thereby fail to welcome him into our lives. If we are waiting for him to come in majesty and glamour then we will be sadly mistaken. He will instead come in the form of the poor and destitute. Unless we welcome these downtrodden people into our hearts, we will never experience God in our lives.

Mother Teresa identified Jesus in her “poorest of the poor” Unless we too recognize Him in the downtrodden and despised and welcome them into our hearts, we will never experience God in our lives

We must be convinced that God will never fail us if we do His will. It is in times of trial that we should reflect on ourselves to see where we have gone wrong. When God does not come to our aid then there must be something wrong with us and not with God. We should reflect on our relationship with God and our neighbor. There must be something wrong in the way we interpret and practice his teachings. To many of us it is easy to love God, whom we can’t see, hear or feel but difficult to love our neighbor who is physically there in our midst.

As Mother Teresa said we cannot possibly love God if we do not love fellow humans, which is very true. Emerging fundamentalism in the Church has given rise to a situation where we are meaninglessly worshipping God without loving men. We spend many hours to be with Him in prayer and meditation but not willing to spare a fraction of that time to attend to those in need.

With our obsession with “worshipping” God, we ignore the plea of those who yearn for our love and care. How can we expect God to listen to us when we ignore Jesus in our neighbor? How can we expect God to answer our prayers when they are all meant to seek favors for us and our loved ones?

The good, God will try them repeatedly but will never forsake them, whereas the bad, he may shower with all the fortunes in life but in times of need will forsake them.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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