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Love until it Hurts by Mother Teresa

The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “One Heart Full of Love,” edited by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado

 

1.Sharing until it Hurts (8-10)

     Give! Give the love we have all received to those around you. Give until it hurts, because real love hurts. That is why you must love until it hurts.

     You must love with your time, your hands, and your hearts. You need to share all that you have. Sometime ago, we had great difficulty getting sugar in Calcutta. One day a small Hindu boy, not more than four years old, and his parents came and brought me a cup of sugar. The little boy said, “I did not eat sugar for three days. Give my sugar to your children.” That little boy loved to the point of sacrificing.

     On another occasion, a gentleman came to our house and said, “There is a Hindu family that has eight children. They haven’t eaten anything for a long time.” I instantly took some rice that we were going to use for supper and went with the gentleman to seek out that family. I could see the spectre of hunger drawn on the faces of the little children when we found the family. They looked like human skeletons. In spite of their need, the mother had the courage and compassion to divide the rice that I had brought into two portions. Then she went out.

     When she came back I asked her, “Where did you go? What have you done?” She said, “They are hungry also.”

     “Who are they?” I asked. It seems a Moslem family with the same number of children lived across the street. She knew that they were hungry, too. What struck me was that she knew, and because she knew she give until it hurt. That is something beautiful. That is love in action! That woman shared with great sacrifice.

     I did not bring them more rice that night because I wanted them to experience the joy of loving and sharing. You should have seen the faces of those little children! They barely understood what their mother had done, yet their eyes shined with a smile. When I arrived again, they looked starved and sad. But what their mother did had taught them what real love is all about. This is how our poor are!

 

2.Love, to be real, must hurt (42-43)

     Love, to be real, must hurt. If you want to truly love the poor, you must share with them. If you want poverty to disappear, share it. A gentleman asked me, “What must we do to eliminate poverty from India? I answered, “We need to learn to share with the poor.”

     That is what I want to share with you. We cannot share unless our lives are full of God’s love and our hearts are pure. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor of heart, for they shall see God.” Unless we are able to see God in our neighbour, it will be very hard for us to love. Since love begins at home, let’s love each other at home. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He loved until it hurt. Jesus’ love is so overwhelming that you and I can love Him and find life. We can love Jesus in the hungry, the naked, and the destitute who are dying. We can love Him because our prayer gives us the faith we need to be able to love. If you love, you will be willing to serve. And you will find Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.

 

3.We need to give to the point of sacrificing (73)

Every time you are concerned for the poor and you make sacrifices for them---wherever you serve them you are really doing it for Christ. That is why I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to be with you. I want personally to thank you for all that you have done for our poor. I thank you for all the prayers and sacrifices that you have made. But do not forget that it isn’t enough to give money. The money will come. Money is not the hard part. We have to give until it hurts. We need to give from the resources we would like to keep for ourselves. We need to give to the point of sacrificing. We must give something that we find hard to give up.

 

The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa are from the book “In My Own Words,” compiled by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado

 

1.True love causes pain.

Jesus, in order to give us the proof of His love, died on the cross.

     A mother, in order to give birth to her baby, has to suffer.

     If you really love one another, you will not be able to avoid making sacrifices. (35)

 

2. Do not be afraid of loving to the point of sacrifice, until it hurts. Jesus’ love for us led Him to His death. (37)

 

3. As far as I am concerned, the greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted, unloved.

     The greatest suffering is also having no one, forgetting what an intimate, truly human relationship is, not knowing what it means to be loved, not having a family or friends. (91)

 

The passages below and quotations of Mother Teresa are from the book “A Simple Path,” compiled by Lucinda Vardey.

 

1.Make Ordinary People do Extraordinary Things.(xxxvii)

     An Indian admirer of Mother Teresa, a businessman, once had five lines (shown below) printed for her on small yellow cards. These she calls her “business cards” and she offers them freely to people because they clearly explain the direction of her work, her simple path. This path is one that she has distilled from her long experience of working for the love of God with her fellow human beings. It is composed of six essential steps: silence, prayer, faith, love, service, and peace. Familiarity with one will naturally lead on to another. If one surrenders to the nature of the process, life will inevitably run more smoothly, more joyfully, and more peacefully.

 

          THE SIMPLE PATH

     The fruit of silence is PRAYER

     The fruit of prayer is FAITH

     The fruit of faith is LOVE

     The fruit of love is SERVICE

     The fruit of service is PEACE (JOY)

 

     [Under Mother Teresa’s guidance, the Missionaries of charity have grown to over 550 houses in more than 100 countries by 1995. She has to train new novices with her simple path and staff these 550 houses with a minimum of 7-8 Sisters each. Mother Teresa has inspired and made ordinary people do extra ordinary things. Mother Teresa did not want any organised begging or solicitations, or any campaigns or any sales or articles to collect funds for her works to feed all the people in the 550 houses daily. In Calcutta alone, she copes with 9,000 people every day and the day her helpers don’t cook, they don’t eat. She gets unsolicited donations to feed the people she helps: lepers, AIDS, children, orphanage, dying men and women, the poorest of the poor. (We do It for Jesus)]

 

2.Mother Teresa’s definition of Poverty (xxx)

The definition of poverty is broad in Mother Teresa’s terms. She defines “least of My brethren” as:

“the hungry and the lonely, not only for food but for the Word of God;

the thirsty and the ignorant, not only for water but also for knowledge, peace, truth, justice, and love;

the naked and the unloved, not only for clothes but also for human dignity;

the unwanted, the unborn child; the racially discriminated against; the homeless and abandoned, not only for a shelter made of bricks, but for a heart that understands, that covers, that loves;

the sick, the dying destitutes, and the captives, not only in body but also in mind and spirit:

all those who have lost all hope and faith in life, the alcoholics and drug addicts and all those who have lost God (for them God was but God is) and who have lost all hope in the power of the Spirit.”

 

3.The only cure for loneliness and hopelessness is love

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty---it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

    

It is impossible to respond to this need unless you have God’s grace to help you. First Sister Dolores and then Sister Kateri explain this further:

     “We must be loved by God first, and only then can we give to others. For us to want to give love to others we must be full of love to give. God acts in this way. It is He who moves us all to do what we are doing, and if we feel His love for us then this love emanates from us. His love has no boundaries.”

     “There is only one love and this is the love of God. Once we love God deeply enough we will love our neighbour to the same extent because, as we grow in our love for God, we grow to respect all that He has created and to recognise and appreciate all the gifts He has given us. Then naturally we want to take care of all of them.

     God made the world for the delight of human beings---if only we could see His goodness everywhere, His concern for us, His awareness of our needs: the phone call we’ve waited for, the ride we are offered, the letter in the mail, just the little things He does for us throughout the day. As we remember and notice His love for us, we just begin to fall in love with Him because He is so busy with us---you just can’t resist Him. I believe there’s no such thing as luck in life, it’s God’s love, it’s His.”

 

     When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love. I always say that love starts at home: family first, and then your own town or city. It is easy to love people who are far away but it is not always so easy to love those who live with us or right next to us. I do not agree with the big way of doing things---love needs to start with an individual. To get to love a person, you must contact that person, become close. Everyone needs love. All must know that they’re wanted and that they are important to God.

     Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He also said, “Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to Me,” so we love Him in the poor. He said, “I was hungry and you fed Me. . . .I was naked and you clothed Me.” (79-80)

 

4.Try to make one-to-one contact (85-86)

     Love is not patronising and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same---with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead. When I was in London, I went to see the homeless people where our sisters have a soup kitchen. One men, who was living in a cardboard box, held my hand and said, “It’s been a long time since I felt the warmth of a human hand.”

 

Mary, one of our volunteers, has more ideas for reaching out to people:

“I’ve found that practical help can actually put people down unless it’s done with love. No one wants to have things done for them, or be done to. I’ve also found trying to make contact with people has come in stages, and that it has helped to do this in an organised way, like going to give the sisters a hand at the soup kitchen. Then it’s best to try not to get too busy with giving out the food and clearing up the plates but to try to make a point of talking to somebody while you’re there, or sitting down beside somebody---trying to make one-to-one contact. A lot of people carry photographs with them and so you can ask to see their photographs---or make a joke about their hairstyle---anything!

The important thing is to find some point of contact even if it’s just saying, “did you enjoy your meal?” Instead of standing in the background doing the dishes, you can make sure you’re the one who collects the plates. I think if you find this sort of thing difficult it’s probably better to do it gradually---if you see somebody standing or walking or sitting alone, then take the opportunity to reach out to them.”

 

5.True Love is loving without conditions and expectations (87-90)

     Love has no meaning if it isn’t shared. Love has to be put into action. You have to love without expectation, to do something for love itself, not for what you may receive. If you expect something in return, then it isn’t love, because true love is loving without conditions and expectations.

     If there is a need God will guide you, as He guided us to serve those with AIDS. We don’t judge these people, we don’t ask what happened to them and how they got sick, we just see the need and care for them. I think God is telling us something with AIDS, giving us an opportunity to show our love. People with AIDS have awakened the tender love in those who had perhaps shut it out and forgotten it.

 

Sister Dolores shows how simply being there with love is often enough:

     “There is a lot of fear at the beginning for those who come to us with AIDS. It is hard for them to cope with the fact that they are going to die. But being there with us and seeing us with others in their last moments makes a difference. I remember in New York that the mother of a man from Puerto Rico offered to nurse him if he came home. He thanked her but said he would remain with us, though he would visit her. One day he told me, ‘I know when I am dying you will be there holding my hand,’ because he had seen us doing it with others and knew that he wouldn’t die alone.

     It’s quite simple really. The dying are moved by the love they receive and it may be just a touch of my hand, or a glass of water, or providing them with some kind of sweet they desire. You just take that to them, what they ask for, and they are satisfied and know someone cares for them, someone loves them, someone wants them---and that, in itself, is a great help to them. Because of this they believe that God must be even kinder, more generous, and so their souls are lifted up to God. As we don’t preach, we just do what we do with love, they are touched by God’s grace.”

 

Brother Geoff, General Servant of the Ministries of Charity Brothers, also comments of the best way to offer love:

     “When people who are used to being rejected and abandoned experience being accepted by others and being love, when they see people are giving their time and energy for them, that conveys a message that, after all, they are not rubbish.

     Certainly, love is expressed first in being with before doing to someone. We have to continually, renew our awareness of this because we can get caught up in a lot of the doing for. You see, if our actions do not first come from the desire to be with a person, then it really becomes just social work. When you are willing to be with a poor person you can recognise his need and if your love is genuine you naturally want to do what you can as an expression of your love. Service, in a way, is simply a means of expressing your being for the person---and often with the poorest people you cannot completely alleviate their problem. But by being with them, by being for them, whatever you can do for them makes a difference. The message we try to convey to the poorest of the poor is: We cannot solve your problems but God loves you even while you are handicapped or alcoholic or have leprosy, and whether or not you become cured, God loves you just as much and we are here to express that love. And if we can help relieve their pain a bit all well and good, but it is more important for us to remind them that even in the midst of pain and suffering, God loves them. It’s a difficult message to communicate, obviously, but we believe that being for them is the first thing. If you spend time with a person then that is as much an expression of love as what you can do for them.”

 

Here, one of our volunteers, Nigel, describes his experience at our home for the dying and destitute at Calcutta:

     “When I went to help at Nirmal Hriday I hated the place because of the suffering and I felt absolutely useless. I thought, ‘What am I dong here?’

     Later, when I got back to Britain, I had a long conversation with one of the sisters about it. I told her I’d quickly learned sign language so I could sort out the difference between someone asking for a drink of water or for a bedpan and get it the right way round. But, apart from that, I hadn’t done a lot. I mostly sat on people beds and stroke them or fed them. You got some recognition sometimes, but not a lot other times, because they’re on their last legs. So when the sister asked me how I’d got on I said, ‘I was there.’ And she said to me, ‘What was St. John or Our Blessed Mother doing at the foot of the Cross?’”

     Do we look at the poor with compassion? They are hungry not only for food, they are hungry to be recognised as human beings. They are hungry for dignity and to be treated as we are treated. They are hungry for our love.

 

6.It isn’t how much doing but how much love you put into the doing that is important. (93-96)

It is not how much you do but how much love you put into the doing and sharing with others that is important. Try not to judge people. If you judge others then you are not giving love. Instead, try to help them by seeing their needs and acting to meet them. People often ask me what I think about homosexuals, for example, and I always answer that I don’t judge people. It isn’t what anyone may or may not have done, but what you have done that matters in God’s eyes.

We have the following words in a sign outside our chapel at the Mother House. They were written by Father Edward Le Joly after we had talked in 1977, and explain exactly what our work is about:

We are not here for the work, we are here for Jesus. All we do is for Him. We are first of all religious, we are not social workers, not teachers, not nurses or doctors, we are religious sisters. We serve Jesus in the poor. We nurse Him, feed Him, clothe Him, visit Him, comfort Him in the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the orphans, the dying. But all we do, our prayer, our work, our suffering is for Jesus. Our life has no other reason or motivation. This is a point many people do not understand.

 

Here are some words and examples from Sister Dolores, Brother Geoff, and a volunteer, Linda, on this kind of love in action:

     “In the West there is so much loneliness. Most lonely people just need someone to sit with them, be with them, smile at them, because many do not have any family left and are living alone, are shut in. So on different occasions during the year, when I was working in one of our homes in New York, we would bring these people together for a social gathering so that they could meet others, and they really looked forward to that. We’d organise a special day for them---we’d give them a good lunch and some cakes---and just by having them come out of their homes and mix with others we brought happiness into their lives.

     In our soup kitchens we provided for people who are drifters. They come for a meal, and some of them don’t eat at all. They just want to be there in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity and usually after we share a prayer or something, they leave. Most people don’t want soup, they want contact where they are appreciated, loved, feel wanted, and find some peace in their hearts. It’s the personal touch that matters.

 

     In the West we have a tendency to be profit-oriented, where everything is measured according to the results and we get caught up in being more and more active to generate results. In the East---especially in India---I find that people are more content to just be, to just sit around under a banyan tree for half a day chatting to each other. We Westerners would probably call that wasting time. But there is value to it. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love. The success of love is in the loving---it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done. The more we can remove this priority of results the more we can learn about the contemplative element of love. There is the love expressed in the service and the love in the contemplation. It is the balance of both which we should be striving for. Love is the key to finding this balance.”

 

     “Helping the children at Shishu Bhavan in Calcutta was very special for me. I felt very moved by them. One morning we sat upstairs in a circle---we’d do that a lot and sit and sing---and I was holding a little handicapped boy who just looked at me with complete joy and love in his eyes. He had a very deep serenity in him. I remember this as a deeply spiritual experience.”

 

7. Loving until it Hurts. (99-103)

     We must grow in love and to do this we must go on loving and loving and giving and giving until it hurts---the way Jesus did. Do ordinary things with extraordinary love: little things like caring for the sick and the homeless, the lonely and the unwanted, washing and cleaning for them.

     You must give what cost you something. This, then, is giving not just what you can live without but what you can’t live without or don’t want to live without, something you really like. Then your gift becomes a sacrifice, which will have value before God. Any sacrifice is useful if it is done out of love.

     This giving until it hurts---this sacrifice---is also what I call love in action. Every day I see this love---in children, men, women. I was once walking down  the street and a beggar came to me and he said, ‘Mother Teresa, everybody’s giving to you. I also want to give you. Today, for the whole day, I got only twenty-nine paise and I want to give it to you.’ I thought for a moment: If I take it he will have nothing to eat tonight, and if I don’t take it I will hurt him. So I put out my hands and I took the money. I have never seen such joy on anyone’s face as I saw on his---that a beggar, he too, could give to Mother Teresa. It was a big sacrifice for that poor man who’d been sitting in the sun all day and had only received twenty-nine paise. It was beautiful: twenty-nine paise is such a small amount and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up and I took it, it became like thousands because it was given with so much love.

     The other day I received a letter from a small child in America. I knew he was little because he wrote in big handwriting, ‘Mother Teresa I love you so much I’m sending you my pocket money,’ and inside the letter there was a check for three dollars. Also, one of the sisters in London told me that, one day, a little girl came to the door of the home in Kilburn with a bag of pennies and she said, ‘This is for the poor men.’ She didn’t said, ‘This is for Mother Teresa’ or ‘for the Missionaries of Charity.’ She lived down the road and had seen all the residents walking around---and so she said, ‘This is for the men.’ She’d just seen with her eyes and I think it’s like that for so many people. They see something and they’re attracted towards it because it’s good.

     A young couple got married here recently. They decided to keep their wedding simple---she wore a plain cotton sari and there were just his and her parents’ present---and they gave us all the money they had saved from not having a big Hindu wedding ceremony. They were sharing their love with the poor. Something like this happens every day. By becoming poor ourselves, by loving until it hurts, we become capable of loving more deeply, more beautifully, more wholly.

 

One of our volunteers, Sarah, gives her experiences of this kind of love while working in one of our homes in San Francisco:

     What I perceive as loving until it hurts is loving even if you don’t understand the situation, the people, anything. It’s easier said than done, but there are periods of time when I can do it. The result of getting close to people, on the other hand, is that when one of the residents---Chris---died it was really hard for me. I didn’t want to go back---in fact I didn’t for two or three weeks. I’d get up in the morning and get ready---and then I didn’t go. The sisters understood this so well. That’s how they helped me, because there’s no judgement or condemnation from them. They said, ‘That’s fine---come back whenever you want.’ When I mourned and cried for Chris after he died, I was told, ‘This house is here for men to die. It would be selfish for us to cry because we’re then thinking of ourselves and not thinking about where they are---with God. We should be happy for them.’ That’s their attitude.

     I’m not even a full-time volunteer and the people who do that work at the house day by day must know much more about this loving until it hurts. If you are in an environment and give all the time, you’re going to become more fine-tuned in the art of loving and become a spiritual resource for God. These full-time volunteers are special---God fills them up every day. It’s so much easier to fake love in the world because nobody really demands that you give until it hurts---until they are sick.”

 

The passages below are from the book “We do it for Jesus,” (Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity) by E.Le Joly.

 

Give until it Hurts (105)

     “I hope you are not giving of your surplus,” she (Mother Teresa) tells a group of rich businessmen who offer her a purse at the end of an excellent dinner. “You must give what costs you, make a sacrifice, go without something you like, that your gift may have value before God; then you will be truly brothers to the poor who are deprived of even the things they need.”

     The value of the act before God, not the amount of money given her, that is her main concern. As a girl soldalist she learned to make sacrifices for the missions, for the cause of Christ; to go without a meal, to do without sweets or a new dress. She had taught her Bengali pupils at St Mary’s High School the same: forgo a picture, an outing, a meal and give the money to the poor. They did it, trained in self-giving until it hurts, and thus they were prepared to assume the hardships of religious life on a permanent basis, to love without limit the Lord Jesus and to take up the Cross with Him.

 

(We can easily add to these sacrifices by having an hour less of TV Time, computer time, reading time, chit-chat time, sport time, or enjoyment time and give this time to bond further with our family members.)

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