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Mother Teresa on Suffering and Death

The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book "No Greater Love," edited by Becky Benenate and Joseph Durepos.

 

1. My thoughts often run to you who suffer, and I offer your sufferings, which are so great, while mine are so small.

Those of you who are sick, when things are hard, take refuge in Christ’s heart. There my own heart will find with you strength and love.

 

2. Often, when my work is very hard, I think about my sick Co-workers and say to Jesus, “Look at these children of yours who suffer, and bless my work for their sake.” I feel instantly comforted. You see, they are our hidden treasure, the secret strength of the Missionaries of Charity. I personally feel very happy, and a new strength comes over my soul, as I think of those who are spiritually united to us.

 

3. Recently a real windfall of charity was experienced throughout Bengal. Food and clothing arrived from everywhere. It came from schools, men, women, and children, to be distributed during the monsoon disaster. The monsoon was something terrible, but it brought about something very beautiful. It brought about sharing. It brought about the concern and awareness that our brothers and sisters were suffering because of a natural disaster. And many people decided to do something to help them. There were people who prepared meals in their homes to share with those in need. It was something very beautiful to witness that such terrible suffering could help bring about so much good in so many people.

 

4. Suffering will never be completely absent from our lives. So don’t be afraid of suffering. Your suffering is a great means of love, if you make use of it, especially if you offer it for peace in the world. Suffering in and of itself is useless, but suffering that is shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift and a sign of love. Christ’s suffering proved to be a gift, the greatest gift of love, because through his suffering our sins were atoned for.

Suffering, pains sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that He can kiss you.

 

5. Remember that the passion of Christ ends always in the joy of the resurrection of Christ, so when you feel in your own heart the suffering of Christ, remember the resurrection has to come. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen.

 

6. In twenty-five years we have picked up more than thirty-six thousand people from the streets and more than eighteen thousand have died a most beautiful death.

When we pick them up from the street we give them a plate of rice. In no time we revive them. A few nights ago we picked up four people. One was in a most terrible condition, covered with wounds, full of maggots. I told the sisters that I would take care of her while they attended to the other three. I really did all that my love could do for her. I put her in bed and then she took hold of my hand, She had such a beautiful smile on her face and she said only, “Thank you.” Then she died.

There was a greatness of love. She was hungry for love, and she received that love before she died. She spoke only two words, but her understanding love was expressed in those two words.

 

7. In New York we have a home for AIDS patients who are dying from what I call “the leprosy of the West.” On Christmas Eve, I opened this house as a gift to Jesus for His birthday. We started with fifteen beds for some poor AIDS patients and four young men I brought out of jail because they didn’t want to die there. They were our first guests. I made a little chapel for them. There these young people who had not been near Jesus could come back to Him if they wanted to. Thanks to God’s blessing and His love, their hearts completely changed.

Once when I went there, one of them had to go to the hospital. He said to me, “Mother Teresa, you are my friend. I want to speak to you alone.” So the sisters went out, and he spoke. And what did this man say? This was someone who hadn’t been to confession or received Holy Communion in twenty-five years. In all those years, he had had nothing to do with Jesus. He told me, “You know, Mother Teresa, when I get a terrible headache, I compare it with the pain that Jesus had when they crowned Him with thorns. When I get that terrible pain in my back, I compare it with Jesus’ when He was scourged. When I get that terrible pain in my hands and feet, I compare it with the pain Jesus had when they crucified Him. I ask you to take me back home. I want to die with you.”

I got permission from the doctor to take him back home with me. I took him to the chapel. I have never seen anybody talk to God the way that young man talked to him. There was such an understanding love between Jesus and him. After three days, he died.

It is hard to understand the change that young man experienced. What brought it about? Perhaps it was the tender love the sisters gave him that made him understand God loved him.

 

8. As Christians, we have been created for great things. We have been created to be holy since we have been created in the image of God. For that reason, when someone dies that person is meant to go home to God. That is where we are all meant to go.

 

9. Something happened to one of our sisters who was sent to study. The day she was to receive her degree, she died. As she was dying she asked, “Why did Jesus call me for such a short time?” And her superior answered, “Jesus wants you, not your works.” She was perfectly happy after that.

 

10. At the moment of death, we will not be judged by the amount of work we have done but by the weight of love we have put into our work. This love should flow from self—sacrifice and it must be felt to the point of hurting.

Death, in the final analysis, is only the easiest and quickest means to go back to God. If only we could make people understand that we come from God and that we have to go back to Him!

Death is the most decisive moment in human life. It is like our coronation: to die in peace with God.

Death can be something beautiful. It is like going home. He who dies in God goes home even though we naturally miss the person who has gone. But it is something beautiful. That person has gone home to God.

 

     The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book "Love: A Fruit always in Season" edited by Dorothy S. Hunt.

 

1. FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT---Accepting the “gift” of suffering

Today the world is an “open Calvary”. Mental and physical suffering is everywhere. Pain and suffering have to come into your life but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus--—signs that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you. Accept them as a gift--—all for Jesus. You are really reliving the Passion of Christ so accept Jesus as He comes into your life--— bruised, divided, full of pains and wounds. (Life in the Spirit, 62)

 

2. MONDAY---Suffering is the kiss of Jesus

When I see people suffer, I feel so helpless! It’s difficult, but the only way I find is to say, “God loves you.”

I always connect this by saying to them, “It’s a sign He can kiss you.”

I remember I told this to a woman who was dying of cancer with her small children surrounding her. I didn’t know which was the greater agony: the agony of leaving the children, or the agony of her body.

I told her, “This is a sign that you have got so close to Jesus on the Cross that He can share His Passion with you, He can kiss you.”

She joined her hands and said, “Mother, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.” She understood so beautifully! (My Life for the Poor, 77)

 

3. TUESDAY---Suffering from lack of peace in family

Today there is so much trouble in the world and I think that much of it begins at home. The world is suffering so much because there is no peace. There is no peace because there is no peace in the family and we have so many thousands and thousands of broken homes. We must make our homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly and so bring peace. (Life in the Spirit, 71)

 

4. Wednesday---Why people have to die of starvation

If sometimes our poor people have had to die of starvation, it is not because God didn’t care for them, but because you and I didn’t give, were not instruments of love in the hands of God, to give them that bread, to give them that clothing; because we did not recognize Him, when once more Christ came in distressing disguise--—in the hungry man, in the lonely man, in the homeless child, and seeking for shelter. (A Gift for God, 24)

 

. . .The suffering of some can be blamed on the greed of others. (Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Biography, 273)

 

5. THURSDAY---The greatest suffering

There is much suffering in the world—--very much. And the material suffering is suffering from hunger, suffering from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases, but I still think the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, just having no one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience. (The Co-Worker Newsletter, no. 27)

 

When all recognize that our suffering neighbor is God Himself, and when you draw the consequences from that fact—--on that day, there will be no more poverty, and we—--the Missionaries of Charity--—will have no work to do (Such a Vision of the Street, 409).

 

6. FRIDAY---The streets of Calcutta lead to every man’s door

The streets of Calcutta lead to every man’s door, and the very pain, the very ruin of our Calcutta of the heart witness to the glory that once was and ought to be. (Unpub.)

 

7. SATURDAY---Remember the Resurrection has to come

Suffering, if it is accepted together, borne together, is joy. Remember that the Passion of Christ ends always in the joy of the Resurrection of Christ, so when you feel in your own heart the suffering of Christ, remember the Resurrection has to come—--the joy of Easter has to dawn. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ. (Life in the Spirit, 63)

 

Suffering in itself does not bring joy, but Christ as seen in suffering does . . . (I Need Souls Like You)

 

8. FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT---Suffering shared with Christ’s passion

Suffering is increasing in the world today. People are hungry for something more beautiful, for something greater than people round about can give. There is a great hunger for God in the world today. Everywhere there is much suffering, but there is also great hunger for God and love for each other.

Suffering in itself is nothing; but suffering shared with Christ’s Passion is a wonderful gift. Man’s most beautiful gift is that he can share in the Passion of Christ. Yes, a gift and a sign of His love; because this is how His Father proved that He loved the world—by giving His Son to die for us. (The Co-Worker Newsletter, no. 27)

 

9. MONDAY---Our second selves

Amongst our Co-Workers we have got sick and crippled people who very often cannot do anything to share in the work. So they adopt a Sister or a Brother, offering all their sufferings and all their prayers for that Brother or that Sister, who then involve the sick Co-Worker fully in whatever he or she does. The two become like one person, and they call each other their second self. I have a second self like this in Belgium, Jacqueline de Decker.

My very dear suffering sisters and brothers, be assured that every one of us claims your love before the throne of God, and there every day we offer you, or rather offer each other to Christ for souls. We, the Missionaries of Charity, how grateful we must be--—you to suffer and we to work. We complete in each other what is lacking in our relationship with Christ. Your life of sacrifice is the chalice, or rather our vows are the chalice, and your suffering and work are the wine—--the spotless heart. We stand together holding the same chalice, and so are able to satiate His burning thirst for souls. (The Co-Worker Newsletter, no. 27)

 

10. TUESDAY---“How can a merciful God allow such suffering?”

(“How can a merciful God”, asked a newspaperman, “allow such suffering, children dying of hunger, people killed in earthquakes . . . What can you say to that?”)

. . .All that suffering—--where would the world be without it? It is innocent suffering, and that is the same as the suffering of Jesus. He suffered for us and all the innocent suffering is joined to His in the Redemption. It is co-redemption. That is helping to save the world from worse things. (Such a Vision of the Street, 267)

 

11. WEDNESDAY---Intercession and innocent suffering

I often wonder that if innocent people did not suffer so much what would happen to the world? They are the ones who are interceding the whole time. Their innocence is so pleasing to God. By accepting suffering, they intercede for us. (Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, 142)

 

12. THURSDAY---Suffering as part of Redemption

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 into the darkest night. Only by being one with us has He 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 share it, for only by being with them can we redeem them, that is by bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God. (Life in the Spirit, 62)

 

13. FRIDAY---Living holocausts

Surrender is true love. The more we surrender, the more we love God and souls. If we really love souls, we must be ready to take their place, to take their sins upon us and expiate them. We must be living holocausts, for the souls need us as such.

There is no limit to God’s love. It is without measure and its depth cannot be sounded. “I will not leave you orphans” (The Love of Christ: Spiritual Counsels, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 103).

 

14. SATURDAY---To share Christ’s suffering

The Church invites us, in response to the unmeasured love of Christ, to fill up in our flesh what is lacking of the suffering of Christ on behalf of His Body, the Church; to express our union and sharing in the sufferings of our poor, for their salvation and sanctification; to give this witness of penance so that the people of God will have the courage to accept it also in their own lives. (Constitution of the Missionaries of Charity, no. 127)

 

15. PASSION SUNDAY---Stations of the Cross

Jesus said to the people of His time, “If you want to be My disciples, take up your cross and come follow Me.”

. . .Today in young people of the world, Jesus lives His Passion, in the suffering, in the hungry, the handicapped young people—--in that child who eats a piece of bread crumb by crumb, because when that piece of bread is finished, there will be no more and hunger will come again.

That is a Station of the Cross.

Are you there with that child?

And those thousands who die not only for a piece of bread, but for a little bit of love, of recognition. That is a Station of the Cross. Are you there?

And young people, when they fall, as Jesus fell again and again for us, are we there as Simon Cyrene to pick them up, to pick up the Cross?

The people in the parks, the alcoholics, the homeless, they are looking at you. Do not be those who look and do not see.

Look and see.

We can begin the Stations of the Cross step by step with joy. Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life for us.

We have Jesus in the Bread of Life to give us the strength. (Such a Vision of the Street, 282—283)

 

16. MONDAY---A carrier of love is a carrier of the cross

Let us not try to escape the cross of humiliations but grab the chance to be like Jesus, to let Him live His Passion in us. A carrier of love means a carrier of the cross. Maybe while carrying the cross we fall. Ask Simon to help you. .

On the Cross Jesus showed us the deepest poverty: complete surrender and abandonment to His Father. Today let us put on the poverty of His Passion. Do something today to share in the Passion. Maybe Jesus is asking you something in a special way, maybe some thing small. (Unpub.)

 

17. TUESDAY---World’s hatred may come to Christ’s followers

The following of Christ is inseparable from the Cross of Calvary. “Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Mt 10:34). To those who follow Christ fully is given the world’s hatred, for they are a challenge to His spirit just as Christ Himself was hated first. Humiliation, lack of appreciation, criticism—--we must remember that the people whom He healed or forgave turned round and crucified Him. (Life in the Spirit, 61)

 

18. WEDNESDAY---What you can see in the Cross

. . . Look at the Cross and you will see Jesus’ head bent to kiss you, His arms extended to embrace you, His heart opened to receive you, to enclose you within His love. Knowing that the Cross was His greater love for you and for me, let us accept His Cross in whatever He wants to give, let us give with joy whatever He wants to take, for in doing so they will know that we are His disciples, that we belong to Jesus, that the work you and I and all the Brothers and Sisters do is but our love in action . . . (Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Biography, 333—334)

 

19. MAUNDY THURSDAY---The humility of Jesus

He began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:5).

Take, eat; this is My Body” (Mt 26:26).

 

Jesus wanted to teach humility. He washed their feet. Meekness. He gave us His Body (Unpub.)

 

20. GOOD FRIDAY---The Cross—--no greater love

“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (John 19:6).

“It is finished” (John 19:30).

 

Lord, help us to see in Your crucifixion and Resurrection an example of how to endure and seemingly to die in the agony and conflict of daily life, so that we may live more fully and creatively. You accepted patiently and humbly the rebuffs of human life, as well as the tortures of Your crucifixion and Passion. Help us to accept the pains and conflicts that come to us each day as opportunities to grow as people and become more like You. Enable us to go through them patiently and bravely, trusting that You will support us. Make us realize that it is only by frequent deaths of ourselves and our self-centered desires that we can come to live more fully; for it is only by dying with You that we can rise with You. (A Gift for God, 73—74)

 

21. HOLY SATURDAY---The poverty of Jesus

Our Lord on the Cross possessed nothing. . . He was on the Cross that was given by Pilate. The nails and the crown were given by the soldiers. He was naked and when He died, Cross, nails and crown were taken away from Him. He was wrapped in a shroud given by a kind heart, and buried in a tomb that was not His. Yet Jesus could have died as a king and He could have risen from the dead as king. He chose poverty because He knew in His infinite knowledge and wisdom that it is the real means of possessing God, of conquering His heart, of bringing His love down to this earth. (The Love of Christ: Spiritual Counsels, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 108)

 

     The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book "The Best Gift is Love" edited by Sean-Patrick Lovett.

 

I wonder what the world would be like if there were not innocent people making reparation for us all...?

 

Today the passion of Christ is being relived in the lives of those who suffer.

To accept that suffering is a gift of God.

 

Suffering is not a punishment. God does not punish.

Suffering is a gift—--though, like all gifts, it depends on how we receive it.

And that is why we need a pure heart---to see the hand of God, to feel the hand of God, to recognize the gift of God in our suffering.

 

Suffering is not a punishment. Jesus does not punish.

Suffering is a sign—--a sign that we have come so close to Jesus on the cross, that He can kiss us, show that He is in love with us, by giving us an opportunity to share in His passion.

 

In our Home for the Dying it is so beautiful to see people who are joyful, people who are lovable, people who are at peace, in spite of terrible suffering.

 

Suffering is not a punishment not a fruit of sin, it is a gift of God.

He allows us to share in His suffering and to make up for the sins of the world.

 

(How is our suffering a gift of God? The kingdom of suffering is unversial. Everyone suffers. None of us can escape suffering. Suffering is never entirely absent from our lives. Christ’s suffering proved to be the greatest gift of love because through His suffering our sins were atoned for. Christ came to share in our suffering. Christ allows us to share in His suffering. Whatever we suffer He has suffered. He understands our suffering. And our suffering that is shared with the innocent suffering of Christ on the Cross is a gift of God. How is our suffering a gift of God? Suffering becomes a gift when we have the courage to accept whatever God allows, permits, sends or gives with a smile. When we can still smile through our suffering, it means that Christ is still with us. And we do not become frustrated, resentful, angry and/or bitter. That is a gift of God. It is also a blessing because our trust in Christ and our patient endurance of suffering encourage others to face and accept with courage their own suffering with Christ. We need to remember that when we share in Christ’s suffering we also share in His glory. So, we must never allow our suffering to fill us with so much sorrow and bitterness as to make us forget the joy of the risen Christ. Indeed, suffering can become a means to greater love, greater empathy and greater generosity.)

 

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