Mother Teresa on Learning to Forgive from Brian Kolodiejchuk
All the passages below are taken from Brian Kolodiejchuk’s book “Mother Teresa—Where there is Love, There is God” published in 2010. This book is in some ways a sequel to “Mother Teresa—Come Be My Light,” published in 2007.
“Forgive … as we forgive…” What a lie to say “forgive” when you don’t forgive. When you come to that part in the Our Father, stop and ask yourself, “Is it true what I am saying?” I think Jesus suffered much more just hanging from that Cross. He said, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”1 You cannot be meek, you cannot be humble, if you don’t forgive. It is not necessary to have a big thing to destroy us…. If I’m not able to see God—why?
BITTERNESS IN MY HEART
During this one year, let us examine ourselves and see since when have I had this bitterness in my heart. It can be from my childhood, from my Novitiate, in my professed life, let us find it out and empty our hearts completely. We can do that by a sincere general confession and all bitterness is poured out and then there will be only a pure heart remaining. Find out exactly by whom and when you were made bitter and when and how many lives did you make bitter by your lack of love and unkindness, by your words and attitudes—and again I repeat, empty your hearts of it all by a good general confession.
EVEN CHRIST WAS REJECTED
Yesterday a young man came to see me. He was deeply hurt because he was rejected by his family. He just could not forgive. Then I told him, “The grace of God is not in you as long as you do not forgive.” The same is true for each one of us—the grace of God is not in us as long as we do not forgive. “But, I pray much,” he said. Yes, he can pray much, but there is no grace of God in him as long as he does not forgive. Then I asked him, “Have you tried to compare yourself with Christ, who was rejected all the time by His very own people.”2 Then he put his head down and said that he never had done so. You all must go through that pattern of Christ’s life and then you must compare yours with His life. How many times you have been hurt and you still have that bitterness in you? Examine yourselves and see how you were in your past lives at home and how you used to be hurt and be bitter. If you see well, you follow the same pattern of life even now; that is human nature in you. I want each one of you to see this during this time and empty your hearts of all bitterness.
LEARNING TO FORGIVE
One day a sister came to my room…. She said terrible things. I listened. I was feeling so bad for her, to have allowed herself to speak like that. We cannot hurt Jesus, but Jesus feels bad because we hurt ourselves. So I came to her to give her a chance to say she’s sorry. No apology came. I waited in my room. Nobody came. Again I found an excuse to ask her to do something. No apology came. Again I went to my room, praying, “Jesus give her the grace to say she’s sorry.” Before the fourth time she came and apologized. You must realize that. When a sister is doing something to you, don’t turn to yourself. Turn to her. She is hurting herself, hurting Jesus in herself. You must learn to forgive. You must know that we need forgiveness. She realized this afterwards. It was a terrible humiliation for her when she realized it. I could have been harsh. That word could have remained in her all her life. I love Jesus. It helped me to fall in love. Humility is a great thing. If you want to be a true MC, learn from Jesus to be meek and humble,3 and add one more word, pure, meek and humble. You will see a sister with new eyes. She is hurting Jesus.
WHEN WE CAN’T FORGIVE
Sometimes we can’t forgive, even once: “She has called me bad names.” Jesus could destroy everything with one word. He forgave.4 Non-forgiving can destroy you for life. We keep on thinking of that word that sister said but we need to acknowledge our sin, to be able to forgive. We must forgive—don’t wait. Is there unforgiveness in my heart? It’s an obstacle for life. When it’s too late, nothing can be done.
My brother had a little pimple here and within a short time cancer had become a big root—after just three months. The same thing happens for us with unforgiveness. Don’t believe the devil. Get it out. Maybe you have a grudge against your superior, maybe against your sisters, maybe against your parents. As a novice, as a junior, the devil will come to you with very beautiful ideas. Don’t allow the devil to cheat you. Father, forgive me.
One [patient] was struggling to die: he could not die! A sister asked: “Is there something troubling you, something worrying you? Is there something hurting you?”—“Yes, I cannot die until I ask pardon to my father.” So the sister found out the father; his father came. The father: “My beloved child,” the son: “Father, forgive me.” Father and son forgiving each other, kissing and hugging one another. After two hours he died. See how wonderful….
BITTERNESS AND PRIDE
There isn’t that total forgiveness. Show me a bitter sister and I will show you a proud sister. A bitter sister is always a proud sister also. Bitterness and pride are twin sisters—moodiness goes with it. A humble sister will not be bitter nor moody. Examine yourselves.
Do You HAVE ANY BITTERNESS AGAINST SOMEONE?
There is so much suffering and unhappiness because of unforgiveness…. Remember, Sisters, in the Our Father we say, “Forgive us our sin as we forgive.”5 If you do not forgive, you are not forgiven. Look deep down in your heart. Is there any bitterness against any person? Then try to find that person or write to that person-maybe a sister or a poor person or someone at home. Forgive; otherwise you are not free to love Jesus with an undivided love. Do not keep any bitterness in your heart. There are so many sisters who can’t forgive. Some say, “I forgive, but I can’t forget.” Confession is the forgiveness—the kind of forgiveness that God gives, and we must learn that kind of forgiveness. So many years ago someone said this or did that, and so I say, “She said this, she … and she … and she …” In one place there was a priest who was against the bishop and priests for some reason. There was so much bitterness in his speech each time I visited him and he said to me, “I will not forgive. I won’t.” This time when I went, I told him, “This is your chance; ask sorry from your bishop. That is the only word the bishop wants from you.” And I was praying and the sisters were all praying inside. When I finished the prayer, he said, “Mother Teresa, give me paper.” So, I gave him the paper, and I was so happy. I took him to the bishop and gave the paper—otherwise he might change his mind—and I told him, “This is not enough; say, `I forgive”‘ and he did.
Sometime ago, a Lutheran lady minister came to Calcutta—all the way from Sweden. I think she is a teacher of theology. We talked and she told me that from childhood she had hated her father and never spoke with him because he murdered her mother. Hatred had stayed and grown with her. I told her, there is only one thing to do—go back and say you are sorry. For a long time, she could not surrender her bitterness. Suddenly she obeyed and went straight to her father and said, “I love you. ..” Now she takes care of him. She told me she never experienced such joy as when her father embraced her. See sisters, God forgave her, forgave him, only when she surrendered.
ONLY WE KNOW WE NEED FORGIVENESS
Remember the prodigal son? “I will arise and go to my Father.”6 Only when we know we need forgiveness, can we forgive. You cannot say the Our Father truthfully—you are telling a lie; examine yourself and see, is there something there you can’t forgive? Something there still hurting? Look for that person. A sister wrote a beautiful letter to a sister who hurt her. If you find it difficult to see Jesus in the tabernacle, to see Jesus in the poor, to see Jesus in your superior—get it out—because you cannot love Christ with undivided love in chastity. It is a lie…. The other day somebody was talking of persecution—of going to jail. And this person said, “Oh, I am ready.” And after a little while somebody said something—three words—and this person flared up. And yet he was ready to be persecuted!
I WANT, I WILL PROTECT LIFE
I want, I will protect life because that life is created by God for greater things: To love and to be loved. And for that little one, Jesus has died on the Cross and He died because He loved-His Precious Blood for this little one. And so let us bring the joy of loving from all your heart and … the best way to do it is to help these young mothers, I call them young mothers, unwed mothers, but they have something to share with you. They give you a chance to share the joy of loving and that all you do for them … and go in search of them and when you find them show tender love for them, because “Whatever you do to the least,” Jesus said, “you did it to me.”7
LOVE EACH OTHER WITH A CLEAN HEART
For a young man to really love a young woman, and a young woman to love a young man, is beautiful. It is a gift of God. But, love with a clean heart. Love each other with a virgin love. Love each other by keeping a virgin and pure body and soul, so that on the day you get married, as the Scripture says: “Husband and wife will cleave to each other, and they become one.”8 So that on that day of cleaving, you can give each other a virgin heart, a virgin body, a virgin soul. This is the gift of God for you.
I was thinking about little St. Agnes9—she was only a child—she was executed for the love of Jesus; she is an angel of purity. Each one of us can make a prayer to her asking her to help, guide, and protect us. She led an ordinary life, nothing special, but she had a tremendous love for purity. We must make a little prayer to St. Agnes—she was only thirteen when she died; what courage she had-I wonder if we would have that courage—she allowed them to cut her head [off] to protect her purity. She did not allow anyone to touch her and misuse her purity.
BE THE FIRST ONE TO SAY SORRY
If you are wrong then always be the first one to say sorry. In my home my father had a hot temper; sometimes he used to say some hot words to my mother. But always after a few hours, my mother would dress up and anxiously wait for him to come back and as soon as he was back. “How are you?” and a meal was ready, and so on. That was the way she said sorry and made up. If we can do all that in the world, then why not here?
Today write it down on a piece of paper how you have been in your past communities, then take it to adoration and read it to Jesus and tell Jesus, “Jesus, this is all I can give and I am your spouse.” Always have the courage to say sorry. It does not matter to whom—be it to a grownup person, a sister, or a child, or to Mother—once you know you have hurt someone, be always the first one to say sorry. Only humble sisters can say sorry. We hurt Jesus by our sin, by moving away from Him. We cannot hurt Jesus in the other person; we should feel bad if they turn away from Jesus, because in that way they hurt themselves very badly. For you, my Sisters, I do not want that you do not sin because of fear of hell or purgatory, but because you love Jesus. There is a hell and there is a purgatory, there is, but that is not the reason for not sinning. Remember great St. Teresa was afraid to sin for fear of hell. She is a doctor of the Church and a saint and what are we? So today, pray at adoration about all that I have told you. Empty your hearts of all bitterness. A pure heart always sees God.10
IF YOU HAVE BEEN UNKIND
How have you treated the poor? Were you harsh? Unkind? Rude? Pulling? Pushing? How have you treated the poor? If you have failed, then go to confession and say sorry and try to make up to Jesus. To have this fourth vow means to have a very delicate conscience. If you have been harsh, unkind, rude or anything—then ask pardon from the poor. It may be you are like that at home with your sisters—then ask pardon. Bring all the poor you have worked with here today before the tabernacle. You cannot go to each of them to say sorry so bring them all here before the tabernacle and say sorry to each one of them whom you may have hurt. You cannot say sorry directly so say sorry to each of them in your mind, in your heart, in your spirit—bring them here before Jesus and say sorry to each of them … ask pardon … and make a resolution not to do so again.
OTHERWISE KEEP SILENT
If I am guilty say sorry otherwise keep silent; beautiful. Humility is learned by accepting humiliations. In Our Lady we have a most beautiful example. She knew St. Joseph was hurt.
Jesus said if you are going up to the altar to offer sacrifice and you remember that you have something against your brother, go back and be reconciled with him first.11 Same thing for you—don’t go to bed until you have said sorry to that sister or gone to confession if it is possible. Let your life, my life, be so transparent that they can “look up and see only Jesus” and so you will grow in the likeness of Jesus.
BEFORE YOU GO TO BED
If you hurt a sister, before you go to bed say sorry. Or if a sister has hurt you, don’t become moody, but go to Jesus and say, “Jesus, I love you. Go into her heart.”
HOW JESUS FELT
One day a sister did something terrible. I never said a word to her, but I waited … thinking she will come and say sorry. But she did not come, so I went after her—but no response. I found some other reason to go to her. Still no response. I did not know how she could remain in that sinful state. I felt sorry for her, so I understood how Jesus felt when we refused Him. But He is always waiting. God’s mercy is greater than our sin. God has created me for greater things because He loves me.
WHAT IS GOING TO CHANGE MY HEART?
Change of place is not going to change my heart. What is going to change my heart? My love for Jesus. From you I want only to be really only all for Jesus. Let us ask Our Lady to help us during this day to really open your heart to Jesus. By yourself you don’t have the courage. Confess that. Take the root out. You will find Jesus, and when you find Jesus you will find peace, love, unity.
Let us respond to the tremendous thirst of God by our loving trust in His love for us and total surrender to His will with joy. Let us turn to God with deep faith and love, repenting for our sins and begging for His mercy. Let us turn to each other also in love and trust, asking pardon for all the hurt we have caused others and forgiving all for the hurt we have received. [114-124]
2. Cf. Mt13:53-57;Mk6:2-4; Lk4:28-30;Mt27:15-26;Mk15:6-15
3. Cf. Mt11:29
4. Cf. Lk23:34
5. Cf. Mt6:12;Lk11:4
6. Cf. Lk15:18
7. Cf. Mt25:40
8. Cf. Gen2:24;Mt19:5;Mk10:7;Eph5:31
9. St Agnes of Rome (c.291-c304) virgin, martyr, who, according to tradition, suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian
10. Cf. Mt5:8
11. Cf. Mt5:23-24