Mother Teresa on Obedience and Total Surrender 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.
You will not have the readiness to say “yes” to the great things if you do not train yourselves to say “yes” to the thousand and one occasions of obedience that come your way throughout the day.
It is that total surrender to God that makes me a religious. Again, we come back to Our Lord and Our Lady: “I am sent by my Father1; my Father is greater than I”2 Jesus need not have done all that He did. He is equal to God: God from God, Light from Light and yet He submitted: to obey, to be born, to go down to Nazareth. He accepted to be put here and there. When the high priest asked Him, “Tell us whether you be the Christ,”3 Jesus obeyed and gave the answer. He knew that if He obeyed it would be crucifixion, but He was totally surrendered. Have we come here to be equal? We have come here to be totally surrendered, but instead we go on saying that the superior said it nicely or harshly, she is black or white. Yet Jesus obeyed all whether it was Mary, Joseph or Pilate.
In the Gospel, we find many proofs of Christ’s obedience. If we were to go to Nazareth in spirit, we first hear our Lady’s answer to the angel, “Be it done to me according to thy word.”4 Then we read about Jesus, “He went down and was obedient to them,”5 to a carpenter, Joseph—and to Mary, who according to human calculation was a simple village girl. Then we hear Jesus say, “I have come to do the will of my Father, of Him who sent me.”6Then throughout His passion, He obeys His executioners blindly. On these examples that Christ gives us in the Gospel, we must build our obedience.
Jesus, how He obeyed! Some time back, I was meditating and it struck me so much thirty years Jesus lived in that little house in Nazareth, with the cleaning, with the washing, with the cooking, with His mother; just [doing] ordinary things, so ordinary that the people afterwards said, “How is He doing what He is doing?” They were shocked, simply. Thirty years in that little house in Nazareth, a real house of the poor, like some of our families have, simple houses—not three years, not fifteen years; the same house, same work, same place, with His father and mother. It really shocked me that for thirty years He lived in a little house like that. He, the Creator of the world, [the] living God, but He lived a life of total obedience. I want you sisters to understand what I am saying. Love obedience. Don’t say, “I have to obey” but “I love to obey.” That little bell, “I love to hear it,” that little work I have to do, “I love to do it.” Always “I love” not “I have to.” I always make myself say that, “I love.”
THE FIRST SIN
Obedience must be something spiritual, since it is found also in heaven. Disobedience was the first sin; right there in front of God, Lucifer—the most beautiful angel—refused to submit, refused to obey, not in chastity or anything else, but he said, “I will not serve.” When he was cast out of heaven, he wanted more companions, so he went to Adam and Eve—God had told them, “You can eat from all the trees, this one, this one and thousands of trees—a garden full of beautiful trees.”7 Then God said such a small thing, “Don’t eat from this one tree.” They say it was an apple tree. There must have been many other apple trees, but that one tree they could not touch. What happened was a continuation of that first sin—they refused to obey and ate that fruit.
When we disobey, it is a continuation of that same first sin—that first sin makes us sinners; because of that first one, the inclination [to sin] is there. I must face that in myself. As religious, we seek to cover up, to make reparation for that sin and so we take the vow of obedience.
OBEDIENCE IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Today we have many broken homes because there is not that obedience that surrender to each other between husband and wife, parents and children. There is so much trouble with the young people because they want to be free to do everything as they like. There is so much trouble in our own communities, so much disturbance, because sisters want to do what they like, live the way they like. Nowadays, many religious speak of the need for dialogue, “personal freedom,” as if a life of obedience was something where these things are absent. They also speak of the great need for “community life” but you cannot have community life without a superior, and the presence of a superior automatically brings obedience. In community life we need someone to take the place of God, and the superior is the means He uses to express His will. So it is not “she” it is “He.” The superior is like the pencil in the hand of God. If you were to receive a letter from Mother, you wouldn’t look to see what kind of pen I used, or whether the ink came out properly, or what quality the paper was. No, you would be busy to see what is the message that Mother has written, what is Mother saying to me. By reading that letter, you want to enter my mind, to know what Mother wants to say to you. Same thing in obedience, we want to know what God wants, and by obeying the superior’s command in everything, except sin, we fulfill it perfectly. Let us not look on the vows as something cruel. Nowadays, there is an attitude that once you have lost the freedom to do what you like, as you like, that there is no point in staying as religious. Actually, religious, who speak like that, they are the ones who have lost that real freedom to live as true religious, and they would be better off outside.
IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE TO DIE . . .
One of the saints—John Berchmans or Aloysius was playing football, when one of his companions said to him: “Brother, if you knew you were to die just now, what would you do?” St. Aloysius replied, “I would continue playing because at this moment, it is the will of God for me.” Do we have that same conviction, that whatever we do in obedience is blessed as God’s will for us?
A FREE HEART
We cannot obey when our heart is impure—jealousy, criticism, grumbling, lazy. When these things are there, we are not pure. To be pure in heart, to have a free heart, is the same thing. We have only to say “yes,” we have not to break our head. But to have a pure heart we must pray, these two things go together. And we will become holy.
NOT THE OBEDIENCE OF A SLAVE, BUT OF LOVE
Today youth cannot obey. I was trying to find out why they are so anti-obedient. Nowadays even in communities you have the “group” making the decisions. Families are unable to control even the youngest child of seven years old, and when I was told this I asked, “Why can’t you take them by the hand and control?” A book has been written, and every mother has been asked to read that book. There it says let the child do what he wants from the age of one, so from that age he can say, “Oh no, I won’t go today, I will go where I want.” This is the spirit and we know the reason of this terrible upheaval. It is riches. The man in the Gospel could not give them up and we too.”8 The person given totally to God knows obedience. I am not talking of the obedience of a slave, but of love. My parents—I love them and they love me and so I obey. There must also be some fear: The fear of offending God, of offending our parents, of offending our superiors. What an empty life is ours as religious if we have not understood this: that I belong to Him and He can do with me what He wants.
LOVE FOR LOVE
For our obedience to be cheerful and prompt, we have to be convinced that it is Jesus we obey. And how do we reach that state? By the practice of a heroic virtue of obedience—love for love. If you want to know whether you love God, ask yourselves the question, “Do I obey?” If I obey, everything is all right. Why? Because everything depends on my will. It depends upon me, whether I become a saint or a sinner. So you see how very important obedience is. Our sanctity, after the grace of God, depends upon our will. Don’t waste time in waiting for big things to do for God while you let pass by all the little rules of the religious life. You will not have the readiness to say “yes” to the great things if you do not train yourselves to say “yes” to the thousand and one occasions of obedience that come your way throughout the day. For example, it happened to one of the Sisters of Charity. One young sister was sent to study and completed her B.T.9 The morning of the day the results came out, she died two hours before their release. When [one young sister] was dying she asked, “Why did Jesus call me for such a short time?” And Mother answered, “Jesus wants you, not your works.” She was perfectly happy after that. We have to do our work according to obedience. Hence, obedience must be something very important, since everything must be founded on it.
Knowledge of God, love of God, service of God—that is the end of our life—and obedience gives us the key to it all. A certain priest loved the Chinese, and he wanted to do something for them. Now if I live constantly in the company of Jesus, I too will do the same as he did. Nothing pleases God more than when we obey. Let us love God, not for what He gives but for what He deigns to take from us. Our little acts of obedience that give us the occasion of proving our love for Him.
EASIER TO CONQUER A COUNTRY THAN TO CONOUER OURSELVES
We obey simply because it is Jesus we obey. It is so simple that it is hard to understand the complications that sometimes arise. We must use the eyes of faith to see Him who has called us and to obey promptly, now, not tomorrow. That “tomorrow” easily leads into the tepid way. Blindly: Blind obedience puts all the “whys” out of the mind. Once you start using the little word “why?” you will end nowhere. Your life will be an empty life. You obey with your hand, but you disobey with your heart. “That is false obedience,” says St. Ignatius. It is not easy and we cannot help those “whys” coming into our minds, but we can prevent them from conquering us. As soon as you become aware of them, keep your will away. We waste so much precious time because we are busy with ourselves. Superiors are not bound to give us the reasons but we are bound to obey. Cheerfully: The sisters that obey thus are like strong pillars in the Society. You don’t know how hard it is sometimes for the superiors to make a little change. Your security in the Society comes first and foremost from your vow of obedience. If you obey, you will never make a mistake. From early morning till night I can be certain that my actions are right because I did them under obedience. This sense of security makes us happy. Turn the picture: If you don’t obey then you become unhappy, restless. You have to experience that obedience to be able to feel at perfect ease. It is much easier to conquer a country than to conquer ourselves. Every act of disobedience weakens my spiritual life. It is like a wound letting out every drop of one’s blood. Nothing can cause this havoc in our spiritual life as quickly as disobedience.
We must be at ease with God, and God must be completely at ease with us.
CLOSER TO GOD
What does perfect obedience mean? It is an unfailing source of peace. When sisters come and tell Mother they are unhappy, dissatisfied, the first thing Mother asks them is, “Do you obey?” and their sincere answer gives Mother the clue to their restlessness. No half measures with God; let us not serve God according to our moods. The price of our love is inward joy—we must be able to smile twenty-four hours a day. Inward joy comes only from perfect obedience. If you are not happy in the Congregation, don’t blame the Congregation, blame yourself.
Close union with God is a natural result of obedience, perfect obedience. From a human point of view, we come closer to our superiors when we obey and from a supernatural point of view we come closer to God when we obey.
EYES OF FAITH
St. Bernard tells us that if we look at our superior only with our bodily eyes we shall see only the body of our superior with all her defects, but if we look at our superior with eyes of faith then we meet Jesus, the all beautiful, the all holy, and in all orders and corrections we would see the hand of God shaping us in His loving way.
Go back to the angels, to Adam and Eve, the difficulty was always a difficulty of obedience. It is obedience that will control our apostolate10of charity. Let us be firm in this one resolution: “I will obey without grumbling or criticizing.”
Acts of disobedience are acts of pride, and pride is hateful to God. If a religious chooses to disobey deliberately, she can be in the state of mortal sin for not striving to reach perfection once she has embraced a state of perfection. Let us now think of what my infidelities deprive God [of]—I will not fulfill His plan concerning me….
The holier I become the more souls I can draw to God. Each of us has a certain number of souls dependant upon us for salvation, therefore I must grow holy for the sake of those souls. The holier I become, the closer they will draw to God. Sanctity is doing the will of God with joy, in other words sanctity is obedience. Our superiors convey this will of God to us, they are the channels through which the will of God comes to us. We must for that [reason], love and respect our superiors and thank God that we have superiors…. Our Lord never calculated in His obedience, “I have come to do the will of Him who sent me.”11
OBEYING IS NOT BELOW OUR DIGNITY
How did the angels become devils? They were all in the sight of God. Lucifer, the angel of light, became the devil of darkness. We read that God gave them a test, that when the Son of God will become man, [they should serve Him]; in their pride, they said “non serviam.” Hell was not in the original plan of God, but God was forced to create it. God who is merciful love, had not created hell until the angels disobeyed and became devils. Remember those little Latin words “non serviam.” [God] created the angels, He created human beings. He who is the Creator obeyed. Obeying is not below our dignity.
Eating an apple is not sin. In fact, we eat many. Yet God told Adam and Eve not to eat. I don’t think that Eve ate the whole apple, she must have eaten only a bite. That was enough for the devil; “non serviam” was done in that bite. Each time when we disobey, we say and do the same way. How did disobedience come? Like sanctity [comes] by fidelity in little things, [so disobedience comes by] infidelity in little things. Today one thing does not matter and tomorrow two, and it goes on. No fall ever comes all of a sudden…. You are hurting yourself. Who gave the example of obedience? Our Lord Himself from birth until the last breath, one perfect obedience. [A] constant saying of His: “I came to do the will of My Father.”12 My food is to do the will of My Father.”13 There was no other concern as if, always “My Father, My Father”—that filial obedience, that child-like obedience.
Our Lady didn’t understand, but “Be it done to me. ..”14 was her reply—a humble obedience. It is frightening, Sisters, if deep down in your heart you say, “Non serviam.” “Tomorrow I will obey”; that tomorrow will never come. In obedience there is no question, “I can do better, I have more experience,” and so on. Obey and surrender completely, totally. See Jesus with Pilate: “Since you have the power from above,”15 Jesus said…. The power of God, no other power. It has to be used as God wants it to be used.
Obedience is very difficult. It is meant to be a sacrifice. Jesus did not come on His own, He was sent. If we are real religious, either we obey or no need to be here. Why so many broken families? Children do not obey. If we do not obey the time of prayer, work, then naturally we will die of starvation. What was wonderful in Mary: “Be it done to me according to your word.” 16 Obedience must be something special if she became the Mother of God through obedience. Jesus at Gethsemane [said]: “Your will be done.”17 See the obedience—that father, when he consecrates, Jesus obeys and that bread becomes Jesus. Just see, Sisters, the obedience of Jesus!
We can obey only if we are meek and humble. It is necessary. I won’t call it a virtue; it is like blood that is necessary for the body, so is humility for the soul. The fruit of humility is obedience.
Charles de Foucauld has a beautiful prayer. It is a prayer that I find closely connected with obedience:
Father, I abandon myself into your hands, do with me what you will, whatever you may do, I thank you. I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures I wish no more than this, 0 Lord. Into your hands I commend my life: I offer it to you with all the love of my heart for I love you Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.
I BELONG TO CHRIST
If I really understand that I belong to Christ, that nothing and nobody can separate me from the love of Christ,18 obedience is natural, completely natural, because if I belong to somebody, then that person has the right to use me. No wonder that Our Lady said, “Be it done to me.”19 … She belongs to Him, immediately she went in to give Him to others, immediately.”20 And you know what she did after that? She was completely at ease because she has said yes, and Mary said yes when she knew that it was the will of God. And, it’s very strange, I’m always surprised that God nowhere spoke to Our Lady directly. He spoke through the prophets, He spoke to Moses, He spoke to everybody possible in the Bible, but we don’t see anywhere [that] God spoke to Our Lady directly. It was through the angel, it was through St. Joseph, and so on. And what did she say to the angel, “Be it done to me according to thy word.” She also never mentioned the Word of God. You, angel, what you are saying, “Be it done to me . . .” and this is obedience. That surrender. I belong to Him, He can use me, He can do what He wants with me and to us sisters, God is not going to speak to us. He will speak to us through our constitutions which are the written will of God to us through the Church. And then to our superiors—she may be black, she may be white, she may be clever, she may be stupid, she may be holy, she may not be holy, and yet God is going to use her to tell me how to go, where to go, what to do, how to do. It is so, so beautifully simple—obedience. And we can make it difficult for ourselves because we lose that whole and undivided love for Christ.
THE LIFE OF LOVE IN ACTION
Obedience is the life of love in action through the spirit of sacrifice, so natural for a religious. Even in the family life, the most natural thing in the family life that keeps the family together, that nourishes the life of the family together is that surrender to each other, that obedience. That accepting each other, if there is not that obedience and surrender of the father and mother to each other, there would be very little courage to ask that obedience from their children. And, if today we are having all the trouble with family life, I think it begins there. That thing is missing and the same for our young people who want to join us…. It is difficult for them to obey, but they want, they want to see, they want to see. Many times the girls have told, the sisters have told me, our young aspirants, Mother it is so difficult. I don’t mind washing a leper, but so difficult to bend. I think that’s where love begins in that bending. It is not how much [you are doing, or] what you are doing, but how much love you are putting in the doing, and obedience is that love in action.
This is what young people want to see, and in that action of obedience, they see how we love one another and how we love the one who has the power to say come, go, do and so on. And, really, I have learned such a love from our young aspirants. From our young sisters, at the beginning of their religious life, though I have now finished fifty years of religious life, still I learn so much the joy, the humility with which they surrender themselves to God. I mean it is for you and for me to feel that great gift that is in the young people. I do not believe when people say there are no vocations in United States. There are many vocations, many more now than ever before. But, they have much greater demand, they want to be holy, they want to surrender, they want to give up all and have nothing. And this is everywhere not only United States, I see that in Europe. We have a novitiate in Rome, here in India, I see it in Africa, I see it in Philippines. I see exactly that same demand, I want to give all, I want to be holy, I want to grow in the likeness of Christ, I want to allow Jesus to live His life in me, I want to share in His passion, I want. And then we must come there in the picture to show them how we live that passion of Christ; how we allow Jesus to live His life in us; how we share that joy of loving with others. They want to see.
OUR VOCATION IS To BELONG TO JESUS
I never forget one day one of our brothers…. he loves the lepers. He takes care of 93,000 lepers, and he came to me and he had said he had a little difficulty with his superior … and he said “I love the lepers, I want to be with them, I want to serve them, I . . .” so on and so on. “My vocation is to be with the lepers, to serve the lepers.” And I let him speak and after that I said to him: “Brother, you are making a very big mistake. Your vocation is not to work for the lepers, not even to love the lepers, your vocation is to belong to Jesus with the conviction that nothing and nobody, not even the lepers, must separate you from the love of Christ. The work for the lepers is the means to put your undivided love for Christ in a living action.”
I can’t tell you, sisters, how the whole attitude of that brother changed and he does the most wonderful work but that conviction that it is his love for Christ in action. It has changed because of his surrender, his surrender to obedience. Because if we really understand, we religious, I belong to Jesus, Jesus must have the right to use me where, when, as He likes. Do you live without consulting me? I remember some years back I wrote that for our Cardinal, and I believe he keeps it very carefully the picture where I wrote, “Allow Jesus to use you without consulting you.” And, this is so true—that is the very life of our vocation—of belonging and being used. Look, when the people get married doesn’t matter who that lady was before marriage, she was Miss and the moment she gets married, she changes her name, she becomes Mrs. And I don’t know what she becomes, but she no more is recognized by the name that she was before because now she belongs to that man. That man and she cleave to each other and become one. So the same thing for us—once we have given our word to Christ, once we have made that vow of chastity, that I will love Christ with undivided love in chastity, once He has called me by my name, He and I must also cleave like that, and that oneness is the love that we put to our neighbor, whoever, in whatever form the Church has accepted us.
It is the Church that has accepted us to be Missionaries of Charity, or this congregation, that congregation, whatever form and by accepting to belong, to surrender ourselves totally to God through our vows, we make the Church present because our constitutions have been accepted by the Church to lead us to the perfect love of God and our neighbor. They have that power. So very often, nuns write to me and they want to join our congregation. I refuse and I say to them your constitutions have the power to fill you with deep desire for greater union, greater love, greater sanctity, only live your constitutions at least for one full year, really with great love and with great holiness. And then after one year, you write to me. And each time, they write back, “Thank you, I have found what I was looking for.” This is, they have the power because the Church has accepted us in that form. We belong to Christ—in whatever congregation we feel that God wants us to be in and then by living the life according to our constitutions, according to obedience, we proclaim the presence of the Church in whatever place we are, in whatever work we do.
We, in the slums, and you maybe in the university level, college level, hospital level, whatever level—kitchen level, I don’t know—there are so many ways. But there is no work for a religious that is out of place. Once I was asked what will you do when you will not be Mother General anymore? I said I am first class in cleaning toilets and drains. So, when I go to the home for the dying on Sundays, after taking care of the dying, going round, I go straight to the toilets and clean all the toilets there. And, I have learned to clean them beautifully. And so this is something—it is not what we do but how much love we put in the doing.
If I belong to Christ, if that moment He wants me to be cleaning the toilets or take care of the lepers or to talk to the President of the United States, same level. Because I am where God wants me to be, and do what He wants me to do, I belong to Him, and God will never speak to us directly. … He speaks through our Superiors, through our constitutions, which are the written will of God and the Superior, is the word of God, spoken word of God. She may not be holy, she may be holy. I always tell my sisters—we make our obedience in the hands of our Superiors but she may be holy, she may not be holy; she may be clever, she may be stupid; she may be I don’t know what all what she may be and yet, yet, she may be making a mistake. I don’t make a mistake in obeying her. And this is something that has to do so much with our religious life.
We may be saying many prayers but maybe we are not praying fully. In that total surrender, in that loving trust, this is very important for us to live our religious life to fulfill the reason for our existence as Missionaries of Charity or whatever it be, whatever form God has called us because He is the one who has chosen us. And to be there. It is wonderful—this morning a young girl came, she said I think I must go, I must go and see. As I told you this morning, come and see. She will go to New York and to come to see—there is something talking there inside of her. I said that the only person that knows what is happening inside of you is you. And it is between you and Him and nobody else. Nobody can tell you go here, go there, you must decide, and it is you—you will be able to decide if you pray. For the fruit of prayer is always deepening of faith, and if we have faith, then no difficulty with obedience. Cause that obedience is the only real sacrifice of our life, not to get married. Thousands of people don’t get married. It is not that sacrifice but what is very important [is] to love Christ with undivided love in chastity—nothing and nobody. And, how? Through that total surrender in obedience. I belong to you, you can do with me what you like and anytime, anywhere, through anybody but you can decide and you must decide. This is something, sisters, I think … we must experience [it]. And obedience is so closely united, woven with poverty. Very often, obedience becomes very difficult because we have so much. It suffocates the love, the surrender. And to be able to really obey fully, really to make that total surrender, we need the freedom of poverty, and we must experience the joy of poverty, that freedom, that having nothing in possessing. It is extraordinary how God uses [us] when we have nothing and how He penetrates the souls of people when He draws them to Himself when they have nothing.
A LITTLE MISUNDERSTANDING
Some years back, we had a talk from a priest [about obedience]…. He was explaining to us how obedience [today] has to be observed, and we have to explain and give reasons to the sister when we have to transfer her and so on. And, so I have never experienced that so when I went home … And I [thought] I better practice what Father said…. I called one of the sisters and I said, “Sister, I would like you to go tomorrow to this place but know the reason . . . ” I gave her all the possible reasons that I could think of, and then she began to cry. And I said, “But why?” “I didn’t come here for you to give me reasons you say go, I go.” So, next morning I went again for the instruction, for another instruction on obedience. I told that Father, I said, “Father, I went to practice what you told yesterday, and this is what happened to me.” And he said, “Well if it is like that, you continue like that.” And, see, the young people want, they want to give all, and if there is difficulty in their obedience, I think we should examine ourselves.
We, Superiors, have a very big responsibility for our religious life, for our sisters, very great responsibility. We must not give them permissions that we have no right to give. [We must] treat them with dignity, with respect and with deep love, as somebody special to God Himself, as somebody very precious to Almighty God. And always with kindness, always with thoughtfulness, always with that touch of compassion because I am sure none of us would be able to do what we are doing if we didn’t have our sisters and that generosity. There are failures, there are many failures in every religious life, in every family. In the best of families, there are difficulties. That is the human nature, that is the cross, and Jesus has asked us to take the cross and follow Him. He didn’t tell us to go ahead of Him…. I think this is the cross of our community life. That little misunderstanding. I always jokingly say we pray together, we work together, we eat together, and we fight together. We must live our life but with love, with understanding love, with that compassion, with that thoughtfulness. [254-272]
Be a cause of joy to each other. You are precious to Him. He loves you, me, her. He has that delicate love for you. Jesus loves me because I love you. Where is our home? Right in our community. How does love begin? By prayer, prayer gives a clean heart. Remember three things that Mother is telling you: total surrender to God, loving trust with each other, joy with all. Then we will be really holy like Jesus. Be holy like Jesus, be only all for Jesus through Mary.
Total surrender consists in giving ourselves completely to God—Why must we give ourselves fully to God? Because God has given Himself to us. If God, who owes nothing to us, is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves? To give ourselves fully to God is a means of receiving God Himself. I for God and God for me. I live for God and give up my own self, and in this way induce God to live for me. Therefore to possess God we must allow Him to possess our soul. How poor we would be if God had not given us the power of giving ourselves to Him. How rich we are now! And how easy it is to conquer God! We give ourselves to God; then God is ours and there can be nothing more ours than God—The money with which God repays our surrender is Himself. We become worthy of possessing Him when we abandon ourselves completely to Him.
To surrender means to offer Him my free will and my reason, i.e., my own light to be guided by God’s word, in pure faith. My soul may be in darkness, but I know that darkness, trial, and suffering are the surest test of my blind surrender.
Surrender is also 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 in us by penance and continual mortification. We must be living holocausts, for the souls need us as such. There is no limit to the love that prompts us to give. To give ourselves to God is to be His victim—the victim of His unwanted love—i.e., of the love of God which has not been accepted by men. The Spirit of Our Society is one of complete surrender. We cannot be pleased with the common. What is good for others is not sufficient for us. We have to satiate the thirst of an Infinite God, dying of love. Only total Surrender can satisfy the burning desire of a true Missionary of Charity.
CHRIST SURRENDERED TO HIS FATHER
Christ was entirely at the disposal of His Father for the ransom of many. Though He was God, He did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped; but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And Our Lady—“Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.”21 Mary was completely empty of self, so God filled her with grace so that she was full of God. She allowed Him to use her according to His wish with full trust and joy, belonging to Him without reserve. And our total surrender: in giving ourselves completely to God because God has given Himself to us, we are entirely at His disposal to be possessed by Him so that we may possess Him, to take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile, to be used by Him as it pleases Him, to offer Him our free will and our reason, our own life in pure faith so that He may think His thoughts in our mind, do His work through our hands and love with our hearts. Our total surrender consists also in being totally available to God and His Church through our availability to our superiors, our sisters and the people we serve.
SURRENDER LIKE JESUS
“Total Surrender”—this is the spirit of Christ in the Gospels from the beginning to the end: “I have come to do Thy will.”22 “My Father and I are one.”23 “My Father, not mine, but Your will be done.”24 “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me.”25 “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”26 This is how Christ lived and this is how we MCs live. There is no other question “Why?” or no addition to it. This is also how our Lady lived. This is why she became the Mother of Sorrows because she had to say “Yes” continually, “with full trust and joy, belonging to Him without reserve.”
We must be able to give ourselves so completely to God that He must be able to possess us. We must “Give whatever He takes and take whatever He gives,” not what she—the superior or the sister gives, but what He gives through her. If you understand this, you will have no difficulty in community life.
THIS WILL CHANGE YOU
“Our total surrender to God means to be entirely at the disposal of the Father as Jesus and Mary were.” The Constitution doesn’t ask anything extraordinary. Just be like Mary and Jesus. “In giving ourselves completely to God, because God has given himself to us, we are entirely at his disposal.” No explanation. We know how we have given ourselves and how God is in our lives. What is our surrender to God? Don’t say, “I don’t know.” You are telling a lie. “Because God has given Himself to us, we are at His disposal.”
When the changes come: “That climate doesn’t suit me.” How can it be like that? All right, go there and die. Die. There was war in Jordan. A Sister phoned from Amman in the time of shooting. It came straight from my mouth, “Sister, let me know when you die.” I did not prepare that. They did not phone again. If you have to die, die. Wonderful, Sisters. And another thing, I sent a sister to a difficult place. Sister was not happy to go there. When she arrived she wrote, “When I arrived, my husband was waiting for me.” She found Jesus waiting for her. She found peace, joy, because she said “Yes.” You must get into that habit. That is the spirit of the Missionaries of Charity. Go, go. Come, come. I have changed a sister from one place. When she was in Motherhouse again, I had to change her. The cold in Darjeelinghad frozen her nose. It became completely black. After I had to change her again. I forgot about her nose. She didn’t say anything. That time I was taking the sisters to the station. At the station on the train I remembered about her nose, and I said, “Sister, please come down, bring all your things.” She was happy. … Are we ready to be like that?
There was a Jesuit, I know him very well. In thirty-nine years he had been changed thirty-seven times. And this morning the provincial came again and said, “I would like you to go to that place.” And what did this father say? He did not say, “This is my thirty-eighth time.” He said, “What train do you want me to catch?” I wonder what would have happened to you and to me? No crying, no inviting this one and that one [to say goodbye]. Was it a real sacrifice? Obedience is a real sacrifice if I want to belong to Jesus.
Another Jesuit told me a worse story. He got a change. He got into a train. He was on the train going very happily to the place. And then after one day the train came into that station and there was a telegram for him, “Change train, go to another place.” “How did you feel?” “All right, he has a right to do this. That telegram is the will of God for me.” He did not question. Our obedience is that total surrender…. If I have understood that I belong to Jesus, He has a right to use me. Total surrender and obedience are the same thing. I don’t have to explain to you obedience if you understand total surrender today.
One cardinal asked me to write something for him. I wrote in my big letters especially big I have for cardinals, so big! I wrote, “Let Jesus use you without consulting you.” He said it has brought peace and joy from the time I have sent this to him. And how do we make that total surrender? Constitution 17: “To be possessed by Him so that we may possess Him. To take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.” Learn this by heart. The superior corrects you. Take, accept. Today He gives you that, He takes your health, the work you like, the companion you find it easy to work with, the house, today is so cold. Accept. I’m sending you to a place where it is so hot. Accept. I don’t say that you must be immune, you don’t feel anything. That’s not a right spirit. It is a sacrifice. But I accept. I offer it. This will change you.
ACCEPTING THE WILL OF GOD
I always connect the Passion of Christ with obedience. Just to accept and to accept in such a way without doubting, without grumbling, without complaining, without explanation. It is good … to face ourselves with this one question: have you really experienced the difficulty of obedience and the surrender? …. Maybe there were times in your life when it was difficult to obey. Ask 1) Did you pray? Jesus prayed the longer when it was difficult to accept the will of God. What did you do? 2) Did you grumble? 3) Did you criticize? Examine yourselves so that the devil cannot overcome you. 4) Did you experience the joy of total surrender? God didn’t speak to Jesus directly nor to Mary—it was through an angel, or through Joseph, or through Caesar, but never directly. See the total surrender of Mary. She is the living example of total obedience, not only in a book, but in her heart. 5) How many times have you obeyed with determination? … These are details, but think, Caesar wrote that everyone must come and register his name in his own country. He was proud, he just wanted to know how many people he had. Joseph and Mary didn’t judge him, they didn’t criticize, they just went. They could have said: “It’s already nine months, the baby could be born at any time.” But no. Caesar said, “Go,” so they went. Again, somebody wants to kill the child [and they decided to] run away. They could have just hidden somewhere, but they went.
TO RFACH THAT PERFECT LOVE OF GOD
If we really keep to that total surrender, we are sure to reach that perfect love of God. Let us not waste our time. God knows us best of all. He knows our capacities—His knowledge of each one is complete. Something of His beauty is in each person. We are made to the image of God. His lovableness is in each one, so let us see what there is of God in each person. For this we need pure eyes and a pure heart to be able to see that beauty.
Loving Trust in the Good God, Who Loves Us
One thing Jesus asks of me: that I lean upon Him; that in Him and in Him alone I put complete trust; that I surrender myself to Him unreservedly. I need to give up my own desires in the work of my perfection. Even when all goes wrong, and I feel as if I was a ship without a compass, I must give myself completely to Him. I must not attempt to control God’s action, I must not count the stages in the journey He would have me make. I must not desire a clear perception of my advance upon the road, not know precisely where I am upon the way of holiness. I ask Him to make a Saint of me, yet I must leave to Him the choice of that saintliness itself, and still more the choice of the means which lead to it.[297-303]
1. Cf. Jn 5:36, 8:16
2. Cf. Jn 10:29
3. Cf. Lk 22:67
4. Cf. Lk 1:38
5. Cf. Lk 2:51
6. Cf. Jn 6:38
7. Cf. Gen 2:16-17
8. Cf. Mt 19:16-22; Mk 10:17-22
9. Baccalaureus Theologiae (Bachelor of Theology)
10. The MC’s work among the poor
11. Cf. Jn 6:38
12. Cf. Jn 6:38
13. Cf. Jn 4:34
14. Cf. Lk 1:38
15. Cf. Jn 19:11
16. Cf. Lk 1:38
17. Cf. Lk 22:42
18. Cf. Rom 8:35,38
19. Cf. Lk 1:38
20. Cf. Lk 1:39-45
21. Cf. Lk 1:38
22. Cf. Jn 6:38
23. Cf. Jn 10:30
24. Cf. Mt 26:42; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42
25. Cf. Jn 4:34
26. Cf. Lk 24:36