Here are a few words from the recent Time article on Mother Teresa:
On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the “Saint of the Gutters,” went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her. “It is not enough for us to say, ‘I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'” she said, since in dying on the Cross, God had “[made] himself the hungry one — the naked one — the homeless one.” Jesus’ hunger, she said, is what “you and I must find” and alleviate. She condemned abortion and bemoaned youthful drug addiction in the West. Finally, she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world “that radiating joy is real” because Christ is everywhere — “Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive.” Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. “Jesus has a very special love for you,” she assured Van der Peet. “[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand.”
There are a couple of things interesting about this communication. One, it demonstrates that we all continue to be human in our relationship with God – and that means there is always an incompleteness, a longing not yet fulfilled, a struggle not yet over, a frustration not yet erased. I keep wondering when the church will get past trying to cover up this truth in all of its campaigns to finally get on top of it all and get all that is coming to us. All the dental work in the world displayed on the front cover of the latest Christian best seller (thank you, Rick Warren, for not putting your picture on the front cover of The Purpose Driven Life and for having a bit of a weight issue – if you ever “get thin for Jesus” I am going to give up) is not going to cover up the real truth – the righteous are scarcely saved.
The second thing I note is that this correspondence had to be covered up for a long time. It might get in the way of necessary impressions we should have or that others think we should have. The soul eats truth. When truth is hidden, we starve. Somehow I am strangely comforted and challenged to move ahead by the story of Mother Teresa’s struggle. There might be a place for me at the table.