Mother Teresa | 13. Suffering
I like to repeat this time and time again:
the poor are wonderful.
The poor are very kind.
The have great dignity.
The poor give us more than what we give them.
In many countries besides Calcutta, we have homes for the terminally ill and destitute:
One day I found an old lady on the streets of Calcutta who gave me the impression that she was dying of hunger. I offered her a dish of rice. She kept looking at it as if she were in a trance.
I tried to encourage her to eat it, but she simply answered, "I can't...I can't believe it is rice. I have not had anything to eat in a very long time."
She did not curse anyone. She did not complain about the rich. She did not utter a word of reproach. She simply could not believe that it was rice. And she could no longer eat!
There is someone who suffers in every family and in every human situation.
We cannot allow God's creatures to end their days in a creek, like animals.
I once picked up a small girl who was wandering the streets, lost. Hunger was written all over her face. Who knows how long it had been since she had eaten anything!
I offered her a piece of bread. The little one started eating it, crumb by crumb.
I told her, "Eat, eat the bread! Aren't you hungry?”
She looked at me and said, "I am just afraid that when I run out of bread, I'll still be hungry."
It is very possible that you will find human beings, surely very near you, needing affection and love. Do not deny them these. Show them, above all, that you sincerely recognize that you are human beings, that they are important to you.
Who is that someone?
That person is Jesus himself: Jesus who is hidden under the guise of suffering!
Sometime ago, while I was in New York, one of our AIDS patients called me. When I got to his bedside, he said:
That is truly proof of the greatness of love:
the one of a young man who suffers from the scourge of AIDS! I assure you, he had no hope for a cure and he was aware that he did not have long to live.
However, he had extraordinary courage:
He found it in his love for Jesus, sharing his passion. There was no sadness or anguish in his face. Instead, you could see a great peace and a deep joy in him.
Suffering will never be completely absent from our lives. If we accept it with faith, we are given and show him our love.
One day I went to visit a lady who had terminal cancer. Her pain was tremendous. I told her, "This is nothing but Jesus' kiss, a sign that you are so close to him on the cross that he can kiss you."
She joined her hands and said, "Mother, ask Jesus not to stop kissing me."
Jesus continues to fall, poor and hungry, just like he fell on the way to Calvary. Are we at his side to volunteer to help him? Do we walk next to him with our sacrifice, with our piece of bread - real bread - to help him get over his weakness?
Often we ask Christ to allow us to share in his sufferings. But when someone is indifferent to us, we forget that then is precisely the moment to share Christ's attitude.
When the Congregation was first established, I suffered from a very high fever:
One day when I was delirious, I saw myself facing Peter at heaven's door. He tried to keep me from going in, saying, "I'm sorry. We have no shacks in heaven."
I got angry and told him, "Very well! I will fill heaven with the people from the slums of the city, and then you will have no other choice than to let me in."
Poor Peter! Since then, the Sisters and Brothers give him no rest:
And he has no other choice than to do his duty as gatekeeper in heaven because our poor have already reserved their place in heaven with great anticipation because of all their sufferings.
At the end, they only have to get their ticket to show it to Peter. The thousands and thousands of people who have died with us have done so with the joy of getting a ticket to show to Peter.
Some remind me of what a magazine once said about me; it described me as a "living saint." If someone sees God in me, I am happy. I see God in everyone, and especially in those who suffer.
I tell the Sisters to never put on a long face when approaching the poor:
I once saw a Sister who was dragging her feet down the corridors, wearing a sad expression on her face. I called her to my office and asked her: "What has Jesus told us: to go in front of him or to follow him?"
The cross is never found in a beautiful room, but in Calvary:
Those who want to belong to Jesus have to feel happy to walk with him. No matter how painful it is, we have to share his passion.