Mother Teresa

6 May

I decided today, in preparation for my trip to India and out of a desire to learn more about the rich heritage of the missionaries that walked the path before me, to do a little research on Mother Teresa. Start with the famous ones, right? I was looking to find something encouraging about how even though we believe we are so insignificant, our impact to those in need can be so profound. And certainly, I found truckloads of inspirational quotes on beautiful ideals like sacrificial love, patience, a humble heart, and a willingness to suffer for the sake of His Kingdom, but God loves to speak to me in the obscure. The things I start off searching for tend to fall by the wayside as God highlights the things only He knows I need to hear. And today was no exception.

What really struck me about Mother Teresa was that she was criticized! How in the world do you work up the nerve to criticize a woman who has sacrificed everything to spend all the days of her life loving “unloveable” people and serving the true and living God? I couldn’t fathom tossing a metaphorical stone at her. Honestly, if I had been lucky enough to meet her while she was still living, I probably would be at a loss for words to say to her. I would most likely sit wide-eyed and open-mouthed in complete awe and silence listening to her stories of love and healing and sacrifice.

We usually imagine criticism being reserved for the common sinner, for the below-average failure, for the corrupt, for the proud at heart, but Mother Teresa, a saint, was slandered throughout her ministry. She was told repeatedly that she was “not a significant part of the history of Calcutta” and that she “was making no difference whatsoever” in the fight to end poverty. She was constantly being questioned about whether or not her free leprosy clinics were meeting high enough medical standards and told that the living conditions in her hospices were sub-standard. She was harshly criticized for her firm stance against abortion and divorce. She was slandered in international publications. Her character came under attack when critics made accusations of financial corruption against her and her organization, Missionaries of Charity. One of her harshest critics, an American journalist named Christopher Hitchens, even commissioned a slanderous documentary about her entitled “Hell’s Angel”. To all this, Mother Teresa responded, “No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work.” She was unshakeable, yet humble. Strong, yet meek.

When many would have lashed out in frustration or shed a tear in self-pity, Mother Teresa smiled, and continued doing the Lord’s work. The temptation to respond to the arrows of our enemies with indignation is often overwhelming, a sin I struggle with regularly, but we are called to be humble, teachable, even childlike.

So what do we do when people throw stones? Rudolph Stier would argue that “This must be your retaliation – love and truth for hatred and lies.” And I would agree, though when I am criticized everything within me screams “You don’t understand me! Can’t you see my heart? My intentions are pure! I am doing my best!” We must, however, bring our critiques before the Lord. Indeed, His opinion is the only one that truly matters, anyway. Ask Him if there is truth, albeit a tiny shred, in the words of your mud-slinger. And take it willingly if there is.

We learn from our friends,
But heaven knows,
The lasting lessons
come from our foes.

– Pat D’Amico

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