Piddingworth Greg Benton
|Honour all men.
Honour the King.
|THE PARADOX OF FAITH|
|Mother Teresa suffered with doubt...|
|A new book featuring the private thoughts of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
will be released on 4 September and the preliminary reviews from that
most distinguished forum, 'popular opinion', are feeding off the
revelation that this woman experienced days, even years of darkness
and doubt in her life of faith in God, Christ, and herself.
For anyone who has read a book since 'See Spot Run', or is even
marginally familiar with Christian or religious life in general, the 'news'
that a 'spiritual' person, even a popular 'saintly' person could suffer
the very human experience of doubt about themselves, of God's power
and existence and purpose, of Christ's presence, and the like, is not
surprising at all. Indeed, it could rightly be said that it is virtually impossible
to know the depth of joy that God's grace allows without having also
known the misery of suffering and doubt that so often engulfs the soul.
In a world where popular culture regards animal cartoons as possessing
human qualities and the 'heroes' of life-like mass media are fantasised into
possessing god-like powers, it is not all that surprising that a Christian 'saint'
would fail to meet the test of the polyester latte set whose sophistication is
generally no more than a pretense for their own fears.
Popular culture would like to think of Christian 'saints' as animated
Barbie Dolls that don't burp or wet and who go about 'doing good' in
the name of 'niceness' which is just another name for 'Jesus'. One can
almost imagine one of those old pop-up books with Mother Teresa and
her sisters on a street in Calcutta. It would be so cute! They would
all be smiling and 'happy' as would the people around them receiving
care. Missing, of course, would be the stench, the disease, the utter
misery...the reality of human existence.
Some journalists demonstrating their remarkable, but all-too-common
ignorance are asking: 'How can an atheist be a saint?' and attack
Teresa for being a 'fraud'. They cannot distinguish between 'paradox'
and 'contradiction'; the former being an inherent characteristic of
Christ's teaching as well as of the Christian life whilst the latter is
the literal interpretation of opposing ideas.
Jesus taught: Those who find their life will lose it and those who
lose their life, for my sake, will find it.(Matt 10.39) 'For all who exalt
themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be
exalted. (Lk 14.11) To popular culture, caught up in the superficiality
of ideas, these statements just don't make any sense...hence, 'you
can't win for losing'...including someone like Mother Teresa, whose
life of humility, literally and figuratively, and self-deprecation, brought
her both abundance of satisfaction and exaltation but accompanying
fears, doubts, pain and grief. When she expresses these fears and
doubts about God she communicates them to God; an apparent
contradiction that is the paradox of faith itself. 'Lord, I believe.
Help my unbelief.' cried the father of a sick boy as he sought
out the healing power that Jesus of Nazareth possessed. (Mk 9.24)
The man surrenders the very reason that is competing against
his desire to have his son healed. It just doesn't make any sense
at all to the 'reasonable' human mind, yet he offers his unbelief in
faith as an act of faith itself.
One might liken the jackals of journalism to those who stood staring
at Christ being crucified (itself a paradox) and mocking him.
'He saved others, why doesn't he save himself?!'
Of course, they didn't really believe that Jesus 'saved' anybody but
that he was a fraud and snake-oil salesman. What they wanted was
for him to prove to their 'reasonable' minds that he possessed the power
of God by coming down from the cross. Similarly, Mother Teresa must
come down from the cross she bore in order to be regarded as an acceptable
and popular 'saint' in the name of a God in whom they neither believe nor
of whom they have any understanding.
Mother Teresa, like thousands of saints before her, discovered the often
painful truth that, in the course of serving God, and as one seeks to come
closer and closer to him, there can be and usually is a commensurate
experience of darkness that is often so overwhelming that one loses
the sight of the Light of the World. Where God is; where love is; evil
is not far behind. Indeed it lurks about and hovers over and through
the myriad lives of human beings who, just as they seem to be exalted
in joy and ecstasy, can come crashing down.
Teresa did not abandon her God, her faith, her sisters, her work, her
people as the jackals would charge. She was neither an atheist nor
a fraud. Indeed, the intensity and sheer openness with which she
demonstrates her fear, is itself evidence of a profound personal faith
that is quite beyond understanding and lives, as it should, in the mystery
of the communion between the soul and God.
Atheists and their ilk, now quite popular as they climb the best-seller lists
can offer no insight into something and someone about whom they
have neither understanding nor genuine interest. It is perhaps a paradox
itself that in accusing Mother Teresa of being an atheist that, if she
was, would then make her a member of the fraternity of atheists...one
The writings of a Christian's spiritual journey ought only to be of interest
to those who share the journey and in the context of the mystical realities,
the paradoxical realities, that are the essence of the call to union with
God. Mother Teresa did not want her papers to be kept as they might,
after her death, take the focus away from God and the sacred mission.
They were not destroyed as they were thought to be necessary toward
the cause by those who would have her declared a 'Saint' by the Church.
Whatever the end result, the response thus far by her detractors and
their disciples, attest very well to the authenticity of the woman, a
nun, a human being who by most spiritual, scriptural, theological
and canonical accounts is indeed a Saint.
31 August 2007