I want to begin by reading for you a few lines from a very famous person and see if you can guess who it is. It is not the kind of thing you would expect to hear from them.
'Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—...God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—‘My God’ and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.'—p1.
(—Mother Teresa: Come be my Light, (edit.) Brian Kolodiejchuk, London: Rider Books, 2007).
This is not the kind of thing you expect to hear from Mother Teresa, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, the woman who radiated God wherever she went. People flocked to see and hear her because they felt such a wonderful sense of God’s presence when they were with her. This is what she was experiencing internally for most of her life as a nun.
In 1982 the graduation class of Harvard University managed to get her to address them. An unusually large crowd was there to hear her, as you would expect. She spoke about the terrible spiritual poverty of the Western world. People are hungry for Jesus. She recalls one experience she had in Mexico.
I never forget when we went to Mexico, and we went visiting very poor families. And those people we saw had scarcely anything in their homes, and yet nobody asked for anything. They all asked us: Teach us the word of God. Give us the word of God. “They were hungry for the word of God. Here, too, in the whole world there is a terrible hunger for God, among the young especially. And it is there that we must find Jesus and satisfy that hunger.
Mother Teresa was and is a constant reminder to us not just of the need to look after the poor, but of the deepest hunger that all of us have to find God, to understand what our life is about. We can only make sense of that through faith. Apart from God our life is meaningless.
She also addressed something which people don’t like to hear: that is, the terrible sin of abortion, where our world has come to justify the taking of a human life because it is inconvenient for us. Here is what she said:
‘It is something unbelievable that today a mother, herself, murders her own child, afraid of having to feed one more child, afraid to educate one more child. This is one of the greatest poverties. A nation, people, family that allows that, that accepts that, they are the poorest of the poor.
Virginity is ‘the most beautiful thing a young man and a young woman can give each other. Make a resolution, that on your wedding day you can give each other something beautiful.’ ‘But, she said, ‘if a mistake has been made, have the courage to accept the child. Do not destroy it. That sin is a murder.’
This month we are praying especially for the protection of life, from conception to natural death. For us, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that apart from faith, it is very easy to justify getting rid of what is an inconvenience for us. So we call it a fetus instead of a human being. We can call it terminating a pregnancy instead of killing a child. This is where our faith calls us to continue to take a stand, because we understand that as soon as a child is conceived, not only is there the beginning of a human being, but also a soul that will live forever. That is also why we talk about pro-creation, creating with God.
The other side of this is that we also do everything to support young women who find themselves pregnant and that we support the many women and men, who have been hurt by abortion. In confession we hear this more and more and people are often afraid that God will not forgive them. Of course God will forgive us the mistakes we make if we repent and ask for forgiveness. That is what the whole death and resurrection of Christ is about; forgiving us because of the mistakes we continue to make and there is no sin too great. So let us take great courage in knowing that the Lord is with us, even when we go wrong. I think it will only be when we die ourselves that we will realize what an extraordinary gift each life is.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.