UpFront with Mary Hendricks, 10/2/2016

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

October 2, 2016

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4

Was there ever a time in your life when you felt like God hated you? That every fervent prayer you made was ignored? That nothing was going right, that you were on an unstoppable downward trajectory, hopeless, depressed, unloved, and unlovable?

I’ve been there.

And, if the people who stop to talk at my office are any indication, others have been there, too.
It’s called the “dark night of the soul.”

Just a month ago, Mother Teresa was canonized. You know about the work she did with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, caring for the suffering and dying, for orphans, teaching children. You saw a living saint, one who cradled lepers in her arms, treating each one as if he was Jesus himself. It was inspiring to watch her speak all over the world, encouraging people: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” I especially like this one: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

You’d think that Mother Teresa was blissfully joyful in her service to God, the goal she set as a young woman and never stopped working for.

She was not.

Nicole Winfield of the “Washington Post” writes: “For nearly 50 years, Mother Teresa endured what the church calls a “dark night of the soul” — a period of spiritual doubt, despair and loneliness that many of the great mystics experienced, her namesake St. Therese of Lisieux included. In Mother Teresa’s case, the dark night lasted most of her adult life — an almost unheard of trial. No one but Mother Teresa’s spiritual directors and bishop knew of her spiritual agony until her correspondence came to light during her beatification cause. The letters were then made available to the general public in a 2007 book, ‘Come Be My Light.’”

Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who published the letters, said, “Mother Teresa not only shared the material poverty of the poor but the spiritual poverty of those who feel unloved, unwanted, uncared for. That was her experience in her relationship with Jesus. She understood very well when people would share their horror stories, their pain and suffering of being unloved, lonely. She would be able to share that empathy because she herself was experiencing it.”

Even though she felt this despair, she kept serving God, the God she thought had abandoned her. That, dear reader, is faith.

Habakkuk writes about this despair in today’s first reading. “How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen.” He sees violence with no intervention, destruction and misery with no resolution. He wants to know where God is at his time of strife.

And God answers: “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it. It will surely come, it will not be late.”

This says to me that God is always faithful and that his time is not our time. His timing is perfect, even though we think he’s deaf to our prayers. He was listening to Mother Teresa, who persevered in faith for 50 dark years. He’s listening to us.

“Wait for it. It will surely come.”

Have faith. You only need a mustard seed’s worth.

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