Finding God In



A Hunger for God
by Mother Teresa

from Finding God at Harvard

For God, it is not how much we give but how much love we put
in the giving. That love begins at home, right here. Holiness is
not the luxury of the few; it is a simple duty for you and me.

The following talk is adapted from the address of Mother Teresa at the 1982 Class Day exercises at Harvard College. A founder of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her service to the poorest of the poor. The sisters work in dozens of cities throughout the world.

An Albanian nun, she became now a citizen of India. “How can I know what God is calling me to do and to be?” she asked in the biography Mother Teresa of Calcutta.1 “Profound joy of the heart is like a magnet that indicates the path of life. One has to follow it, even though one enters into a way full of difficulties,” she answers.

Some time ago Mother Teresa was visited by a group of American professors. “They said to me, ‘Tell us something that will help us to become holy.’ And I said to them, ‘Smile at one another — because we can forget to take time to even to look at each other.’

She recalled that in 1948, twenty years after she came to India, “God wanted me to be poor with the poor. They are our very lovable people who help us to learn love. I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money.” She continued, “When I see how the poor remain neglected and unrecognized all around us, I understand the sadness of Christ at not being accepted by his own.” 1Ed. Gonzalez-Balado and Playfoot (New York: Ballantine, 1985).

A Hunger for God
by Mother Teresa

How wonderful it is! We all long, we all want, even the unbeliever, to love God in some way or another. But where is God? How do we love God, whom we have not seen? To make it easy for us, to help us to love, he makes himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one. You will, I’m sure, ask me: “Where is the hunger in our country?“ Yes, there is hunger. Maybe not the hunger for a piece of bread, but there is a terrible hunger for love. There is a terrible hunger for the Word of God.

I will never forget when we went to Mexico and visited very poor families. They had scarcely anything in their homes, and yet nobody asked for anything. They only asked us: “Teach us the Word of God? Give us the Word of God.” Here too, in the whole world, there is a terrible hunger for God, especially among the young. We must find Jesus and satisfy that hunger. Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth. Nakedness is the loss of human dignity, the loss of respect, the loss of that purity which was so beautiful, the loss of that virginity which is the most beautiful thing that a young man and young woman can give each other because of their love. The loss of that presence, of what is beautiful, of what is great—that is nakedness. And homelessness is not only the lack of a home made of bricks but the feeling of being rejected, being unwanted, having no one to call your own. I will never forget one day I was walking the streets of London and I saw a man sitting there looking so sad, so lonely. So I went right up to him. I took his hand and I shook it. He looked up at me and said, “Oooh, after such a long time I feel the warmth of a human hand.” That little action was so small, and yet it brought a radiating smile on a face which had forgotten to smile, a man who had forgotten the warmth of a human hand. This is what we have to find in this country and in all other countries around the world.

And where do we begin? At home. And how do we begin to love? By prayer. Prayer always gives us a clean heart, and a clean heart can see God. And if we see God in each other, we will naturally love one another. We must help each other to pray.

And where do our sisters get the strength to take care of lepers and the people dying in the streets of Calcutta, New York, London, and around the world? From their union with Christ, the Bread of Life, who feeds us and gives us life. Make time to be alone with Jesus, and you will find the strength, joy, and love that your heart hungers for.

Love, to be true, must hurt. Some time back in Calcutta, we had difficulty getting sugar, and a little four-year-old boy heard, “Mother Teresa has no sugar.” He went home and told his parents, “I will not eat sugar for three days. I will give my sugar to Mother Teresa.” After three days the parents brought this little one to our house. They had never been to see me before, and they had never given anything. But this little one, with a little bottle of sugar in his hand, brought his family to our house. That little one loved with great love. Not because he gave so much. For God, it is not how much we give but how much love we put in the giving. That love begins at home, right here.

Just a few days before I left Calcutta, a young man and a young woman came to our house with a big amount of money. I asked them, “Where did you get this money?” because I knew that they gave their money to feed the poor. (In Calcutta we feed about seven thousand people each day.) They gave me the most strange answer: “Before our wedding we decided not to buy wedding clothes, not to have a wedding feast, but to give you the money to feed the poor.” Then I asked them one more question: “But why, why did you do that?” That is a scandal in India, not to have a wedding feast and special clothes. And they gave me this most beautiful answer: “Out of love for each other, we wanted to give each other something special, and that special something was that big sacrifice, the wonderful something.”

How beautiful to love each other with a pure heart. On your wedding day, resolve to give each other something beautiful. The most beautiful thing is to give a virgin heart, a virgin body, a virgin soul. That’s the greatest gift that the young man can give the young woman, and the young woman can give the young man. The joy of loving gives us joy in sacrifice. And if a mistake has been made, it has been made. There is healing in God’s love which renews us. One must have the courage to accept and love one’s child and not to destroy the most beautiful creation of God that is life. Let us pray for each other that we may love God as he loves us. It is our turn to give that lifelong, faithful tenderness and personal friendship to him in each other.

So let us thank God. I have no gold and silver to give to the American people, but I give my sisters. I hope that together with them, you will go in haste, like Mary, to find the poor. And if you find them, if you come to know them, you will love them; and if you love them, you will do something for them.

You may have the poor right in your own family. We get many young people who come to our place in Calcutta to share the joy of loving, and it’s beautiful to see how devotedly they serve the poorest of the poor, with so much love, with so much care. But many families need to see in their own family the suffering, the pain, and the loneliness. I will never forget when I went to thank a family in Venezuela for a plot of land they had given us to build a children’s home. When I went to see the family, I saw one of their children—I’ve never seen anyone so disabled, so completely handicapped— and he had the most beautiful, black, shining eyes, radiating full of joy. I asked the mother: “What is the name of your child?” And the mother answered: “We call him Professor of Love, because he keeps teaching us how to love.” Such a wonderful spirit of joy in that family, because they had someone who taught them how to love.

So let us thank God for the beautiful things God has given to your children, and with your help, with your prayers, they have been able to stand on their feet, and you are sending them, like Jesus sent his apostles: “Go and preach the good news.” Today let us pray that they will go out and preach the good news, not just by words but by their example, by the love they give to each other, especially to the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for. You have many poor people here. Find them, love them, put your love for them in living action; for in loving them, you are loving God himself.

As the new graduates go out, I thought that the prayer of Cardinal Newman is most fitting for them, so that in going into the world, they go with Jesus, they work for Jesus, and they serve him in the distressing guise of the poor:

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that all our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we meet may feel your presence in us.

Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus. Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as you shine. To shine so as to be a light to others. The light will be all from you, dear Jesus. None of it will be ours; it will be you shining on others. Let us thus praise you in the way you love best, by shining on those around us. Let us preach you without preaching; not by words, but by our example. By the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear for you.

This is exactly what the parents have worked for, that their sons and daughters will become the carriers of God’s love. Today God loves the world through each of us, for we know in the Scripture it is written that God loved the world so much that he gave his Son, Jesus (John 3:16), who became like us in all things except sin. And he came to give us good news. He came to the poor, you and me, the poor, to give that good news that God loves us, that we are somebody special to him, that he has created us for greater things: to love and be loved. And we read in Isaiah where God speaks: “I have called you by your name. You are mine. You are precious in my sight. You are honored and I love you.” And to prove that, he says: “Even, even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have curled you in the palm of my hand.”

It is good to remember this, especially in these days when there is so much fear, so much pain, so much suffering, so much distress. It is good to remember that he will not forget you, that he loves you, loves me, and that Jesus has come to give us that good news. When we look at the cross, we will understand how he loved us by his actions. And he wants us to love one another as he has loved each one of us. And when he came into the light of Mary, she accepted him as the handmaid of the Lord, and she did not speak, but what did she do? Immediately in haste, she went to her cousin’s home, to do what? Just to serve. To do the small works of a handmaid. And something very strange happened: the unborn child in the womb of Elizabeth, six months old, leaped with joy. That child recognized the presence of Christ. He was the first human being to welcome Jesus, to rejoice that God’s son has come.

And today it is unbelievable that we are afraid of having to feed one more child, afraid to educate one more child. A nation, people, or family that allows the death of a child, they are the poorest of the poor, because they are afraid—even of their own child.

You and I have been taught to love, to love one another, to be kind to each other, not with words but in real life. To prove that love in action as Christ has proved it. That’s why we read in the gospel that Jesus made himself the Bread of Life, to satisfy our hunger for love. For he says, “whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.”

My prayer for you is that you may grow in love for each other. That you grow in the likeness of Christ, in the holiness of Christ. Holiness is not the luxury of the few; it is a simple duty for you and me. And where does it begin? Right at home. God bless you.