This Sunday (Sept 4), Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu will be officially recognized as a saint in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church and the general public. For the benefit of those who are too lazy to do some quick googling, Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu is the birth name of Mother Teresa.
We all know Mother Teresa as that angelic Albanian nun who dedicated her entire life to the poor and destitute in Calcutta. Although she is widely lauded for her social work, Mother Teresa hasn’t been immune from her share of criticisms; financial secrecy, her stance on abortion and contraceptives, her connections with the Duveliars in Haiti, her unabashed support for the Indira Gandhi administration during The Emergency of 1975, the sub-par conditions of her treatment centers and allegations of forcible conversions have all contributed to the controversy surrounding her legacy.
I’m not going to dive into any of the issues mentioned in the last paragraph. I’ll reserve that for journalists and ‘media pundits’. I actually want to discuss Mother Teresa’s take on suffering.
According to Mother Teresa, “Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow and suffering are but the kiss of Jesus-a sign that you have come so close to him, he can kiss you”
The Problem of Suffering is the oldest connundrum in religion. Assuming a benevolent God exists, why do we suffer?
Mother Teresa’s quote is a common rhetoric espoused by religious people to explain away the problem of suffering. They circumvent the paradox by concluding that suffering is an expression of God’s love.
Seriously, the whole “suffering is a gift from God” saying sounds like nothing more than a spiritualist blend of hot air. It’s an attempt to romanticize suffering (as bizarre as that sounds).
Of course, we would have to ignore the fact that the whole point of modern medicine is to alleviate suffering. I have never met a person who has prayed for cancer. However, if you take a stroll through the oncology department at any hospital, you’ll see cancer patients begging God for a miraculous cure!
Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is not a celestial blessing. No one praises God for being mercilessly beaten by their spouse. Nor are they filled with grace while being anally-raped.
Suffering, unfortunately, is an unavoidable fact of life. Some people suffer for than others. As we acquire more knowledge, we, as a species, can invest our time in alleviating pain. However, we can only go so far.
Nevertheless, we shouldn’t delude ourselves in putting a positive spin on suffering. We shouldn’t sugarcoat our pain and agony. While one can certainly overcoming the burdens and tribulations inflicting his/her own life, to perceive them as ‘divine kisses’ is severely delusional