Joseph Langford’s Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire poses the question, “What made Mother Teresa Mother Teresa?” How did one little Albanian nun do all that Mother Teresa did and why and how? This book is not just nice quotes or sentimental platitudes or exhortations to help the poor. There is nothing wrong with those, but this book is much more.
On September 10, 1946, on a train ride to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa experienced what she called her “Inspiration Day.” And it was a day of much more than just good ideas. She had a revelation that day and it would continue to change her for the rest of her life.
I did not know it, though I have visited two different Missionaries of Charities locations, but, in Missionaries of Charities Chapels, there is always a crucifix and written on the wall the words, “I Thirst.”
After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. John 19:28-30
Mother Teresa, on that September day, experienced in a way I have yet to completely understand, what Jesus meant when he said, “I thirst.” But the man-God who did not complain of all the brutality, insults and wounds he had received up until then, says that he thirsts. But while his loss of blood may have made him thirst for water, he isn’t now complaining but rather proclaiming his thirst for souls, for the love of his people.
There they found in the Lamb slain such a fire of love for our salvation, seemingly insatiable. He even cries aloud that he is thirsty, as if to say: “I have more zeal, thirst, desire for your salvation than I can show you with this finite suffering.” There we find the Lamb slain and opened up for us with such hungry desire for the Father’s honor and our salvation that it seems he cannot effectively show by his bodily suffering alone all that he longs to give.” ~ St. Catherine of Siena
Mother Teresa understood this thirst in ways that few people have begun to comprehend it. And she began to bring this light of the love of Christ to the world first through her care of the poor. She is known globally for her humanitarian efforts at caring and comforting the poor, the hungry, the abandoned and the dying. But she did much more than just feed them or tend their wounds. She shared the love of Christ with them and, in doing so, brought them to Christ and Christ to them, helping satiate his thirst.
When she began houses of Missionaries of Charity in the West, she discovered a different, more hidden poverty – that of the soul. She found a poverty hidden by material comfort and wealth but a poverty nonetheless of love.
Her mission – her life – was so much more than giving soup to the hungry or bandaging the dying. She carried within her the fire of the thirst of God and gave with every moment of her life to quench that thirst through the sharing of God’s love.
Langford’s book certainly has much more to offer than what I’ve typed here and I highly recommend everyone read it. He looks at Mother Teresa’s life and motivation and inspiration that drove her to do what she did. He considers just how Mother Teresa kept the flame alive in herself and what her prayer life was like to do all that she did. And then he looks closely at what her life, her message, her inspiration can mean for all of us.
Jesus himself must be the one to say to you, “I thirst.” Hear your own name. Not just once. Every day. If you listen with your heart, you will hear, you will understand. Remember this: “I thirst” is something much deeper than just Jesus saying, “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you, you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him. ~ Mother Teresa