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Tadao Ogura, M.D.
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I-4 "Your leprosy is a gift from God" (Mother Teresa)
This is from Mother Teresa’s book, “Words to Love By.” Most people may be taken aback by this statement of hers as they see her as a sweet, gentle, and loving person. They may wonder, “How could she say such a cruel thing to the poor lepers?” Then, you should read this book and find out the true spirit of this saying. There, you will find why and how she spoke these words. You can obtain this book from “barnesandnoble.com” or “amazon.com.” For those of you who may not have access to this book, I present here my own interpretation of her statement.
When Mother Teresa said to lepers in India, “The leprosy is a gift from God,” she also went on to say, “God trusts them (lepers) so much that He gives them this terrible suffering.” In the other part of this book, she also says, “Suffering is a gift of God, a gift that makes us most Christ-like. People must not accept suffering as a punishment.”
Mother Teresa clearly saw the true meaning and blessing of pain and suffering in life. Without any pain and suffering, there can be no gain or a break-through. For Mother Teresa, pain and suffering are the spiritual path to become “most Christ-like.” As you may see now, this principle applies to anything we try in life.
Therefore, “you must not accept suffering as a punishment” but rather “take it as a gift from God.”
This remark of Mother Teresa has another implication. She is also challenging prevailing dichotomous perceptions, such as good-bad, right-wrong, and black-white. When our faith becomes deeper and stronger, we may also come to see that everything is from God. As long as we are stuck with common, dichotomous perceptions, we can never see things the way Mother Teresa did.
Many truly enlightened people, both in the East and in the West, have also pointed to this simple truth. A western poet, Robert Browning, said, “All is right under his Heaven.” Let us struggle to transcend our dichotomous perceptions. The more people transcend their dichotomous perceptions, the fewer fights and conflicts over most of the “issues” in human society.