By Mary DeTurris Poust
Today's announcement that President Barack Obama had been chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize created quite a buzz on both sides of the proverbial aisle. Questions about what it means to win this award and what is required to secure the honor erupted on FaceBook and Twitter and across breakfast tables and office cubicles. Even the president himself seemed surprised by the announcement.
"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize, men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace," he said in remarks today.
Of the "transformative figures" who have received the award in the past, Blessed Mother Teresa was perhaps one of the most inspiring choices. The selection of the holy woman of Calcutta was controversial in its own right but for wholly different reasons than today's announcement. When Mother Teresa went on to accept the award in Oslo -- forgoing the traditional banquet and asking that her award money be given to the poor of India -- she lived up to the controversy, offering an address that was stunning in its boldness.
"The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing - direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child - I will not forget you - I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible - but even if she could forget - I will not forget you. And today the greatest means - the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. And we who are standing here - our parents wanted us. We would not be here if our parents would do that to us. Our children, we want them, we love them, but what of the millions. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child - what is left for me to kill you and you kill me - there is nothing between," she said.
Her message of total and unconditional love of neighbor, for a peace that must begin in the home and move ever outward, was Gospel preaching at its best. There, before all the world, the tiny but powerful Missionary of Charity proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ as the modern world had never seen or heard it before.
"And we read that in the Gospel very clearly - love as I have loved you - as I love you - as the Father has loved me, I love you - and the harder the Father loved him, he gave him to us, and how much we love one another, we, too, must give each other until it hurts. It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbor. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. And so this is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one - the naked one - the homeless one - the sick one - the one in prison - the lonely one - the unwanted one - and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home."
I had the honor and privilege of meeting Mother Teresa once, ever so briefly, at St. Patrick's Cathedral years ago when I was a reporter for Catholic New York. I visited her mission in the South Bronx, too, witnessing for an afternoon the life-saving ministries her sisters provide. Her life's work was one continuous mission of peace. On a day like today, it's good to remember that, with or without international recognition, there are courageous and faith-filled people who are doing the real work of peace on behalf of the rest of us.
To read Mother Teresa's full address, click HERE.