Friday, November 14, 2008

Response versus reaction

This was one of the talks during our General Teaching nights. It was about having joy in our hearts at all times and knowing when to feel sorrow too.

Feelings are neither good nor bad. We hear that all the time. It's what you do after having a feeling that makes it good or bad.

That's when response and reaction comes in. When we touch a hot stove, we immediately pull our hands away. That's a reaction. When we pull our hand and decide to stop touching the hot stove, that's a response. See the difference? The latter is a conscious choice.

The same is true for joy and sorrow. Joy is not just a feeling ... it's a state of being. It's a decision to be happy in whatever situation one finds himself/herself in. One of the stories mentioned during the talk was how St. Francis defined "perfect joy". He had been on his way to one of the monasteries with his brothers when it rained. It left them muddy, unrecognizable and dirty. He told his brother that even despite all our muddiness, our unrecognizableness and our dirtiness and we still manage to reach the monastery and they don't recognize us and we suffer yet knowing the truth, that is perfect joy.

'And now hear the conclusion, Brother Leo. Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ. For we cannot glory in all those other marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God's, as the Apostle says: 'What have you that you have not received?' But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions, because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: 'I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.'"

To whom be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

from The Little Flowers of St Francis, The "Fioretti"

When I heard this, I couldn't help but get teary eyed. There's so much to be thankful for in life - that includes the many challenges we continue to face on this earthly life. The same challenges that mold us to become the perfect images of Christ - bearing our crosses with no regret, with no sorrow, with only joy.

There's a time to feel sorrow too. When there's a death, when there's a wrongdoing, when there's something to be sad about. But one musn't stop at sorrow.

The talk emphasized that we could be joyful in everything we do and we can find that source of joy in knowing God. And that joy is something we choose to be and not something we just feel when we're happy. We can be joyful in everything that we do, because God is there leading us.

We can choose to respond with joy at all times.

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