Friday, August 04, 2006

Perfect Joy

Where there is injury, let me sow pardon.
– Saint Francis of Assisi

Once, in wintertime, it is said that Francis and his disciple Brother Leo were making a hard journey on foot through the snowy countryside of Italy. They had been walking along in silence for a long time when Brother Leo turned to Francis and asked him, “How can we find perfect joy?” Francis stopped and replied, “Even if all our friars were perfect in their holiness and could work all kinds of miracles for others, we still would not have perfect joy.”

He turned and walked on, and Brother Leo ran after him. “Then what is perfect joy?” Francis stopped again, “Even if we could speak with the birds of the air and the beasts of the field and know all the secrets of nature, we still would not have perfect joy. Even if we could cure all the ills on the face of the earth, we would still not have found perfect joy.”

Brother Leo was practically shouting: “Then please, Father Francis, what is the secret of perfect joy?”

“Brother, suppose we go to that monastery across the field and tell the gatekeeper how weary and cold we are, and he calls us tramps and beats us and throws us out into the winter night. Then, Brother, if we can say with love in our hearts, Bless you in the name of Jesus,’ then we shall have found perfect joy.”
Eknath Easwaran

Most people would say that we should disrespect or worse those who treat us with disrespect or worse. But just imagine if we could love others unconditionally, and no matter how they felt about or treated us, we could feel toward them the way Saint Francis described.

I can't think of a better description of perfect joy, nor have I ever heard of one.

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