In “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, they refer to the eight pillars of joy: the four qualities of the mind (perspective, humility, humor and acceptance), and the four qualities of the heart (forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity).
Pillars of joy
Let us reflect on three— perspective, compassion and generosity—from the frame of this Sunday’s Gospel, the multiplication of the loaves and fish in John.
Perspective: We see two in the Gospel, the perspective of Philip and of Andrew. Philip was the half-empty glass mindset, while Andrew was the half full.
Philip thought it impossible using a logical yet limited perspective, i.e., purely on human terms. Andrew saw an opportunity in the little that they had in the young boy. He broadened his perspective, and perhaps had the faith, that if they start somewhere or with something and bring it to Christ, they can address the challenge.
The change in perspective allowed Andrew to trust Christ and bring something into the situation. Then the miracle could and did happen.
The same is true in our life. Perspective makes a world of difference. It does not call us to be reckless or irrational, but it calls us to trust in God’s grace after we have done what we could possibly do.
This change of perspective is best exemplified by the Blessed Mother in the Annunciation. After questioning, clarifying with the Angel Gabriel who, in the end, says, “With God all things are possible,” Mary entrusted herself completely to God’s will and mission for her.
Compassion: This, likewise, requires a change in perspective. Let us look at another interpretation of this Gospel story.
The other interpretation of this Gospel is that there was no actual physical multiplication of loaves and fish, but because of Christ’s teaching—remember that they had sought Christ and were listening to him the whole day—the people shared what they had with those who did not have any food.
The miracle happened because Christ evoked compassion from the people, and their eyes were opened to the needs of the people around them. They shared their food and this sharing of the food, breaking bread together, is a powerful symbol of a shared humanity and the prefiguring of the Mass of the Eucharist.
The right perspective that leads to compassion, the fusing of the two, becomes the seedbed for generosity. The synonym of generosity often used by St. Ignatius of Loyola is magnanimity.
Magnanimity, magna anima, the great soul. It is the nobility of soul and spirit that comes from compassion. It is the greatness of soul with which we share with others, with one another “the little that we have”—our five loaves and two fish, our widow’s mite. “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21: 3-4)
It is the invitation to share everything we have until our common ground becomes our shared humanity.
In Jung’s paradigm, the anima represents the authentic inner self of the person, and also the feminine part of the male which leads to the wholeness of the person. Magnanimity is thus the greatness of this authentic inner self; an authentic wholeness which is our integrity as a person.
It is an apt and timely reminder for us to change our perspective, grow in our compassion, and be magnanimous in our action.
Renewing the sense of our shared humanity characterized by compassion for one another inspires the greatness of soul in all of us.
In many traditions, to share a meal is to welcome each other, to share in each other’s life. In today’s Gospel, this is characterized by generosity, the magnanimity that made the thousands share with one another. –CONTRIBUTED