WEIGHT LOSS – PLEASURE VERSUS HAPPINESS
Knocking off unwanted pounds is a battle that many people have to wage nowadays, but with the majority it seems to always end up as a losing battle that they wage. The negative outcome seems to stem from a confusion that arises in the person’s mind – a confusion between two similar realities: pleasure and happiness.
Happiness is what we are all made for, and even Jesus in his final discourse encouraged his disciples, saying, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11) and again, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete (Jn 16:24). Further Jesus observes, “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves” (Jn 17:13).
Because of this inner mental confusion, we fail to see that while there are a few similarities between the two, they are as different as chalk is from cheese.
Pleasure is generally localised at some point in the human body, is intense but fleeting and short-lived and hence leaves behind a feeling of dissatisfaction and a craving for more. Again, pleasure is experienced mainly when we get something for ourselves. Happiness is more spiritual and can last much longer than does pleasure and is generally associated with giving to others, making them happy, meeting their needs and helping to solve their difficulties.
HOW HAPPY ARE… THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
No wonder Jesus could say in his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’: “Blessed (How happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:3-12).
CHASING AFTER PLEASURE LEAVES US DISSATISFIED
Another strange fact with regard to chasing after pleasure is that the more we taste of it the more insistently do we go after it; we never seem to be satisfied! While with genuine happiness it does remain with us sometimes even with a mingling of some painful aspects and no matter how long or short its duration it somehow makes us glow from within. Adapting the line from the psalm (84:10) we could say, ‘One moment of true happiness is better than a thousand fleeting moments of pleasure!’
Applying all this to the question of losing weight, we see that while this exercise does not often bring us pleasure – rather we have to forego a lot of pleasure if we are to truly lose weight and keep it down – but there is a lot of genuine happiness in being a person who is fit and totally in control of one’s life.
When Jesus walked this earth, he told his disciples several times, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full!” (Jn 10:10). But to attain that fullness of life, one would need to ‘take up one’s cross and follow Jesus!’ In fact, one of the key reasons why we celebrate Eucharist each Sunday [go to Mass at least once a week] is precisely to bring our own little sufferings and unite them with the suffering of Jesus as he offers them to the Father. United with his redemptive suffering, our little aches and pains take on a tremendous value and become redemptive too ‘for the life of the world’. But this is true only if we do unite our crosses consciously to the sufferings of Christ. That is one of the reasons why the liturgical rubrics at the time of the presentation of Gifts suggests that if at all there is singing it should be ONLY while the gifts are brought up in procession.
Once they reach the altar, the singing should stop. Or, if there is no substantial procession, then preferably there should be no singing. This is to allow the people enough silence to figure out what exactly they mean to unite with the gifts of Jesus as the second part of the Eucharist begins. The more clearly we think this out the better would be the “fruit” of our celebration.
REAL OFFERING AFTER CONSECRATION
It is worth noting also that while the gifts are presented, there is no real ‘offering’ as our gifts by themselves have no great value. It is only after the Institution Narrative in which our gifts are transformed into ‘the body and blood of Jesus’ that they are OFFERED to the Father (see Eucharistic Prayer III where the word ‘offer’ and ‘offering’ come only after the Consecration). Unfortunately, most Christians are accustomed to singing a hymn at this time – in fact they feel that if they do not sing at this point, they do something wrong! But the unfortunate effect is that they have neither the freedom nor the atmosphere to quietly reflect on what really do they present to God as symbols of themselves!
If we place ten hosts on the altar at the Presentation, Jesus would be able to transform only those ten, while if we did place a hundred, it is a hundred that he would transform. The principle then is, that Jesus can transform only what we consciously place before him on the altar. So, if we place only 2% of our lives together with the bread and wine on the altar, Jesus will be able to transform nothing more than those 2% of our lives because that is all we have surrendered. Even if the rest of ourselves is present before the altar, he will not forcibly transform that which hasn’t been freely and lovingly surrendered. So, by our unnecessary singing we could be reducing the effectiveness of our participation in the Eucharist. [Returning to the weight loss/comfort eating/lack of exercise – issues, or other habits we find difficult to quit or change, it is important to bring these before Jesus instead of participating in singing.] The more deeply we are conscious of how much we are blessed, the more heartfelt and sincere (and lasting) our gratitude.
How deeply do we appreciate God’s blessings showered on us so lavishly that we often take them for granted? How deeply do we value the freedom God gives us to take charge of our lives and become the kind of persons we freely choose to be?!?
– This is an excerpt of an article by Fr Erasto Fernandez, entitled “You are What You Make of Yourself”; published in “Don Bosco’s Madonna”, issue May 2012. For subscriptions etc., contact: Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna, Matunga – Mumbai – 400 019 – India