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Songs of the Heart: Reflections on the Psalms

Commitment is that quality of life that depends more on the ability to wait for something to come to fulfillment—through good days and through bad—than it does on being able to sustain an emotional extreme over a long period of time. When a debilitating loss of purpose and energy set in, that is the point at which we are asked to give as much as we get. That’s when what we thought was an adventure turns into a commitment. Sometimes a long, hard, demanding one that tempts us to despair. As if God’s Word of love will ever fail us in the end.

Commitment is that quality of human nature that tells us not to count days or months or years, conversations of efforts or rejections, but simply to go on going on.

When we feel most discouraged, most fatigued, most alone is precisely the time we must not quit.

A Zen monk in Japan wanted to publish the holy books, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

The monk began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. After ten years, the monk had enough money to begin his task.

But then there was a terrible flood in the area, and famine followed. So the monk took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starving. Then he began his work of collecting again.

Fifteen years later, an epidemic spread over the country. To help his people, the monk again gave away what he had collected.

For a third time he started his work and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled—the books were printed. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of the holy books can be seen today in a monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese, however, tell their children that the monk really made three sets of the sutras. And, they explain with great pride, the first two invisible sets surpass even the third.

—from Songs of the Heart (Twenty Third Publications), by Joan Chittister