Peace Prayer of Saint Francis Part 1
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
The human experience for everyone is a rough journey. We can often hide from others what is going on inside of us; we can smile when in reality there is a war going on within. We experience injustice, injury, doubt and yes despair. We can also go through periods where we are filled with darkness and sadness. In some instances, these inner variations can be a mystery to us. So how can we be instruments of peace when there is often inner conflict and pain within?
“Where there is hatred, let me sow love;”
How do we learn to sow love when in circumstances there are far from loving? There are no easy answers to the many situations we find ourselves in. Emotions can be strong, words flung out that wound; in the midst of this how can we be a loving presence in the world?
Everyone desires peace. Nations say they do, yet the world is a planet where war is commonplace. Where everyday people are killed, tortured, falsely imprisoned and abused in many ways. This only feeds into the ever-deepening hunger of hatred and the seeking after revenge. Peace Indeed?
It is all about relationships, which the Prayer of St. Francis brings out so poignantly with a deep undertow I believe of sorrow for the world. Perhaps it is about our relationship with our selves first. It is easy to forget that we are commanded to love ourselves. It is not an invitation that we can turn down without any consequences. How can we be instruments of peace if we are not at peace with ourselves? How can we be an instrument of Christ Jesus if we do not allow his love and Holy Spirit into our hearts? Self-contempt and hatred towards self is not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The greatest gift of the Spirit is expressed beautifully in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians chapter 13.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
So before we can be true instruments of peace, we have to pray for the greatest of spiritual gifts, which is the only way we can be used by the Lord in a world filled with strife and pain, hatred and the seeking after revenge that masquerades as justice. The anger of man does not express the justice of God.
Where there is injury, pardon;
To grow is self love takes a true death to self. To grow in the freedom of the Children of God is not as easy as many would take it to be. As our relationship with the Lord deepens, he knowing each of us will bring us to the gift of humility. The deeper we are called to intimacy with Christ Jesus, the more he will show us the depths of our souls and what needs mercy as well as healing. He allows us to see how we have hurt others, often in ignorance, yet the harm done. He brings also to our awareness the times when we were cruel and malicious in our actions towards others. The closer we come to the heart of Christ Jesus, and the experience of his love and tender mercy, the more profound will be our sorrow for the times when we were unloving, adding to the anger and pain in the world. It is in this, this humble understanding of our own sins, as well as the lack of freedom we often have in our responses, that leads us to learn to forgive others, for when we grow in self-knowledge we begin to understand others more deeply. We can no longer say: “How could he or she do that!”? When we grow in self-knowledge we learn how others like us can do horrible acts without knowing what they are doing. We learn compassion and empathy. We may still struggle with anger and hurt, yet we have a way to end the cycle of pain and recrimination.
Where there is doubt, faith;
In God’s mercilessly mercy, our doubts will also be brought to the surface. Not all people have doubts, but many do, perhaps the majority. These can come from more than one source. Pain and suffering is the most common I believe when dealing with doubt about God, his existence as well as his loving nature. Doubt can also come when the reality of God’s love is starting to take root. Is this possible (?) we may ask ourselves. So yes doubt can be a companion for many through life. It is when we do not fear this reality that we can be of help and support to those around us who are going through periods of doubt. How this is dealt with is of utmost importance. It can be a spur to deeper study and prayer as our understanding of God deepens and our idols fade, or it can lead to indifference and loss of faith. When we understand this, we can be of help to those who are struggling with this reality and have no one to talk to. As we learn that we do have the freedom of choice, so we can also lead others as well.
Where there is despair, hope;
The Lord will allow us to experience our own powerlessness. We can experience this in our inability to pray, or if we do it seems like nothing but distractions with nothing going on. Or through our failures in our ability to live out what we have promised to the Lord when we began our walk with Him; when being filled with consolation and fervor. It is in our darkest moments when we are brought to the point of understanding the true meaning of trust. What we feel, how we fail, our inner conflicts do not in any way affect the Lord's relationship with us. We are called at this time to give our total trust in God’s merciful love and compassion. For as it says in the 1st letter of John that “God is greater than our hearts”. Or as Jesus said to Sr. Faustina:
"[Let] the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice..." (Diary, 1146)
So yes, the Lord in order for all of us to be present to others in their deep suffering will bring us through it as well so that we can grow in compassion, empathy, and love for others. The more we understand our own need for God’s mercy, the less we will feel the need to judge….which s a terrible burden and harmful to our souls.
Where there is sadness, joy.
It is when we learn that even in the darkest moments of our lives that joy will return, in fact has always been there, for as our trust in the Lord deepens (a choice), so does the inner peace even in the mist of deep suffering. We find that as the years go by and as we age when we look back on our lives we see that the Lord has always been there. Even when our path seemed to be simply not there, when in the desert, yet we see that there was a movement that was led by God’s grace and often hidden presence. In that we can be comfortable with others who are in deep sadness and will be able to be with them, support them without pious platitudes that can only make things worse. We slowly learn not to fear the suffering that comes with being with others. We learn that the deeper we love, the more we will suffer as Christ Jesus suffered, because as he was fully human, so heart slowly becomes human likes his.—Br.MD