Peace Prayer of Saint Francis Part 2
So the second part of the Prayer of St. Francis is the fruit of working through the first part. The necessity of self-knowledge and an ever-deepening trust in God’s mercy. This allows us to listen so that we truly become instruments of peace in God’s hands.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I believe that the story of the Samaritan woman at the well shows how Jesus lived out the second section of the prayer of St. Francis. Below is something I wrote about this beautiful story.
To be seen
The more the life of Jesus is contemplated, I believe the broader our understanding of what it was about, deepens. To enter into one of the stories and see how differently Jesus related to others can be an eye-opener. The Samaritan woman for instance with whom Jesus talked to at the well. It is known that the Jews and the Samaritans had little to do with each other, what is not often understood was the depth of animosity that was present between these two groups. I would imagine that the Samaritan woman, because of her having lived with six men, was also looked down upon by her fellow Samaritans. Plus she was a woman, and men did not talk to women in public. So she was really at the bottom of the social ladder. Yet Jesus talked to her, did not look down on her, nor did he condemn her in any way. No, he conversed gently and truthfully, aware of what was within her. When Jesus revealed to her about her lifestyle, I would think she felt at first exposed before this very strange man, who was treating her with a loving gentleness and respect that she was not used to. The fact that she was ‘seen’ allowed her to be open and not become defensive; at least not in a way that kept her from hearing what Jesus had to say. Jesus saw her heart, her pain, what she had to go through in her life and the isolation that she must have endured among her own people. We can shield our hearts with walls of anger, we can appear that we are getting along; when at a deep level the isolation can be killing us. Jesus called her out of isolation into a new life of openness. Because of this, she was able to go into the city and proclaim what had happened to her. I would think that at first the people would have been taken back by this ‘new’ woman, who was standing before them, unafraid of their contempt and was speaking in a way that intrigued many if not all of them. Because someone saw her depths and accepted and loved her, it leads to a healing that freed her from a defensive posture of uncaring what others thought of her and allowed her to re-enter into the community.
If love is the greatest spiritual gift, then it would seem that if Christians want to be healers of hearts and souls, then we should pray for this gift, greater even than miracles, which can be flashy and then forgotten in time. However, to experience being seen and loved by another, to understand that one's depths have been gazed upon and still loved, brings about the deepest of healing; for nothing needs to be hidden. There is no one outside of God’s love because God sees the depths of the heart and loves what is seen. It is true that Jesus got angry at some of the Jews of his time, but his anger was a tool to shake up those who thought themselves the top of the religious ladder. Many of them did, after all, come to believe in Jesus; perhaps for the same reason, the Samaritan woman became a believer. They understood that his anger was a form of teaching, trying to unmask what was keeping them isolated from others and unloving. The easiest thing to do is to look down on others and show contempt, for in doing so it protects us from looking within our own hearts so that we can learn that what we condemn in others, is in reality self-hatred for ourselves.
When we sin against others we push them deeper into isolation, despair and self-destructive actions. To discourage another, to judge them unworthy of our love and acceptance, is damaging to them as well as our own souls and has repercussions that can affect many people. The hearts and souls of all men and woman are naked before God. Not so for us, for we are opaque not only to ourselves but to each other as well. Self-knowledge is a lifelong process, but it is impossible to see into the depths of another. All we can do is to treat those around us with love and respect…. little actions, one at a time, day in and day out. If enough Christians and just people, in general, did this, I would think the world would become a better place, not perfect, but perhaps a little gentler and a little more loving. This simple agenda of treating those around as we would like to be treated is harder than it sounds and leads to a great deal of self-knowledge and humility.
Some would say this is unrealistic, however the state of the world today would seem to indicate that a new way of relating is needed……perhaps we are all insane, doing the same destructive things over and over again without learning or even seeking to find new avenues in living out how we relate not only to our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances but strangers as well.—Br.MD