Monday, April 16, 2018
St. Francis Prayer ~ take four
St. Francis is looking to turn and tune our lives toward peace ~ perhaps that is what is at the center of this whole prayer and the petitions that follow (like ripples from a stone dropped in the water) radiate from there.
He invites us into the Jesus ethic of love - of self; of neighbor; and even of enemy or the one who is sowing seeds of hate.
He invites us into the way of pardon or forgiveness. After reflecting on this petition of the prayer in the last post, I read this by Ron Rolheiser, "The struggle to forgive is our greatest moral, psychological, and religious challenge. Most everything in us wants to protest to the call of forgiveness. When we have been wronged and hurt by people close to us and systemic injustices, everything in us CRIES out. A thousand emotions rush, run through our whole bodies." Rolheiser is right...forgiveness impacts our whole bodies from mind (where our thoughts object) to our nervous system and emotions to our hearts which long for justice to our bodies where the stress and strain can sit uneasy upon us.
Perhaps, we doubt if we can do it, which is where the next line of the prayer knocks on the door. I do find this prayer very meaningful. However, in its rhythm, we might hear these words through a lens of dualism. That is hate as the opposite of love. But as Rev. William Sloane Coffin said, actually the opposite of love is fear...fear of ourselves and others. Or that injury is the opposite of forgiveness. Yet, none of us escape life without scars externally and internally. Likewise, we might hear and think that doubt is the opposite of faith. But as Paul Tillich said, "Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but a component of it." Actually, what St. Francis is suggesting is not that we can ever eradicate or eliminate hate or injury or doubt. These are daily experiences, part of the soil we walk down every day. And these realities of hate and injury and doubt can either make us bitter or call us to choose another way. We can either continue to let these realities grow and go unchecked OR we can try to live in God's realm. Most of the time, this, too, is not an either/or choice but a both/and decision. We find some peaceful ways to live and other times the chaos of life around us and within us continues to swirl. We try our best to respond to hate with love, but sometimes say something sarcastic to the person who is throwing shade. We try our best to forgive but it can be a slow process of being a little less angry each day. And we can seek to live faithfully, but there are days doubt not only creeps along the shadows, but might call us to dance with doubt.
It isn't that we can or even should avoid hate...injury...and doubt - but we also need to be careful only letting these realities be the only ones singing to our lives. In my experience, hate, injury, and doubt don't bring me peace. But it is in exploring and experiencing these realities - even encountering God there - have been part of the pathway to peace.
So, may the peace of God guide you not only along cool, refreshing, peaceful streams....may you sense more than a trace of God's grace even in those dark, valley when hate, injury, and doubt are the location of our souls.