Monday, June 4, 2012

The prayer of St. Francis of Assissi (part 2)

In the second section of the prayer Francis emphasizes that our prayers, as well as our entire lives are not to be about ourselves, but about others.
He touches on three things that we might tend to search for as human beings: consolation, understanding, and love. His prayer is that he (and we) would not spend our energy looking for our own emotional and mental stability, but that of others.
Again he lays out a parallelism: ‘O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be _______as to _______.’
‘To be consoled as to console.’ Yes, we all suffer pain. We all look for comfort in our pain. It’s easy for our focus to grow increasingly inward. But Francis knew that we must give out. Although we will find ourselves always in need of the support of others, we pray that we will always look for opportunities to comfort others.
‘To be understood as to understand.’ As we journey through life, we gain knowledge and understanding of the universe, and the God who is in it all. For some reason it seems terribly important to try to make others see things through our eyes. But here we are gently encouraged to work to understand the wisdom of others. We aren’t the only source of wisdom and experience, and by seeking to truly hear the heart of another, we affirm their value. Indeed, we will likely learn from them.
‘To be loved as to love.’ It makes sense that by giving love, we will gain a new one who loves us back. The highest love isn’t selfish, doesn’t seek its own glory.

The final 3 sentences again follow a repeating pattern. What we offer we get back in return. Here he reiterates the upside down kingdom principle taught by Jesus: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
‘It is in giving that we receive.’ As he has already reminded us, we receive back in kind what we generously pour out. When we give our time and energy in loving others, we are loved in return. When we lend our ears to hear another’s pain, we are comforted. When we choose to listen instead of talk, we grow in our own understanding.
‘It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.’ As Jesus told us, it is important that we forgive if we expect to be forgiven. Here Francis echoes this. Not initially for our own benefit, not to ‘pay forward’, but just as part of the economy of the kingdom. Shame and remorse can pile up if we allow it, but so can forgiveness. Better to plant seeds of pardon than reap the fruit of guilt.
‘It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.’ The kingdom life of Jesus comes as we fade into the background, letting go of our need to be front and center. Dying is a scary, painful thought, but less so when what we die to is replaced with the abundant life of the kingdom. You can either hold desperately to the rags and crumbs, or you can let go and live in joy and completeness.
Francis, thank you for sharing your wisdom throughout the ages in this prayer. As many women and men before us, we learn from those who have walked this earth and shared their insights.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

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.

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