We have never needed peace and peacemakers more than today. We need peace within us, peace between us and others, and peace in the world. We may not be able to bring peace to the world, but what about peace to our little corner of the world?
Of all those disciples who came after Jesus, none understood, lived and was a greater peace-bearer, than Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). An inspired prayer has been attributed to him, expressing how to live and work as Christ lived and worked:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me now 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.”
Let us look at Francis’ prayer in more detail:
“Lord make me an instrument of your peace.” Comes the great request. We must be careful in praying this prayer – for God is waiting to grant it! The rest of the prayer tells us what an instrument of peace does, how to show that the kingdom of heaven is near. We cannot do this without the power of the Spirit.
“Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” To bring the peace of God, we must do the opposite of the world’s practiced mandate of returning like for like, blow for blow, evil for evil. Only works of love can bring God’s kingdom nearer – for the kingdom is the domain of peace, love and joy, their home of true belonging.
“Where there is injury, pardon.” As Jesus would not break a wounded reed, so we must harm no one, but seek to bring all injuries to forgiveness and healing, which is God’s revealed will in Christ. As Jesus told us, quoting the prophet Hosea, what God wants from us is mercy, not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
“Where there is doubt, faith.” To turn doubt into faith is to give new life and the freedom to become oneself. We are here to increase rather than decrease the faith in the world. Jesus asks, “Will the Son of Man find faith when He returns?” Our mission is to insure that, while we live, and in our place and way, yes, there will be faith, faith that is increasingly steadfast and unconditional, as we strive to be prepared for Christ’s coming.
“Where there is despair, hope.” To turn despair into hope is to bring the promised better tomorrow into today, and to release the burden of depression and hopelessness. Hope is the breath of Christ, which we are called to breathe to others.
“Where there is darkness, light.” To turn darkness into light is to ignite the holy torch of the Spirit, the goodness of God, in the heart of those in darkness, the nearly dead. Our job is to do what Jesus told all who would follow Him: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
“And where there is sadness, joy.” To turn sadness into joy is to turn lead into gold, weight into wings, emptiness into fullness, drudgery into celebration. Just before He was to suffer and die for us, Jesus sought even then to instill joy into His disciples, joy for the eternal life to be theirs, which no one could ever take from them. Jesus said: I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11). To bring Christ is to bring His joy to others.
In the final half of the prayer, we see what it means to be a true servant. Remember that Jesus came not to be served but to serve, so as His followers, we too must be as servants. The servant of love, of God, of Christ, is the greatest person in the sight of God the Father. Therefore, does Francis, that great servant of servants, pray what we ought to pray – and live:
“Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console.” To become genuine peacemakers, who Jesus calls the sons and daughters of God, we must look to the peace of others before that of our own. This is the way of Jesus. To console – and find our own consolation in consoling others – is to do Christ’s reconciling work.
“To be understood as to understand.” To seek to understand first, rather than being understood, is an effective way to resolve human conflicts, and to restore peace in human relationships. If we wait until the other understands us first before we strive to understand the other, we will likely never get there, nor enter the kingdom of peace – which too few do!
“To be loved as to love.” To love first is to set in motion to way of love in the world, wherein what we sow comes back to us, twenty, forty, sixty fold. This Christ promises: fulfillment comes from loving.
“For it is in giving that we receive.” The giver receives a fullness and joy in giving that the receiver can neither see nor grasp: the fullness of God, who in Christ receives Himself in giving Himself.
“It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” As we judge so we shall be judged; as we give so shall we receive; as we forgive, so we shall be forgiven. This is God’s sovereign promise through Christ, in whom it becomes reality. Forgive as one forgiven.
“And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” We cannot save our lives by anything we do; yet through giving our lives for the sake of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven, we receive it back, we are born anew into Christ’s endless kingdom of peace and love. Self-giving for the sake of peace is Christ’s path in the world and our birthing process into God.