By Scott Baker
Every year around Oct. 4, the church commemorates St. Francis of Assisi. Mostly known for his love of creation and God’s creatures, he was in fact a deeply faithful follower of Jesus. It is somewhat unfortunate that we have reduced him to a garden statue surrounded by birds. In fact, he was so devout and faithful in following Jesus it is said that he received the stigmata (the physical signs of crucifixion on his body).
The following is the prayer attributed to St. Francis. The words of the prayer are in plain type, the words in italics are my commentary.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Where there is injury, pardon; be ready to forgive and don’t hold grudges. Paul tells the Corinthians, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” The task of every follower of Jesus is to be a reconciler in the world and show the way of love.
Where there is discord; union; be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
Where there is doubt, faith; bolster, don’t antagonize.
Where there is despair, hope; a loving word to a hurting person.
Where there is darkness, light; Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” — again, be part of the solution, not the problem.
Where there is sadness, joy. If you see someone without a smile give them yours.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; when you go into the world remember to hold hands.
To be understood as to understand; God gave you two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion; listen twice as much as you speak.
To be loved as to love. It is truly the one inexhaustible resource we have that actually grows the more you share it.
For it is in giving that we receive; God’s topsy-turvy economics. Very much like love.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. This is the way of the cross. Jesus said, “The road to perdition is wide and many take it; but the road to righteousness is narrow and hard to walk.”
Notice the whole prayer is outwardly focused. It’s focused on the other and not on self. C.S. Lewis once said, “the path to humility is not to think less of one’s self, but to think of one’s self less.” If we devote ourselves just to this simple prayer we couldn’t do much better than Francis, and actually may walk more closely in the way of love and make ourselves, our relationships and the creation much better than when we found it.
THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the pastor of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Contact him at 757-562-4542.