September 2, 2020
"Where there is injury, pardon." The prayer on which we're meditating in this season is called the "Prayer of St. Francis,", though there's actually no evidence that Francis of Assisi composed it. In fact it was first published in French in 1912. Yet while its words may not have come from Francis himself, they are true to his spirit. One story about Francis describes how he came upon an acquaintance who was quite agitated one day. The man was a servant, and he was cursing his master and complaining that the master had taken away all the servant's possessions. Francis said to him, "Brother, pardon your master for the love of God, and free your own soul; it's possible that he will restore to you what he has taken away. Otherwise you have lost your goods and will lose your soul as well." When the servant still refused to forgive until he received restitution, Francis offered the man his own cloak on the master's behalf. Then the servant's heart was softened, he forgave his master, and received renewed joy.
Jesus' teachings on forgiveness invite us to both experience the joy of forgiving others and to become peacemakers like Francis, guiding others away from anger and bitterness and toward mercy and reconciliation. In the former case, we may not receive the restitution we desire, but our spirits are freed from negativity and hatred. We can stop seeking revenge or justification and instead choose to love. When we guide others toward forgiveness, we become the peacemakers whom Jesus blessed (Matthew 5:9). This is why another version of the prayer of St. Francis adds a line after "Where there is injury, pardon" saying, "Where there is discord, union." When we become instruments of God's peace, we share in the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18), inviting people to reconciliation with one another as well as reconciliation with God.
In that hope, let us pray:
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;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much
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.
Grace and Peace,