Violence seems to be the order of the day in our country. Reports of shootings are ever more commonplace. We cast about for solutions, but none seems to be forthcoming. We ask for new laws, and laws can change behavior, but they cannot change hearts. Only Christ can change hearts, and he does this by the power and work of the Holy Spirit.
As Christians, we are to be bearers of the gospel, agents of peace, ministers of reconciliation. We bear within ourselves an extraordinary power that comes from God, “treasure in clay jars,” as Paul would say (2 Cor 4:7).
The power of God that we bear can lead us to do things we never thought we could do, things we may never have even wanted to do. And one of the things we are led to do is to model peace and reconciliation in extraordinary ways. Christianity is at times so very counter-intuitive. Christ commands us, for example, not to harm our enemies, but to forgive them:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:14
Our forgiveness before God is tied to our forgiveness of others. And as if this were not enough, we are not just to forgive our enemies, but to love them.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:43-48
“How can we do this?” you ask? I know that, of my own power, I am not capable of this kind of love or forgiveness. Even as I am aware of my need to be forgiven by God and other people, it seems so natural to hold on to old wounds and resentments. True forgiveness is a gift from God, a manifestation of God’s power.
Will you commit to thirty days of prayer with me? First, I would ask that you pick out someone against whom you are harboring unforgiveness (and no, I’m not going to tell you who I’m picking). Pray for that person every day for thirty days. Pray for God to bring change and reconciliation. Even if it is not possible for that reconciliation to be spoken between the two of you, pray for reconciliation to happen in your hearts. Then, when you have prayed for that person, pray the Prayer of St. Francis:
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 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.
Thirty days of praying for peace and reconciliation….Will you join me? It won’t take very long. Can you think of a better way to spend a few minutes of each day?