Last week, we began looking at the Prayer of St. Francis by thinking about what it means to be “an instrument of [God’s] peace.” Today, we look at the next section of the prayer where St. Francis lays out a bold new vision for Heaven on Earth and for the pilgrim’s place in that new vision.
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.
In line with what Jesus, Paul, and the other authors of the New Testament lay out for us, St. Francis longs for a world characterized by love, pardoning (forgiveness), faith, hope, light, and joy. These are the benefits of the Kingdom. As human beings, we have access to these values—to these benefits—here and now; they are the hallmarks of the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is both now and not yet. Moreover, these values work in direct response to the deficits that we often find in humans and in human communities when they fail to recognize that they are the beloved children of God: hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness, and sadness.
When we are in our best selves, understanding that the Spirit resides within us and that we are beloved, we do the work of overturning those deficits and birthing Kingdom benefits as we go about our day. We not only bring the peace that was mentioned in the first line, but that peace is characterized by these six benefits. When we encounter sadness, for example, the Spirit works through us to respond with joy. When we find hatred creeping in, the Spirit sews the antidote: love.
There is a trick to all of this, however. You must be willing to allow the Spirit to work through you, and you must desire the Kingdom of Heaven right here on Earth. If we look at the Lord’s Prayer, we see that Jesus felt the same way:
…Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done
on Earth as it is in Heaven…
The purpose of the Christian life is not to practice individual piety or to convert others to the faith. The purpose of the Christian life is quite simply to bring Heaven here to Earth. We do this by loving God and loving others (to paraphrase Jesus’s words in Matthew 22).
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As you work your way through the Prayer of St. Francis this week, think about those values, hallmarks, or benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven: love, pardoning, faith, hope, light, and joy. A few questions to consider—
- Where do you find those values manifesting in your life? Are you bringing them into the world? Do you see them in someone else?
- How are you helping to manifest Heaven right here, right now, today?
- Can you see this bold new vision for life on Earth?