Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Barbara Stroud Borth "Lord make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred let me sow love." That is the beginning of a prayer written by St. Francis of Assisi who died on Oct. 4, 1226. After a time of imprisonment while in military service, and after a time of illness when he had had a lot of time to think and pray, Francis was moved by God to care for the poor. Later when he was out walking, he met a leper, who was shunned and forced to beg for his very existence.
Francis was moved by God's love to hug the man. Then he gave him his cloak and put on the ragged clothes of the leper. That day he decided that is how he would continue to dress as he worked among the poor people.
Not long after that he found a scripture in the Gospel of Matthew which confirmed the new direction of his life. Part of that passage is "As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven is near'. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment, give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff."
Francis committed himself to poverty and to joy. He and an increasing number of followers traveled and tried to live out the teachings of Jesus in a way that was unique at the time.
Francis sensed a beautiful oneness with all of creation. He became known as a friend to all the animals. Most of all, he loved Jesus and all the people Jesus had taught him to see.
Francis sought to live his life putting the needs of others ahead of his own. The best known of his writings are a song All Creatures of Our God and King and his prayer. Ever since I first read his prayer it has challenged and encouraged me. Even though he lived more than 700 years ago, his words still speak truth to people in our time.
So much of our culture is focused on self and getting and having all we can. In this time we could let the prayer invite and challenge us to think more about the needs of others than we do of our own: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
"Grant that we 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."
How might it change our lives to pray the prayer of St. Francis every day?