PRAYING FOR ENEMIES

Lent 15 ~ Change

1-1024x616.jpg

          On the second day of my Holy Spirit Rosary, I had intended to pray and meditate on the Second Sorrowful mystery – Jesus’ Scourging at the Pillar. But try as I might, I just couldn’t anchor my heart in it. Instead, I felt strongly drawn to the first and second Glorious Mysteries – The Resurrection and The Ascension. As I prayed those mysteries instead, I felt myself sink into them. There I stayed, waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak.

          All was still.

          After some minutes of forcing myself to be still, I began what I always do – digging. I scratched and dug into the earth of those Mysteries, seeking a reply that obstinately clung to secrecy.

          Of course, one doesn’t order the Holy Spirit around. So, I got nothing for my efforts.

          After waiting some more and not hearing anything, I rose to go to my day. That was when I felt a slight prick.

Change.

          Death to life in the Resurrection. Earth to heaven in the Ascension. Yes, that was change. But what did it mean for me? I was impatient to know.

          When no answer was forthcoming, I became suspicious. I doubted that it was the Holy Spirit. ‘Change’ was rather obvious. I expected to be hit on the head, caught by the heart, that sort of thing. Not though by something as unsurprising and as mundane as… change. It must have been me. Again. Just me.

          But change was like a dog that had just found its beloved master – it followed me everywhere, all through the rush and inert heat of the next day. I dismissed it as being akin to an irritating, inane lyric of a song that plays on and on in your mind.

          Yet, from time to time, I sneaked glances at the 2 Mysteries, wondering if they held a secret not yet divined to me. Change. What change? Was I being asked to change? If so, what was the connection between this and the 2 Glorious Mysteries?

          Then, I recalled reading somewhere, Christian faith is to believe in the Resurrection.

Resurrection. Ascension. The afterlife. That hope doesn’t end with death.

          I still couldn’t connect it to change, not in a deeper way that would point to it being from the Spirit for me.

          A long and draining day came to an end and I drove home in relief. Some of my children had been away with my husband for much of the week. I had missed them. They would be returning later in the night and the other kids and I were looking forwards to having our beloveds close to us again.

          In the midst of that anticipation, came a sharp sting, shot straight out of a selfish heart. It caught me square in the middle. Someone wanted me to choose between my family and her demands. I chose my family and of course, there was a price to pay. In a flash, she fired two darts at me. With the snap of a winter twig, flames shot out of my own heart at this unfairness.

          So much for the peace and gentleness that had come into me heart; I hadn’t moved on from anything. I was just who I’ve always been and always will be, dry kindling just waiting for the lick of the tiniest flame.

          Suddenly, a mist rose up inside me. Something within me began to fight back to hold on to the peace in me. As I battled my anger and myself, I suddenly understood what change of the Resurrection and the Ascension meant:

          If I truly believed in the Resurrection and in the Ascension, then I had to live that belief by changing. Change had to come before anything else.

          I made my next choice easily. I chose change. I chose to move from anger to forgiveness. From anger to mercy. From revenge to leaving it in Jesus’ heart.

          But it was incredibly hard to remain in this change. Old habits don’t go easily into the night. I fought and fought the whole length of night. Even when I awakened in the hush of a new morn blessed by the embrace of rain, remnants of anger still mottled my heart.

          I battled on. Over and over, I went to the edge, then drew back. I searched my memory for a battle prayer and found one,

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

Have mercy on me,

Have mercy on her.

          Have mercy on her because this was a woman caught by the lure of money. What she said to me was all due this blindness in her mind and heart, caused by the enticement of easy money.

          It was so much easier to dislike her, to remember what she had previously done to me and to fight a battle from the angle of a victim. But something had taken over me now; it was as if God was directing my heart, No, this has to be fought differently.

          Although she had hurt me, I had to change tactics and fight for us both.

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

Have mercy on me,

Have mercy on her.

          I said that prayer all the way to work. Many times, I caught myself planning what to say to her if she confronted me. Each time, I ran and placed my plans in Jesus’ heart, Not my will but Thine be done. All I did ask of God was that He gift me with silence because my tongue was always my greatest undoing.

          It was late morning when she came to me, with tears in her eyes and a gentle hand on my arm, admitting her selfishness in what she had asked of me, in her unspoken words, an apology of sorts.

          Just like that, everything was over.

          I learned the lesson so many have learned long before. That in a hurting, there are always two victims – the wounded and the wound-er. In my life, I’ve mostly battled as a victim.

          It’s now time to change, to accept  and conquer my Everest of struggles – that from now on, I fight myself by fighting for my wound-er.

 

 

 

You Can Have It All

6528341-star-wars-wallpaper.jpg

Act of Hope
from the Augustinian Manual

Since You have promised to come and dwell within me, O my Redeemer, what may I not expect from Your bounty? I therefore present myself before You with that lively confidence which Your infinite goodness inspires. You not only know all my wants, but You are also willing and able to relieve them. You have not only invited me, but also promised me Your gracious assistance: “Come to me, all you that labour and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.” Behold, then, O Lord, I accept Your gracious invitation: I lay before You all my wants, my misery, and my blindness, and confidently hope, without the fear of being disappointed, that You will enlighten my understanding, inflame my will, comfort me in the midst of the crosses or afflictions  that You have willed that I should suffer, strengthen me in all temptations and trials, and with the powerful assistance of Your grace, change me into a new creature; for are You not, O God, the master of my heart?

And when shall my heart be more absolutely possessed by You than when You have entered into it?

 

          The week ended with a wounding and a struggle to forgive. When I sought my Jesus, He told me to pray for His blessings upon the two people who hurt me. It was a struggle for me to pray for them, much less intercede that they be blessed. And honestly, I didn’t want them blessed; I wanted the space of two continents put between me and them.

          But there was something about the words of Jesus when He directed them to my churning heart. His words imprisoned me, held me in a vice.

          And so began a new struggle – to pray for God’s blessings upon those who can only live if they hurt me. I wish I could say I fought my heart valiantly in order to fulfill the Divine Will; I did no such thing. I prayed alright, as often as I remembered, but I prayed for God’s blessings upon my enemies with all the sullenness of a spoilt child denied her wish.

          I prayed with a heart calloused by blows. And God saw my struggle. He knew I needed help to soften my heart. He offered that help through a worship song by Brian Johnson, Have It All.

 

          I played the song over and over and over, threading each line like a vine through my sadness and pain. Slowly, I could feel my heart softening. I could feel the hardness give way, the gates and walls crumble. I began to feel as if my heart had found its resting place, the wounds it hid within it bathed in a tender, gentle Love that Saw, that Knew.

That Mourned with me.

          It was then I realized I was loved.

          In a gentle awakening, I suddenly knew that my struggles were not hidden from Him, that He had not turned His face away from my ugliness.

I saw that I was not alone.

          I felt my God was holding me, holding me close, His arms around me, His hands over each one of my wounds.

          From that Love flowed a strength that flooded my will, levelling mountains and hills in its path. Lifted to the quiet skies sweetened by the breath of God in the green~gold breezes, I finally escaped the fetters that sought to imprison me to the will of the earth.

          I turned back towards the prayer He had asked of me,

Ask Me to Bless them.

           Freed by the miracle of surrender, I prayed unrestrained,

Jesus, give them Your Blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bless Them, Lord

blessing-montreal-nature-bird-wallpaper.jpg

It would do us well, today, to think of our enemy – I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them Your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord give us the grace to love them.   ~   Pope Francis

          Sometimes, I can’t help but think that the biggest slaughterhouse around must be in my own heart. Too often that is where those who hurt me unknowingly end up. No, I don’t imagine killing people. But I am pretty creative about the path I wish them on when they have hurt me so deeply that forgiveness seems an impossibility.

          I have a lot in common with them Mafia.

          But today, as I struggle with those who have hurt me, God tells me to do the impossible:

Ask Me to Bless them

Love them

          It is asking me to scale the mountain when I can’t even manage the hill. So, so often He tells me to love my enemies. The frequency of this exhortation just goes to show what my biggest struggle is. I wish He would tell me something else for a change. That He would take my wound-ers away. Or that He would ask them to wear my crown for a day, carry my crosses, live my journey.

          But He does none of it.

          I eye the two pearls He has placed before me today. Ask Me to Bless them. Love them. As if the asking for the blessing wasn’t hard enough, my God wants me to love my enemies. Although I know God’s call to love is very different from my idea of a saintly, sincerely smiling face willingly inclined towards every spit and slap, I can’t help but feel despair that not only have I to pray for them, I have to cheerily love them as well.

          Is it reversed, I wonder suddenly. As if in answer, an old memory rises like incense before me. Of two consecutive dreams one December night in my prison. The first dream of joy, then of sorrow. Then, eight months later, on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a sweet, feminine voice in the dark of dawn,

The dreams will be reversed in reality. Sorrow before Joy.

          I look again at the two calls set before me now. Ask Me to Bless them. Love them. I suddenly see that it is indeed reversed.

Love them

Ask Me to Bless them

I am being asked to love those who hurt me by asking Jesus to Bless them.

          I take a deep breath. The revelation makes things a little easier. I don’t have to be all chummy-friendly or walk around with a cherubic smile not mine.

          And so I begin. Slowly, with a firmness of intent absent before, I take Pope Francis’ counsel. Every time the faces come before me, every time their hurt rises in my mind, I pray,

Jesus, Bless them.

          It’s less of a struggle.

          But it does not come as easy either.

 

 

 

 

Lead the Poor Home

          sunset-sheep

          A work-mate sent a knife my way yesterday, and I sent ten more back from the dark recesses of my heart and mind. I didn’t verbalize my anger and hurt. But I have no doubts as to who will receive the harsher sentence in a judgement against us both. Just because you keep your anger hidden beneath the bowed head doesn’t mean it hasn’t stained your soul.

          The first storm of September had struck, and I had caused the worst of it.

          I rushed off to find a quiet corner.

          Not to escape, but to put my wrongdoing before my God. The wrong of my anger and the wrong of not feeling remorse. In the light of my new September commitment to seeking the Spirit in all I do, I had instead willfully driven myself into the muck. I had not sought the Spirit’s ready help against the wounding by my work-mate. I had gone back to the old path I wanted to leave.

          In the quiet,  I offered up the hurt and my sin but I thrust them roughly into the arms of unseen angels. My offering did not fall in humble lines, because it was swaddled in anger fruited by a thousand woundings by this same person. Slowly, a calm came over me, even as anger continued to bubble in little pots.

          I came to later hours nourished by family~joy dimples. Rested and soothed by sweet rose~moments only love can bring, I sat down to watch the news. Mother Teresa’s weathered, lined face came before me.

          The nun who took love to the darkest pits.

          Suddenly, I thought of my colleague. I thought of what she had done. The pots bubbled on, lit by the fire of a hurt that would not go away.

Mother, I hate her. I cannot love her. I’m sick of trying. I cannot be you. Please help me.

          The winds are in a dance again. In the warm, sun-tinged swoops and swells, I read these words ~

They enjoy the sufferings of others to forget what they lost.

          In a flash, I recognise Mother Teresa’s voice. The voice of one who herself must have suffered woundings many, many more times than I, yet, remained resolute and undefeated in the resolve to love the despised and the dying.

          In the incident with my colleague, she had hurt me and made no attempt to hide her joy in seeing the poison-spit hit its mark in me. She had also gathered others to join her in the gleeful laughter that followed because I was not quick enough to hide the hurt and it showed on my face.

They enjoy the sufferings of others to forget what they lost.

          I know what this woman has lost. She was once a rough and gruff, yet tender soul who sought to help everyone. But she had a deadly love and longing for wealth and the escape it could offer from the grind of work. Over time, bit by bit, through one choice after another, she chose to place her hands in the devil’s in exchange for money and a life of ease.

          Soon, she lost the voice of God in her.

          She began to dig desperately around her, far and near, searching for what she had lost. The desperation grew in tandem with the intensity of searching for heaven in the wrong places. It is this desperation that feeds the viciousness many have had to suffer; I am by no means her only victim.

They enjoy the sufferings of others to forget what they lost.

          I feel a sudden impulse to hug the woman, to tell her I love her despite what she does to me. But I don’t do it. Because that is not what I am called to do. To tell this particular woman now that I love and forgive her is to give her a dangerous power in thinking viciousness has yielded this positive, this win. While it is far easier for me to show her my love and stop the darts for a time, I will be giving her power that will take her deeper into the dark.

They enjoy the sufferings of others to forget what they lost.

          I hear the unequivocalness in Mother Teresa’s reply to me. Lead this woman back to what she has lost.

           Lead her back to God. Just as Mother Teresa loved the poor, this work-mate too is the poor I am willed by heaven to love. Not through hugs that come easily to me.

          But through the sword of a prayer. The Divine Mercy Conversion Prayer.

O Blood and Water that gushed forth from the heart of Jesus,

as a fount of Mercy for us,

I trust in You.

BOWLS OF PRAYER

But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you  ~  Matthew 5:44

          4506de2d-fb23-4935-96dd-434176e21c6e[1]

          For me this week, that was too much for the Lord to ask of me for it has been a week of struggle, tiredness, dryness of spirit. The scent of jasmines, white and wild, did not touch my spirit, nor did the gold of sun rays through green boughs. The hurt of accusations and unjust, selfish demands placed on all the members of my work organization weighed far more than anything else. I hurt for myself, and I hurt for others. With every word my superiors pronounced upon us, I saw shoulders stoop more. I saw anger in tightening features. I saw the light dim in many eyes. No chance to pause and draw breath, to cry a little and heal. Others waiting for us. Others leaning on us. The journey set before us still be to traversed.

Picture1

          And yet, I wished there was some place I could retreat to. Not for long, not forever. Just a wee while. Somewhere hidden in the tangles of wild. Away from explanations. Away from demands. Just to rest and find myself. Some place where roses bloomed differently; where music was the wind in the grasses, the buzz of brown bees.

1088_333fa3e667f4cab6becd621141556c1e[1]

          But there was none. No such place. No time. The clock ticked on.

The anger and hurt bore down stronger. Frustration welled and swelled. Within me. Within others. Like a bitter flame, in a short while, it seared and burned up what little pools of charity and compassion I had in me for those who persecuted us.

And then, in the midst of that burn, a memory came :

…..golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints.    ~ Revelations 5:8

          Pray …..Not anger…. not in revenge…. Pray them to Me

          But I didn’t have an ounce of charity left in me to pray for my enemies. I chaffed against the Lord’s call. I didn’t want to lift my enemies to heaven. I wanted them anywhere BUT in heaven!

          A whisper touched my soul….Place them in bowls… and lift them to heaven.

dsc_2695[1]

          And so I have. Laid out the bowls in my mind’s eye. Four in a row. Earthen bowls, for I am no saint, and my prayer no incense. Everyone who has hurt me and others, I placed in bowls. One for each. Floated them on prayer, towards Heaven.