As he often does, Pope Francis is doing something we all know is right to do, but we forget. He is bringing leaders of two peoples locked in conflict, who have a painful past together, to pray with him, just pray. It is the perfect thing for a Pope to do, and it is an example for us to follow.
When we talk we can do a lot of good sometimes. When we pray we don’t do anything. We stop doing. Instead we meet one another in the Heart of God. We bring ourselves, and our difficulties before Him in good will and open-ness of heart. What is there to argue about then?
It is a truth I often point out to my daughters, that God will not force solutions on us. “Remember all the times you brought broken toys for me to fix? I couldn’t fix them if you wouldn’t give them to me. God can work with your problem when you trust Him with it and let go.”
We don’t know what God will do but we do know that God responds to prayer, especially humble, open- hearted prayer, and we know it pleases Him when people set aside their differences and come together to seek His will, willing to be changed by Him.
Authentic prayer always brings out the best in people. It brings them to recognize their own littleness and broken-ness before God, Who is all love, at once perfectly just, full of mercy, and utterly mysterious- thus requiring our open-ness and willingness, for Him to reveal Himself to us. This is when we can come to know the power of His transforming love.
What a perfect day Our Holy Father has chosen for this prayer session, the day of Pentecost, historically the celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses, and also the birthday of the Church, filled with the Fire of the Holy Spirit on that promised day. For all present, the grace of Pentecost, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, undid the language barrier, the curse of Babylon. When humanity worked together with their own plans and forgot God, they found they could no longer communicate or work together. In the Book of Acts, in the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost, we find that now, when the praises of God are being proclaimed by God’s people, they understand one another in the Spirit, no matter what language they speak.
The Law is given, the New Covenant springs to life. The law is love of God and love of neighbor, the new Covenant is with God’s newborn Church. Those painfully divided and hopelessly entangled coming to God in prayer fulfills the first and the second commandments, and the place is well chosen, the home of the Pope at the center of the Universal Church, a symbolic prayer in itself.
God can hardly help Himself, I think. Surely He will bless this gathering and these prayers of His children who don’t want to fight anymore and don’t know what to do to stop.
How can we put this example into practice in our lives? I think it is of special relevance in families. There is a lot of pain and love in families. There are always issues that need to be brought to the light of the Holy Spirit for forgiveness and unraveling. We don’t always know what to do. Sometimes we have talked and talked or we have tried not talking. We have tried forgetting, avoiding each other, pretending nothing happened. What if we came together in honest prayer and let God begin the healing in His own way?
What if our first reaction, when we had a conflict with someone, was to pray about it with him?
When my first husband, Blaze, wanted to move back to his native Wisconsin, I knew it was fair since he had been in Texas with me so long. However, I could not help my grief, and he was upset that I was upset. Our talking about it was not doing any good. We were advised by my friend, Beth, to pray about it. Our prayer was to be, “If we are supposed to move to Milwaukee, give Shawn peace about going. If we are to stay in Texas, give Blaze peace about staying.” He got peace about staying and we stayed. It was the right thing.
An astounding occasion in our family was of an ex wife and the new girl friend praying a rosary together with me during a difficult period between us all. I could hardly believe it was happening! We probably won’t even know just how powerful that prayer was until Heaven shows us. But I can tell you that those women are close friends today, and I am close to them both and we all hang out and pray and study together years later. You never know what God will do!
Once my dad wanted to sit down on the couch with me and have us look into each other’s eyes for nine silent minutes. (Yes, my dad is a little eccentric. I know you are so surprised, Reader.) So we turned off the stereo and we sat on the couch and we looked at each other right in the eyes in silence. It was something I will never forget. It was bonding. It was freeing. It was beautiful. After the first awkward, anxious moments of wanting to laugh or run away or cry were over, my heart felt such peace and quiet and love.
“What did you think?” my dad asked when the long beep of the kitchen timer let us know our nine minutes were up.
“I think I saw you the way God sees you!”
My dad just smiled.
At this writing, I don’t know how the “intense prayer session” between Mr. Peres, Mr. Abbas, our Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholemew, the Rabbis and Imams will go. But from the little I’ve seen, in my own life, I am sure God will respond. Let’s join these men, and continue to join them. Better yet, let’s imitate them. Let’s go together and look into the eyes of Our Father without words or agendas of our own. Maybe we will finally see each other, and maybe even see God.
“Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelations 21:5)