One of the most challenging of words to live by that Jesus spoke is included in the Gospel of Matthew 5: 43-44 [Jesus said:]
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
I’ve been reflecting on this passage for quite some time. In the Universal Prayers – the General Intercessions of the Mass - we often pray for those we love, and those we find it difficult to love, and we often pray for those with whom we disagree.
Why, when writing our prayers, do I include these so often?
It’s because I’m taking inspiration from our Savior, Jesus Christ.
If you’re angry with someone, have you thought who is really being hurt, you or the other person? The other may not even be aware that you’re angry! Anger will eat a person alive from the inside, it will cause all kinds of stress. And holding on to anger can literally suck the life out of a person.
We’ve all heard stories of families ripped apart by an anger that seethes for decades.
Righteous anger - or not – unless the person who is angry (yourself/myself), does something about it, nothing will change. There can be no reconciliation, no harmony, no peace. And how much more we accomplish in life when there is harmony, reconciliation and peace – deep and lasting peace?
A friend shared this reflection:
“Our nation is bitterly, angrily polarized. A polarized nation has elected and supports a polarized government system, but through the democratic principle of checks and balances, still our country has managed to achieve great things. But we are left hating those who believe differently from us, and last week we saw the effects of seething rage directed toward one of the three branches of our government. “
Here’s a different story, from our history. After the United States entered World War II in the 1940s, the entire country came together to defeat the tyranny that threatened our allies in Western Europe. Because a majority of young men and not-so-young men enlisted or were drafted into military service, the other half of the population, the women of our country, entered the workforce. They labored in industrial factories, manufacturing planes, ships and submarines; in public service; in all the industries that helped our country survive, and ultimately defeat, our sworn enemy.
The people, working together in harmony, longed for peace, and together fought desperately
to have a world at peace.
There now are sworn, bitter enemies in our political parties across our nation. Issues of racism, poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, homelessness, immigration plague our nation, and people are fighting each other. But holding on to anger against “the other “ will only eat a person alive.
We will continue in our Universal Prayers to pray for those who hate us, those who persecute us, those we find difficult to love. I encourage you to pray specifically for the person or people that you find difficult to love. Pray for your enemy, the target of your anger, by name, that you yourself may come to a point of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace. We cannot change others, but through God’s grace, we can change ourselves. We can change our outlook, perspective, heart, to become more like Christ.
-Dale Sieverding, Director of Worship
Archbishop John Carroll’s Prayer for Government
Composed for the Inauguration of George Washington
We pray you, O God of might, wisdom, and justice,
through whom authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgment decreed,
assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude
the President of these United States,
that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides;
by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion;
by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy;
and by restraining vice and immorality.
Let the light of your divine wisdom direct
the deliberations of Congress,
and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws
framed for our rule and government,
so that they may tend to the preservation of peace,
the promotion of national happiness,
the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge;
and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.
We pray for the governor of this state,
for the members of the assembly,
for all judges, magistrates, and other officers
who are appointed to guard our political welfare,
that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection,
to discharge the duties of their respective stations
with honesty and ability.
We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy,
all our fellow citizens throughout the United States,
that we may be blessed in the knowledge
and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law;
that we may be preserved in union,
and in that peace which the world cannot give;
and after enjoying the blessings of this life,
be admitted to those which are eternal.
Grant this, we beseech you, O Lord of mercy,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Prayer for Peace
On this day, we watch in fear, horror and confusion as we witness the images unfold in the assault on the U.S. Capitol Building, the very heart of our democratic republic.
On this day, the scenes we witness and the epiphanies we have had, frighten and shake us to the core.
On this day we pray for peace and reason to reign. And, so we pray.
God of mercy and peace,
source of life and author of all that is good:
Amid the clamor of our violence,
your Word of truth resounds;
upon a world made dark by sin,
We look for the light to chase away the darkness.
In the midst of the human conflict unfolding in the heart of our country,
you turn our minds to thoughts of peace.
And, on this day when brother has turned against brother,
and sister has turned upon sister,
We see that we have strayed far from where you are
and where you summon us to be.
But, loving God, here is where we need you now,
and need you the most.
Be with us.
In Torah, in Gospel, in Q’ran,
You speak these words again and again:
“Do not be afraid.”
When the message of the world goes against the grain of your Word,
may we always cling to the love you offer today
rather than the fears the world offers tomorrow.
Hear our cries of pain and anguish.
Hear our cries of despair.
Hear our cries and prayers for peace and reason.
Hear our cries for forgiveness.
Quell the cries for vengeance and violence.
Quiet the rage that seeks to silence the voices of others.
Still every heart filled with vengeance and violence.
Calm those who live in fear.
Comfort those whose hearts are broken.
and filled with pain and terror.
Give us the strength and resolve
to end all violence in our hearts, minds,
communities, this beautiful and fragile world,
and especially on this day,
in this country we love and call home.
For it is only through your healing power
the love of peace quells violence,
mercy conquers hatred,
and vengeance yields to forgiveness.
Loving God, show us your face in one another;
teach us to recognize as your children,
even our enemies and persecutors,
and to love them without measure or discrimination.
Hasten the advent of that day,
when the sounds of war will be for ever stilled, the darkness of evil scattered,
and all your children gathered into one.
Hear this prayer as we send it along with those
of all peace loving people.
In your good name, we pray. Amen.
©copyright, John K. Flaherty, Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January 2021
John Flaherty is the Associate Director of Campus Ministry at Loyola Marymount University and the overall Director of Liturgy and Music for the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. He is a gifted director, but also a writer and poet. He has graciously allowed us to publish this prayer he wrote calling us to unity and peace. John is a close friend of St. Monica, having worked with many of our staff on various projects, including the development of LAMP SoCal, a mentorship program for high school students in liturgy and music. He is a frequent guest speaker at St. Monica, having participated in the Psalms Lecture series: Honest2God, An Evening of Poetry, Wine, cheese and chocolate, and Catholic Conversations.
Take some time with this tried and true way to reflect on Words of Sacred Scripture
Read Meditate Pray Contemplate
When following where your Spirit has led,
I pray I won’t get stuck there.
Like John’s disciples,
I want to go in a new direction to follow you.
When you ask me what I’m looking for,
I don’t want to deflect by asking you a question,
like Andrew and his friend.
I pray I’ll be able to answer directly.
When you invite me
to join you, to see where you stay,
I want then to be like those first two:
Following, being with you, every day.
When you look at me
you see what I can’t about myself.
I want to be like Peter, to receive the new name
that calls out, proclaims, who I am for God.
I pray in your Name, Jesus. Amen.
For an attempt at True Spiritual Growth: work through this process of Lectio Divina every day or several days this week. Pray the Gospel Prayer in conclusion each day.
Each time you listen to, study, pray with the Scriptures – it is a new experience, and you are hearing the Word of God anew – because TODAY, you are not the same person as you were LAST WEEK – because of your encounter with the moments you have lived in the past week.
The Confessions of St. Augustine – I would be remiss if I didn’t offer you for your reading enjoyment, or re-reading if you’ve already read, the Confessions. St. Augustine’s self-indulgent Spiritual Auto-biography, which has inspired Christians who desire a deeper relationship with Christ to read and study the Confessions. This could be your next pandemic project!
Looking at monastic insights we might gain and learn from as a result of pandemic isolation:
What is Lectio Divina? - A Short video by Fr. James Martin, SJ
A resource put together as a gift to our Church for moments of prayer toward the end of life, especially useful for us as we accompany a loved one who may be in hospice, or near death when a priest cannot come to celebrate the Anointing of the sick.
This resource was prepared and sent to us for use by The Liturgical Press. It was prepared for use during this pandemic for times when a priest cannot come for anointing of the sick, or at the time of death, if a funeral is not able to be celebrated. I have sent it to a number of families, friends and neighbors upon hearing of illness or death, and it has been well received and offers a variety of prayer and home liturgy options for families and groups of friends. Check it out, share it if you know of a family or friend who could use it.