The main characteristic that distinguishes a Christian from a person of a different religious denomination is true love. This consists in feeling deeply loved by God, and loving Him in return, above all things. From this conception of life derives other characteristics such as forgiveness, hope, faith, truth, etc. Saint Francis of Assisi, in his “Simple Prayer” helps us reflect on the great blessing we have of believing in God, and in the contribution we can make to the world enlightening the darkness with the true light of Jesus Christ.
The prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi shows the 8 contributions that a Christian can make to the world when he lives his faith coherently and lives an authentic life:
1. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”
“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:44).
In the midst of war, interior solitude, depression, and financial problems, love is the light that dissipates darkness and brings peace and stability. But, who can bring love to our lives? Only Jesus Christ. Only in Christ can we fully love. The Christian that is united to Him has the ability to communicate that love because “everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God” (1 Jn 4:7). The next time you perceive hate, do not forget to bring the love of God, that way He Himself will be the one intervening to dissipate the darkness of evil.
2. “…Where there is injury, pardon.”
“And if [your brother] wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,” you should forgive him.” (Lk 17:4).
Disloyal friends, unfaithful couples, siblings that drift apart, marriages that end up in divorce, etc., all this could be solved with forgiveness. Forgiveness necessarily requires communication, this is why Jesus, the Word, became flesh, to communicate to us His love, to forgive us, and bring us salvation. I ask you: has forgiveness become flesh in you? If your answer was “no”, and you still have not forgiven the person that offended you, do not worry, you still have time to do it. It is always time for forgiveness. Do not forget, communication first, then forgiveness. You will see how everything will change absolutely in your heart and life for the better.
3.“…Where there is discord, union.”
“How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one!” (Psalm 133:1).
Discord is the enemy of concord, and its meaning expresses it: “separation of hearts” —”dis-corda”. It is normal to have different opinions, but it is not normal for hearts to separate because of sometimes meaningless problems. Our society seems to promote division. Misused social media contributes to this, since when there is someone I do not like, I simply remove him from my contacts, from my life. A Christian does not act like that; he makes harmony and union where there is none. The Christian unites the hearts of men to make them one with Christ: “One body and one spirit” (Eph 4:4).
4. “…Where there is error, the truth.”
“Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17).
Error leads us closer to the darkness of evil. Just as hate bears war, error bears confusion. Do you feel confused, not knowing what to do? It is because there must be some error in your life. So, what is the solution? Simple: the truth. And what is truth? That is precisely what Pilate asked Jesus 2000 years ago, and which answer Jesus had explained a little before being asked: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (Jn 18:37). Jesus tells us: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). If we listen to Him and if we receive him, we will have the truth. Otherwise, as it often happens, we will remain immersed in error and the tribulations of life.
5.“…Where there is doubt, faith.”
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).
With today’s relativism, everyone seems to doubt even the most basic things. We live immersed in questions for which we seem unable to find either a scientific or an empirical answer. But, have you thought about including a little bit of faith in your life? Certainly, faith is a gift of God, which He grants to whoever He likes, but we can still ask for it. Typical: “I am self-sufficient; I do not need faith.” Great mistake! What makes you think that you can get by without others, without God?! Much ego and little humility! The person who is humble knows that he is not self-sufficient, that he needs others and God. Realizing this can be the beginning of a journey of faith that will help you to dissipate any doubt.
6. “…Where there is despair, hope.”
“I wait with longing for the Lord, my soul waits for his Word” (Psalm 130:5).
Family, moral, social, and economic problems, depression, addictions, and crises… for all this we usually go to a psychologist or look for answers in science. And God? Can God help me to heal my soul, to change? Of course He can! This is why we have the theological virtue of hope, that we Catholics little remember, and often forget to ask for. This virtue makes us trust in God despite all the tribulations and difficulties of life. There might be conflicts and problems, but with the shield of hope, nothing can take away our trust in the Lord.
7. “…Where there is darkness, light.”
“You are the light of the world… your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14;16).
The image of darkness makes us think about desolation, sadness, and fear. In contrast, the image of light makes us feel alive and helps us see clearly and distinguish the objects and colors around us. What would happen if we lived only in darkness? We could not do anything. We need light! Likewise, we, everyone, need God who is the true light. Whoever has God in his soul is capable of bringing light to the world absorbed in the darkness of extreme pleasure; the darkness of egoism and greed. There is no doubt that the light of Christ is necessary today. We cannot let the world extinguish the flame that is in us.
8. “…Where there is sadness, joy.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)
Sadness is neither good nor bad in itself, depending on the situation it can help us or discourage us. The excess of sadness is never good. A heart that is in love with Jesus, with His word, and His mission, has no reason to live in sadness. Saint Paul noticed this, therefore he exhorted the Philippians to always rejoice in the Lord, because He is our absolute joy. The person who is in love is never sad, except when his beloved is away. Something similar happens to Christians. We will always be happy as long as we live in love with God, and the odds are in our favor, since Jesus never leaves our lives.
These are some contributions we can make to the world. We, as Christians, have a great treasure in the earthen vessels of our hearts. We just have to take some time to find the beauty God has sowed in us.
Love, forgiveness, harmony, truth, faith, hope, light, and joy are qualities Saint Francis of Assisi had already experienced in his life eight centuries ago. Let us pray to God that he gives us these eight gifts so that we can be what He wants us to be: true and authentic disciples in love with Him, His Word, and His mission.
Written by Edgar Henríquez Carrasco, LC.