By Dr. Allyson Carr, Associate Secretary, Justice Ministries
Recently, I was putting together a reflection for the Commission on Justice and Peace, an ecumenical group I sit on with the Canadian Council of Churches. I began the reflection with the peace prayer attributed to Saint Francis:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light, where there is sadness, joy. Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love…”
As I looked at that prayer, its words really resonated with me. At Christmas time, we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, and this prayer beautifully lays out what being an instrument of Christ’s peace can look like. Reflecting on the prayer gave me pause to consider how I can sow love, how I can work for joy, for hope, for faith. But of course, the more I reflected on how to do those things, the more fully I saw the difficulties involved in truly being an instrument of Christ’s peace in the world today.
Among other work related to issues like climate change, racism, and the situation in Palestine and Israel, we’ve spent the past several months reading through the lengthy final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The report gives a finding of genocide and notes that the Christian church was complicit in developing and supporting the structures and social practices that led to such intense and ongoing harm. How then can we work to be instruments of peace when we, collectively, have a history that includes sowing a great deal of harm? Can we still bring joy and love and faith and hope? How does one celebrate Christmas in a climate emergency while reflecting on genocide and the other issues this newsletter touches on?
Christmas is not a time for easy answers, but lucky for us, embodying a practice of love doesn’t have to come easily; it just has to come. While we often forget its purpose, the season of Advent is supposed to be an entire period devoted to preparation for the miracle expressed at Christmas. Advent is a reminder that it takes time, work, and readiness to welcome the Peace that came embodied in a small baby born in a manger in Bethlehem—a baby who almost immediately became a refugee, whose family had to flee for their lives to protect this so fragilely embodied peace.
Since taking up the position as Associate Secretary in September, the more I have learned about the issues we look at in Justice Ministries, the more I have come to appreciate Saint Francis’ prayer, which puts the onus of learning and then action on the speaker. It reminds those who pray it that working to be an instrument of God’s peace involves service of others; to work, for example, to understand others rather than prioritizing being understood ourselves. It teaches listening and caring.
In this newsletter (download | view online), we can see different ways that we in the PCC have worked and continue to work to be instruments of peace and justice. And, if I could wager an answer to the question I posed earlier about how to celebrate Christmas in the context we find ourselves in today, I would say that it is in loving service to the Prince of Peace, and all he came to save.
Christ, you came into this world bringing hope and love and peace. As we celebrate your birth, help us to live justly, being instruments of your peace.