Praying for Our Enemies and the Pope’s Interview

shutterstockI use the word “enemies” here not in the sense of any stable sort of relationship, but rather to signify those relationships of contention that have developed between members and factions within the Church. I do believe these relationships can often be described in the terms of “enemy,” even as I don’t mean to suggest that they must remain that way.

In light of Pope Francis’s now infamous interview, I find myself praying for the willingness to pray for my conservative sisters and brothers.

I know they must be suffering. I know they must be feeling frustration and sadness. I know they are feeling fear over the future direction of the Church. I know because I have felt these same things many times during the last two papacies.

I understand what it is like to feel that the faith tradition you love so much is moving in a direction that you’re not sure you can follow. I understand the sense of abandonment and marginalization. I understand the anger. Most importantly, I understand the self-righteousness that serves to defend against what is in the end nothing more than insecurity.

It is too easy to fall into a defensive posture that does nothing but criticize. It is too easy to feel that you can somehow stand above it all in an atmosphere of purity because you have “right” (or, often for progressives, “justice”) on your side.

In this sense, progressives and conservatives in the Church easily find unity in a form of holy righteousness, in thinking that they hold the key to the true Christian vision.

I am not suggesting that we let go of visions of truth and justice. I firmly believe we need to continue cooperating with God so as to align the world according to the values of the Kingdom. I believe it is important to take a stand solidly within a framework of values, to commit oneself wholeheartedly to a vision of the true and the good.

At the same time, I firmly believe that because human beings do not and cannot have an immediate grasp on the fullness of truth, conflict is inevitable. I do not wish to avoid conflict, but rather to engage it creatively, wisely, nonviolently, and persuasively (as opposed to coercively).

Thus, I’m praying for the willingness to have compassion for my conservative sisters and brothers right now. I’m praying for the willingness to search and search for ways I can let them into my vision and that they can let me into theirs.

I’m praying for the ability to not use a moment that feels powerful for me as a way to make others feel less powerful.

Only God is the fullness of truth, justice, righteousness, progress, and conservation. We are but loved sinners.

Lord, help us to know our unity in your love; warm and revive our often cold and shriveled hearts.
Lord, teach us to see as You see.
Help us to love Your vision more than our own approximations,
and grant us the wisdom to discern the difference.