You’ve no doubt had those situations where putting on spiritual armor and going to “battle” was in order. You were, most likely, aware that a big issue needed to be addressed. You prayed, possibly asked for St. Michael’s intercession, and maybe even sought spiritual counsel about how to approach the situation. Then you stepped forward, in love, to discuss the issues with those involved.
In my experience, more often than not, I end up walking away from those encounters thinking, Well that wasn’t so bad, was it? The relationship grows and evolves into something better because of the kind and charitable postures everyone involved took to work through the stressors and mend the wounds.
And then there are those times when all this stuff hits you unawares, like hand grenades thrown at a soldier on furlough. Wounded, you’re left scratching your head and asking, Where did THAT come from? Once the confusion settles, unfortunately more often than not, the damage has been done. Unkind words uttered in the heat of the moment potentially destroy relationships forever. And then you’re back scratching your head again. Really, all this brouhaha over THAT?!
Still, we’re called to build bridges, right?
“Christians who are afraid to build bridges and prefer to build walls are Christians who are not sure of their faith, not sure of Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis.
Got it, Papa. So you seek to understand, pray for insight, offer an apology, maybe provide or glean some context to make sense of the behaviors behind the actions. And yet, all peacemaking attempts are still thrown back into your faces. Angrier accusations and mischaracterizations abound. Discouraged by the evil one himself, you begin to second guess your bridge building efforts. Maybe you’re left thinking, I should have just kept my big mouth shut. That’s the last time I’m sticking out my neck in a gesture of kindness.
For these times, I’m allowing the following moment, courtesy Pope Francis and a pair of doves, to offer gentle encouragement and some comic relief.
Dateline: January 26, 2014. The Papal Window, St. Peter’s Square, Rome.
After praying for peace in the Ukraine where violent protests have raged since late November, two children stood along Pope Francis at his papal window. The children released a pair of doves, but the birds of peace were quickly attacked by two birds of prey. One dove lost feathers after being attacked by a seagull. A crow continually pecked at the other. Both doves managed to escape, but it’s not clear what happened to them after flying away.
Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters
Gregorio Borgia / AP
Turns out bridge building is hazardous work. But the alternative is no better. As Blessed John Paul II once said, “Either we learn to walk together in peace and harmony, or we drift apart and ruin ourselves and others.”
When we pray and work for peace and unity, it doesn’t always work out the way we hope, does it? Sometimes the hand that’s holding the olive branch gets slapped. Other times, we are pecked at and attacked just as those peace doves. And to that I say, So what! Get on with it and go forward! Keep working for peace and unity anyway.
And when all this fails? Well, for those times, you just gotta laugh.
“So you’ve been hauled over the coals? Don’t follow the advice of pride and lose your temper. Think: “How charitable they are toward me! The things they’ve left unsaid!” St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 698
What bridges can you build today? Offer what you can. Leave the rest up to God.
Copyright 2014 Lisa Schmidt