Lord, make me an instrument of thy 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;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O 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.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. ~ St Francis of Assisi
The words are so familiar. We sing about peace and love and pardon and amazing grace. We talk about faith and hope and light and joy. We extol the goodness and sweetness of the Father’s mercy. I’m just wondering if we, if I, truly recognize the face of grace? Even more convicting, do I wear it? I read a story that made me think, possibly not.
The Bambemba tribe in South Africa has an unusual way of administering justice. A person who’s acted irresponsibly or has done something wrong is brought into the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All the work ceases. Everyone – men, women and children gather in a circle around the accused.
Then each and every person, one by one, speaks to him or her about all the good things that person has done. Can you imagine? The good things! Every incident and every experience that can be recalled is recounted. All the positive attributes, the generous deeds, the strengths and kindnesses are recited at length.
No one is allowed to make things up or exaggerate. It has to be absolutely true and genuine. The ceremony often lasts for several days and it doesn’t end until everyone has said every positive comment possible. Then the circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place as the person is welcomed back into the tribe.
If mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve, then this is truly merciful grace.