by Erin Benson
I was recently asked to give a talk on the issue of simplicity. The topic is close to my heart and usually brings a lot of energy and joy when I share with others how simplicity can be applied as a matter of faith in our lives. But as I was preparing for the talk, I found myself feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of the topic.
Ideas about environmentalism, reducing reliance on constant technology, and the many ways I could live more ethically swarmed my heart and mind. Instead of being excited for the talk, I felt rather inauthentic and saddened by how much I still needed to do. So, I did the simplest thing I could. I stopped planning and walked away from the computer. I found my favorite place on the couch, took a few deep breaths and settled in to pray.
After settling my mind and heart for a bit, a single phrase resounded in my mind: “Dear God, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The consolation I felt was immediate. I felt God’s forgiveness for my actions and inactions. Instead of burying my head and ignoring my own participation in the environmental degradation around me or pointing fingers at others, it was this phrase that opened my heart to own my complicity.
Full of God’s love and grace, I can commit to doing better. Instead of feeling frozen under the guilt for never being able to do enough, this prayerful phrase expressed God’s powerful love and thus provided motivation to keep learning and growing.
That passage from Luke 23:34 has continued to inform my prayer life. Whether I am reflecting on abuses in the Catholic Church, the environmental degradation in which I am participating, or my inadequate parenting, I’ve found great consolation in this phrase. God’s abundant forgiveness showering my Church, my community, my family, and me.
I sit with the phrase in silence. I repeat it aloud over and over. I hold it like a rock, rolling it around in my hand, finding a new crevice or feeling the variations on its surface. In the process, my heart becomes calm and my heart expands.
This powerful prayer from Jesus on the cross, asking for forgiveness for the very people who are killing him is one I held close for about a month. Connecting my faith life with my home, my Church, and my larger community is both a constant challenge and a gift. Life can simply feel heavy at times.
I’ve returned to the Bible as a living book, one that can speak to my heart today. A book that can provide prayer, story, and great relevance to so many current situations. I may not be a scholar or know the exact historical relevance for each phrase, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to know and love God better in prayer.
Erin Benson is the Regional Director for the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in Denver, which began operations this past year and is one of the newest regional offices in the IVC network.