Many of us are inspired by and take much solace from the wisdom offered across the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions. The Franciscan spiritual tradition is one that often speaks to me. So I read with much interest a recent article by Franciscan Father Daniel Horan examining “Four Franciscan practices to help us ‘see differently’.”
The world’s crises cry out for new vision — “seeing the world through God’s eyes” — and a new way of being. Father Dan summarizes four practices that can guide us: attending (paying attention through keen observation and contemplation), inhabiting (recognizing and claiming wherever we are as sacred), valuing (recognizing the inherent dignity of all God’s creation) and gazing (the “retrained,” perhaps open-hearted contemplation and action that stems from the other three practices).
To have such a glance into God’s deeper reality is not only the work of Franciscans or saints or mystics. It is the vocation of every one of us: to live with eyes wide opened, ears tuned in, arms outstretched, hearts filled with compassion. As my grandmother often told me, “Always put God first!”
But on a regular, daily basis? This “seeing differently” takes work, especially when looking out at the world. There are times when “always putting God first” is more like a pipe dream and the sacred seems in short supply.
We need signposts and reminders. Indeed, God grants us moments in which the deeper sensing happens more easily — the “thin places” in which the veil between the everyday and sacred is removed. The beauty of such moments helps us to see anew — a new awareness to the needs of others, a new way of responding in faithfulness to God’s call, a re-igniting of passion for mission, a new understanding of our relationship to creation.
I also believe when we entrust ourselves to God’s mission — to the work of God in order to give life to the world — we stop looking for the external signs and become one with the God whose gaze on us is always one of tenderness and love. Such faithful living helps us to truly see one another in love. We find our eyes being “retrained,” our hearts reminded, ourselves re-membered so that we cannot help but ask, “What is the most loving thing I can bring to or do in this time and space?”
Within all four expressions of Maryknoll, we are currently involved in retraining ourselves to see differently, as we are discerning what mission looks like in the 21st century: For what is the world crying out? With so much of creation groaning, what does God see and how does God want us to respond? What does that mean for each of us in our vocations, for our lives?
Transformation of the world — including ourselves and our communities — in part comes through seeing differently. Whether the Spirit moves us through the wisdom of a faith tradition, a sacred moment or thin place, or a grandmother’s sage advice, may we come to know that seeing differently has always been the invitation from the prophet, the angel, the apostle, the Christ:
I will give vision after vision!
Seek and you will find!
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Lo, I am always with you!
Comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.