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Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina (465)

"Lectio divina is an authentic source of Christian spirituality recommended by our Rule. We therefore practice it every day, so that we may develop a deep and genuine love for it, and so that we may grow in the surpassing knowledge of Christ. In this way we shall put into practice the Apostle Paul’s commandment, which is mentioned in our Rule: “Let the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, live abundantly in your mouth and in your hearts; and whatever you must do, do it in the name of the Lord.”

 Carmelite Constitutions (No. 82)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:49

Lectio Divina: Mark 12,1-12

Written by

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

Father,
your love never fails.
Hear our call.
Keep us from danger
and provide for all our needs.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 12,1-12

Jesus went on to speak to the priests, the scribes and the elders in parables, 'A man planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug out a trough for the winepress and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad.
When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized the man, thrashed him and sent him away empty handed. Next he sent another servant to them; him they beat about the head and treated shamefully. And he sent another and him they killed; then a number of others, and they thrashed some and killed the rest.
He had still someone left: his beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, "They will respect my son." But those tenants said to each other, "This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours."
So they seized him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. Now what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and make an end of the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this text of scripture: The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this is the Lord's doing, and we marvel at it?'
And they would have liked to arrest him, because they realised that the parable was aimed at them, but they were afraid of the crowds. So they left him alone and went away.

 

3) Reflection

• Jesus is in Jerusalem. It is the last week of his life. He has returned to the portico of the Temple (Mk 11, 27), where he now begins the direct confrontation with the authority. Chapters 11 and 12 describe the diverse aspects of this confrontation: (a) with the men buying and selling in the Temple (Mk 12,11-26), (b) with the priests, elders and the Scribes (Mk 11,27 and 12,12), (c) with the Pharisees and the Herodians (Mk 12,13-17), (d) with the Sadducees (Mk 12,18-27), and (e) once again with the Scribes (Mk 12,28-40). Finally at the end the confrontation with all of them, Jesus comments on the widow’s mite (Mk 12, 41-44). Today’s Gospel describes part of the conflict with the priests, elders and the Scribes (Mk 12,1-12). All these confrontations make the disciples and us understand more clearly which is Jesus’ project and which is the intention of those who have power.
• Mark 12, 1-9: The parable of the vineyard: the direct response of Jesus to men of power. The parable of the vineyard is a summary of the history of Israel. A beautiful summary taken from the Prophet Isaiah (Is 5,1-7). Through this story, Jesus gives an indirect response to the priests, Scribes and elders who had asked him: What authority have you for acting like this? Who gave you authority to act like this?" (Mk 11,28). In this parable Jesus (a) reveals the origin of his authority: he is the Son, the heir (Mk 12,6); (b) he denounces the abuse of the authority of the tenants, that is, of the priests and of the elders who were not concerned about the people of God (Mk 12,3-8); (c) He defends the authority of the prophets, sent by God, but massacred by the tenants of the vineyard! (Mk 12, 2-5); (d) He unmasks the authority which manipulates religion and kills the son, because they do not want to lose the source of income which they have succeeded to accumulate for themselves, throughout the centuries (Mk 12, 7).
• Mark 12, 10-12: The decision of men of power confirms the denunciation made by God. The priests, the Scribes and the elders understood very well the meaning of the parable, but they were not converted. Rather, they maintained their own project to arrest Jesus (Mk 12, 12). They rejected “the corner stone” (Mk 12, 10), but they do not have the courage to do it openly, because they fear the people. Thus, the disciples have to know what awaits them if they follow Jesus!
The men of power at the time of Jesus: In chapters 11 and 12 of the Gospel of Mark we see that there are some men today: priests, elders and Scribes (Mk 11, 27); not of tomorrow: Pharisees and Herodians (Mk 12, 13); not of day after tomorrow: Sadducees (Mk 12, 18).
-Priests: They were the ones in charge of the worship in the Temple, where the tenth part of the income was collected. The High priest occupied a central place in the life of the people, especially after the exile. He was chosen among the families who had more power and who were richer.
-Elders or Chiefs of the people: They were the local chiefs, in the villages and in the cities. Their origin was the heads of the ancient tribes.
-Scribes or Doctors of the Law: they were those in charge of teaching. They dedicated their life to the study of the Law of God and taught the people how to observe the Law of God in all things. Not all the Scribes followed the same line. Some of them were with the Pharisees, others with the Sadducees.
- Pharisees: Pharisee means: separated. They fought in order that by means of the perfect observance of the Law of purity, people would succeed to be pure, separated, and holy as the Law and Tradition demanded! By means of the exemplary witness of their life within the norms of the time, they governed in almost all the villages of Galilee.
-Herodians: this was a group bound to Herod Antipas of Galilee who governed from 4 BC until 39 AD. The Herodians formed part of an elite class who did not expect the Kingdom of God in the future, but who considered it already present in Herod’s kingdom.
- Sadducees: They were an elite aristocratic class of rich merchants or owners of large estates. They were conservative. They did not accept the changes defended by the Pharisees, for example, faith in the Resurrection and the existence of the angels.
- Synedrium: This was the Supreme Tribunal of the Jews with 71 members among high priests, elders, Pharisees and Scribes. It had the role of great power before the people and represented the nation before the Roman authority.

 

4) Personal questions

• Some times, as it happened to Jesus, have you felt controlled by the authority of your country, at home, in your family, in your work or in the Church? Which was your reaction then?
• What does this parable teach us concerning the way of exercising authority? And you, how do you exercise your authority in the family, in the community and in your work?

 

5) Concluding Prayer

Integrity and generosity are marks of Yahweh
for he brings sinners back to the path.
Judiciously he guides the humble,
instructing the poor in his way. (Ps 25,8-9)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:47

Lectio Divina: Mark 10,46-52

Written by

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

Lord,
guide the course of world events
and give your Church the joy and peace
of serving you in freedom.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10,46-52

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus -- that is, the son of Timaeus -- a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and cry out, 'Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.' And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, 'Son of David, have pity on me.' Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him here.' So they called the blind man over. 'Courage,' they said, 'get up; he is calling you.' So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, 'What do you want me to do for you?' The blind man said to him, 'Rabbuni, let me see again.' Jesus said to him, 'Go; your faith has saved you.' And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

3) Reflection

• The Gospel today describes the cure of the blind man Bartimaeus (Mk 10, 46-52) which closes the long teaching of Jesus about the Cross. At the beginning of this teaching, there was the cure of an anonymous blind man (Mk 8, 22-26). Both cures of blind persons are the symbol of what happened between Jesus and the disciples.

• Mark 10, 46-47: The shouting of the blind man Bartimaeus. Finally, after travelling a long distance, Jesus and the disciples reached Jericho, the last stop before going up toward Jerusalem. Bartimaeus, the blind man was sitting at the side of the road. He could not take part in the procession which accompanies Jesus. But he calls out, asking for the help of Jesus: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Throughout the centuries, through the practice of the monks of the desert, this invocation of the poor Bartimaeus became what is usually called: “The prayer of Jesus”. The monks repeated it orally, all the time, and from the mouth it went to the heart. The person, after a short time, no longer prays, in the sense that the person becomes prayer.

• Mark 10, 48-51: Jesus listens to the cry of the blind man. The cry of the poor man bothers people. Those who are in the procession try to stop the poor man from shouting, but “he shouted even louder!” And what does Jesus do? He listens to the call of the poor man, he stops and said: Call him here! Those who wanted to keep him from shouting, to stop the disturbing shout of the poor man, now, at the request of Jesus, are obliged to bring the poor man to Jesus. “Courage, get up because Jesus is calling you”. Bartimaeus leaves everything and directs himself to Jesus. He does not have too much. Only a mantle; what he had to cover his body (cfr. Ex 22, 25-26). This was his security, the only thing he possessed. Jesus asks: “What do you want me to do for you?” It is not enough to shout. It is necessary to know why we shout! “Rabbuni, My Lord, let me see again!” Bartimaeus had called Jesus not with thoughts completely just, because the title “Son of David” was not particularly appropriate. Jesus himself had criticized this (Mk 12, 35-37). But Bartimaeus had greater faith in Jesus than what he could express with his ideas about Jesus. He does not express any demands as Peter did. He knows how to give his life without imposing any conditions, and the miracle takes place.

• Mark 10, 52: “Your faith has saved you”. Jesus tells him: “Go, your faith has saved you.” In that same instant Bartimaeus began to see again and he followed Jesus along the road. His cure is the result of his faith in Jesus. Once cured, he abandons everything, follows Jesus along the road and goes up with him toward Calvary to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus becomes a model disciple for all of us who want to “follow Jesus along the road” in the direction of Jerusalem. In this decision of walking with Jesus is found the source of courage and the seed of the victory on the Cross. Because the cross is not fatal, nor an exigency from God. It is the consequence of the commitment assumed with God, to serve the brothers and sisters and to reject privileges.

Faith is a force which transforms persons. The cure of the blind man Bartimaeus clarifies a very important aspect of how faith in Jesus should be. Peter had said to Jesus: “You are the Christ!” (Mk 8, 29). His doctrine was right, exact, because Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. But when Jesus says that the Messiah has to suffer, Peter reacts and does not accept. Peter had a right doctrine, but his faith in Jesus was not so just. Bartimaeus, on the contrary, had called Jesus with the title of “Son of David!” (Mk 10, 47. Jesus was not too pleased with this title (Mk 12, 35-37). And this is why, even invoking Jesus with a doctrine which is not correct, Bartimaeus had faith and was cured! It was different from that of Peter (Mk 8, 32-33), he believed more in Jesus than in the ideas that he had of Jesus. He was converted and followed Jesus along the road toward Calvary (Mk 10, 52). The total understanding of the following of Jesus is not obtained through a theoretical teaching, but with practical commitment, walking with him along the road of service and of gratuity, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Anyone who insists in maintaining the idea of Peter, that is, a glorious Messiah without the Cross, will understand nothing of Jesus and will never be able to attain the attitude of a true disciple. Anyone who believes in Jesus and “gives” himself (Mk 8, 35), accepts “to be the last one” (Mk 9, 35), to “drink the cup and to carry the cross” Mc 10, 38), this person, like Bartimaeus, even having a not too correct idea, will succeed to perceive and “to follow Jesus along the road” (Mk 10, 52). In this certainty of walking with Jesus is found the source of courage and the seed of the victory on the cross.

4) Personal questions

• An indiscreet question: “In my way of living faith, am I like Peter or like Bartimaeus?

• Today, in the Church, is the majority of the people like Peter or like Bartimaeus?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh is good,
his faithful love is everlasting,
his constancy from age to age. (Ps 100,5)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:45

Lectio Divina: Mark 10:32-45

Written by

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

Lord,
guide the course of world events
and give Your Church the joy and peace
of serving You in freedom.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10:32-45

The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise." Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?" They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to him, "We can." Jesus said to them, "The chalice that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared." When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

3) Reflection

• Today’s Gospel narrates the third announcement of the Passion and, once again, like in the previous times, it shows us the incoherence of the disciples (cfr. Mk 8:31-33 and Mk 9:30-37). Jesus insists on service and on the gift of one’s own life, and they continue to discuss about the first places in the Kingdom, with one at the right and the other on the left of the throne. Therefore, everything indicates that the disciples continue to be blind. This is a sign that the predominant ideology of the time had profoundly penetrated their mentality. In spite of having lived several years with Jesus, they had not changed their way of seeing things. They saw Jesus now, as they had seen Him at the beginning, and they wanted to be rewarded for following Jesus.

• Mark 10:32-34: The third announcement of the Passion. They were on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus walked in front of them. He was in a hurry. He knew that they would kill Him. The prophet Isaiah had announced it (Is 50:4-6; 53:1-10). His death was not the result of a blind destiny or of a pre-established plan, but the consequence of His commitment to the mission which He assumed and received from the Father together with the excluded of His time. This is why Jesus warns His disciples concerning the torture and death which He will suffer in Jerusalem. The disciple has to follow the Master, even if it is a matter of suffering with Him. The disciples were terrified, and those who were behind were afraid. They did not understand what was happening. Suffering was not in agreement with the idea that they had of the Messiah.

• Mark 10:35-37: The petition for the first place. The disciples not only do not understand, but they continue with their own personal ambitions. James and John ask for a place in the glory of the Kingdom, one at the right and the other on the left of Jesus. They want to even be before Peter! They do not understand Jesus. They are only concerned about their own personal interests. This shows clearly the tensions and the little understanding existing in the communities at the time of Mark. These even exist today in our communities. In the Gospel of Matthew it is the mother of James and John who addressed this request for her sons (Mt 20:20). Probably, because of the difficult situation of poverty and growing lack of work at that time, the mother intercedes for her sons and tries to guarantee an employment for them in the coming of the Kingdom of which Jesus spoke about so much.

• Mark 10:38-40: The response of Jesus. Jesus reacts firmly: “You do not know what you are asking!” And He asks if they are able to drink the cup that He, Jesus, will drink and if they are ready to receive the baptism which He will receive. It is the cup of suffering, the baptism of blood! Jesus wants to know if they, instead of a place of honor, accept to give up their life to the point of death. Both answer: “We can!” It seems to be a spontaneous answer, not having thought about it, because a few days later, they abandoned Jesus and left Him alone at the hour of suffering (Mk 14:50). They do not have a critical conscience. They do not perceive their personal reality. Regarding the place of honor in the Kingdom at the side of Jesus, this is granted by the Father. What He, Jesus, can offer, is the chalice and the baptism, suffering and the cross.

• Mark 10:41-44: “Among you this is not to happen”. At the end of His instruction about the Cross, Jesus once again speaks about the exercise of power (Mk 9:33-35). At that time, those who held power in the Roman Empire did not bother about the people. They acted only according to their own interests (Mk 6:17-29). The Roman Empire controlled the world and maintained it submitted by the force of arms and, thus, through the tributes, the taxes, duties, succeeded in concentrating the wealth of the people in the hands of a few in Rome. The society was characterized by the repressive and abusive exercise of power. Jesus had another proposal. He said: “Among you this is not to happen! With you it is not like that; but anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all”. He teaches against privileges and against rivalry. He overturns the system and insists on service, as a remedy against personal ambition. The community has to present an alternative for human living together.

• Mark 10:45: The summary of the life of Jesus: Jesus defines His mission and His life: “For the Son of man Himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is the Messiah Servant, announced by the Prophet Isaiah (cfr. Is 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). He learned from His mother who said to the Angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord!” (Lk 1:38). A totally new proposal for the society of that time. In this phrase in which He defines His life, three more ancient titles appear, used by the first Christians to express and to communicate to others what the following meant for them: Son of Man, Servant of Yahweh, He who redeems the excluded (the one who liberates, who saves). To humanize life, to serve the brothers and sisters, to welcome the excluded.

4) Personal questions

• James and John ask for the first places in the Kingdom. This thought is a prideful assumption that they deserve it. Do I ask for a first place when I pray? Do I just assume it is mine? How does this manner of thinking reconcile with saying “I am an unprofitable servant”?

• The one who wants to be first in the Kingdom must be “a slave of all.” The Church Fathers taught that Pride is the root sin. A slave has no pride, only humility and obedience. Where do I exert my own will, among others and among my community? How would my relationships be different if I were more humble?

• To be “a slave of all.” To do this today while maintaining our leadership responsibilities requires re-framing those relationships. How do I lead, manage, or instruct others as a slave of others?

5) Concluding Prayer

Yahweh has made known His saving power,
revealed His saving justice for the nations to see,
mindful of His faithful love
and His constancy to the House of Israel. (Ps 98:2-3)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:44

Lectio Divina: Mark 10:28-31

Written by

Ordinary Time



1) Opening prayer



Lord,

guide the course of world events

and give Your Church the joy and peace

of serving You in freedom.

You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10:28-31



Peter began to say to Jesus, "We have given up everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first."



3) Reflection



• In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus spoke about the conversation among the disciples about material goods: to get away from things, to sell everything, to give it to the poor and to follow Jesus. Or rather, like Jesus, they should live in total gratuity, placing their own life in the hands of God, serving the brothers and sisters (Mk 10:17-27). In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains how this life of gratuity and service of those who abandon everything for Him, for Jesus and for the Gospel, should be (Mk 10:28-31).



• Mark 10:28-31: A hundred times as much, as well as persecutions too. Peter observes: “We have left everything and followed You”. It is like saying: “We have done what the Lord asked of the young rich man. We have abandoned everything and we have followed You. Explain to us how should our life should be.” Peter wants Jesus to explain more of the new way of living in service and gratuity. The response from Jesus is beautiful, profound and symbolic: “In truth there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land, with persecutions too, now in the present time and in the world to come. Many who are first will be last and the last, first”. The type of life which springs from the gift of everything is an example of the Kingdom which Jesus wants to establish (a) to extend the family and to create community; it increases a hundred times the number of brothers and sisters. (b) It produces the sharing of goods, because all will have a hundred times more houses and land. Divine Providence incarnates itself and passes through the fraternal organization, where everything belongs to everyone and there are no longer persons who are in need. They put into practice the Law of God which asks “that there be no poor among you” (Dt 15:4-11). This was what the first Christians did (Acts 2:42-45). It is the perfect living out of service and gratuity. (c) They should not expect any privilege in return, no security, no type of promotion. Rather, in this life they will have all this, but with persecutions. Because in this world, organized on ego and the special interests of groups and people, those who want to live a gratuitous love and the gift of self will be crucified as Jesus was. (d) They will be persecuted in this world, but in the future world they will have eternal life, which the rich young man spoke about.



• Jesus is the choice of the poor. A two-fold slavery characterized the situation of the people of the time of Jesus: the slavery from the politics of Herod supported by the Roman Empire and maintained by a well organized system of exploitation and repression, and the slavery of the official religion, maintained by the religious authority of the time. This is why the clan, the family, the community, were all being disintegrated and a great number of the people were excluded, marginalized, homeless, and having no place in religion or in society. This is why several movements arose which were seeking a new way of living in community: the Essene, the Pharisees, and later on, the Zealots. In the community of Jesus there was something new which made it different from other groups. It was the attitude toward the poor and the excluded. The communities of the Pharisees lived separated. The word “Pharisee” means “separated”. They lived separated from impure people. Many Pharisees considered people ignorant and cursed (Jn 7:49), and in sin (Jo 9:34). Jesus and His community, on the contrary, lived together with these excluded persons who were considered impure: publicans, sinners, prostitutes, and lepers (Mk 2:16; 1:41; Lk 7:37). Jesus recognizes the richness and the values which the poor possess (Mt 11:25-26; Lk 21:1-4). He proclaims them blessed, because the Kingdom is theirs - it belongs to the poor (Lk 6:20; Mt 5:3). He defines His mission: “to proclaim the Good News to the poor” (Lk 4:18). He himself lives as a poor person. He possesses nothing for Himself, not even a rock where to lay His head (Lk 9:58). And to those who want to follow Him to share His life, He tells them to choose: God or money! (Mt 6:24). He orders that they choose in favor of the poor! (Mk 10:21). The poverty which characterized the life of Jesus and the disciples also characterized the mission. Contrary to other missionaries (Mt 23:15), the disciples of Jesus could take nothing with them, neither gold, nor money, nor two tunics, nor purse, nor sandals (Mt 10:9-10). They had to trust in the hospitality offered to them (Lk 9:4; 10:5-6). If they would be accepted by the people, they should work like everybody else and live from what they would receive as wages for their work (Lk 10:7-8). They should take care of the sick and those in need (Lk 10:9; Mt 10:8). Now they could tell the people: “The Kingdom of God is very near to you!” (Lk 10:9).



4) Personal questions



• In your life, how do you practice as Peter did: “We have left everything and have followed you”?

• Gratuitous sharing, service, acceptance to the excluded, are signs of the Kingdom. What do I do to live this? When do I do it? Can there be more?

• Look inside. What is the real motivation? Is it from love, or for gain? Is it a “transaction”, gaining extra “credits” for the next life? Is pride involved? Are there other reasons?

• Worldy wisdom teaches one has to be powerful, a “mover and shaker”, to influence others. How does one influence others when they have given away everything and in the world’s eyes are poor? At what point, or in what way, would one’s poverty speak louder and be more influential?



5) Concluding Prayer



The whole wide world has seen

the saving power of our God.

Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,

burst into shouts of joy! (Ps 98:3-4)


Lectio Divina:
2019-03-05
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:38

Lectio Divina: 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

Do not worry about tomorrow.

We are more important than birds and lilies

Matthew 6.24-34



1. LECTIO



a) Opening prayer



Holy Spirit that covers me with your silence and speak without words touch the heart. Your joy is mine, anxieties and fears while flying away like autumn leaves to be replaced by another spring. You're the sweetest caress, when I surrender to the cares of life that loses hope. You're the light that enlightens me and guide me, to you O Lord. Come Holy Spirit take my hand and teach me to pray when you can not find the words ispiramele.



b) Reading of the Gospel: Matthew 6.24-34



Then Jesus told his disciples: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other, or you and despise the other. You can not serve God and wealth. Therefore I say unto you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, nor about your body, what you will wear life is not worth perhaps more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Not much better than they are worth? And which of you, as you worry, can extend their lives even a little? And the dress, why do you bother? Observe how the lilies of the field neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of them. Now, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will do much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? ". Of all these things go in search of the pagans. Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need. Instead, try, first, the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its'.



c) A moment of silent prayer



Because the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our lives.



2. MEDITATIO



a) A key to reading



The track offered us for reflection, taken from the sixth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, we understand in the context of the discourse gospel of Jesus on the mountain (Mt 5.1 to 7.12). This discussion includes:



- The Beatitudes (5:1-12);



- The six topics that compare or contrast the old with the new law given by Jesus (5.21 to 48). Certainly the purpose of such arguments is not to oppose the New Testament to the Old, but to go deeper, the root of the commandments that govern the external behavior. Jesus came not to abolish but to perfect the law (5.17 to 20);



- Jesus' teachings on the three acts of piety: prayer (including the Lord's Prayer), almsgiving and fasting (6.1 to 18). The literary form is similar to that used for the six antitheses;



- The grouping of other courses without a special structure (6.19 to 7.12).



Our text begins with verse 24, which reiterates the issue of accession to the total life plan proposed by the teachings of the Master. Joining this project is to love one master, God, and devote himself to him. "No one can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other or one and despise the other." These poles of hate / love, affection / contempt Deuteronomy reminds us that seeks to regulate cases of polygamy, where it can happen that one has "two wives, one beloved and another hated" (cf. Dt 21.15 -17). The Genesis is the first book of Samuel we relate the two cases of Jacob, Rachel and Leah on the one hand and Elkanah, and Anne Peninnah the other (Gen 29.30-31, 1 Sam 1.2-8). St. Paul also speaks of an undivided heart in the service of the Lord (1 Cor 7.7 to 34). The Lord does not kill those who submit themselves! He is Father and is well aware of our needs. Already in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus invites us to ask the Father to provide us our daily bread (6.11).



Dedication to God, then, entails a drop in his father's hands and providential. Compassionate God who cares for the grass of the field and provides nourishment to the sparrows also takes care of us, Jesus assures us: "if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, not will do more for you ...?" (v. 30). The contrast with the wealth explains why, in Hebrew and Aramaic, Mammon is used in reference to trust in material things. The rich young man, in fact, Jesus asks us to indulge with confidence, leaving their security in tangible property, to freely follow the Master (Mark 10.17-31; Mt 19.16-30).



Jesus would have us understand that God alone is worthy of our trust and our abandonment of the branch. We are here in mind the warnings of Jesus about the danger of riches, and his coming (cf. Lk 16.19-30; 17.22 to 37, from 18.24 to 27 and parallel texts). The trouble for material things causes us to lose what is most needed (Luke 10:38-42) and fills us with a trivial concern.



b) A few questions



To guide the meditation and practice.



- What struck you about this book?



- Join the project of Jesus is to love one master, God, and devote himself to him. What practical implications does this choice in your life?



- God is a Father who cares for us. You trust him? How does it manifest that trust?



- Perhaps not the life more than food and the body more than clothing? What is life for you?



- What concerns you in life?



3. ORATIO



Moment of silent prayer



Our Father ...



4. CONTEMPLATIO




Imagine that Jesus speaks to you with these words:



Why are you troubled with your concerns? Let me care of your things and everything will calm down. I can tell you the truth that if you surrender in me totally every act of true or blind will affect what you desire, and resolve difficult situations. Surrendering does not mean smashing, upsetting and despairing but turning to me all your worry so I can change it into excitement in prayer because I am always with you. Surrendering means closing the eyes of the soul peacefully, diverting the mind from the tribulation and getting back to me because only me can protect you like children asleep in his mother's arms. How hard I work when the soul in its spiritual needs and in those material, so turns to me, looks at me and say, "I am thinking of you,"  then close your eyes and rest!


Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:36

Lectio Divina: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

… But I tell you: Love your enemies

Matthew 5: 38-48 



1. Opening prayer 



Come, Lord,

May Your breath blow as the spring breeze

that makes life bloom

and opens up love;

or let it be as the hurricane that unleashes

unknown strength

and raises latent energies.



May Your breath pass in our eyes

to open them up to farther and wider horizons,

drawn by our Father’s hand.



May Your breath pass on our saddened faces

to restore a smile again;

may it graze our tired hands to give them new life

and make them able to work joyfully

for the Gospel’s sake.



May your breath pass since dawn

holding fast all our days in a generous impulse.

May your breath pass as night approaches

to keep us safe in your light

and in your enthusiasm.

May it pass and remain throughout all our life

to renew it and give it the true and profound dimensions,

which are outlined in the Gospel of Jesus. 



2. READING



 a) A key to the reading:





The seventh Ordinary Sunday, unfortunately rarely celebrated, as it is inserted in the short period of time between Christmas and Lent confronts us with one of the sharpest Gospel passages, challenging and comforting at the same time, that a Christian can meet: the closing words or "antithesis" of the Sermon on the Mount.

The first reading from Leviticus (19:1-2, 17-18), is a piece of the "law of holiness." It relates directly to the second part of the Gospel text, with the command to love our neighbor and closely parallels the last sentence of the words of the Lord.



The second reading (1 Cor 3:16-23) shows a further development of the theme of the Gospel: the path of Christian holiness, as far as humanly paradoxical and difficult to understand and put into practice, becomes possible by virtue of our mutual belonging to God. We are consecrated to Him and He has given himself completely to us through love; making us capable of loving like He does, of loving because of Him and in Him.



Our passage belongs to the so called “Sermon on the Mount” and is the first of the great speeches of Jesus that characterizes the first Gospel and includes chapters 5 to 7. This long speech, beginning with the most known and always provocative Beatitudes, can be read in the light of Jesus’ statement on the full completion of the Law: " Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I came not to abolish them but to fulfill them…



For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (5:17,20).   



Our passage belongs to the second section of the sermon, the one exposing the “new ethic”, which comes to give fullness and perfection to the ethic based on the law given by Moses. This new ethic is characterized by statements beginning with the words: “But I tell you”; these statements lead us from the words of the Law or from a way to apply it to a new ethic law, which does not abolish the old Law, but gives it a new interpretation, in the light of our human interiority, in which God dwells as our Master and living example. In this way Jesus comes under our eyes and is presented to us by the Evangelist as a imitator of Moses, one who has in himself the same authority as the great leader of the Jewish people.



The verses of the Gospel this Sunday are the last verses of this section with the two last “anti-thesis” or “hyper-thesis”, which are strictly bound and have the strength to express the highest moral wisdom, based on the most pure and deep faith in God as Father and almighty and merciful Lord.



In light of the other readings of this Sunday's celebration, the strong ethical demands of Jesus that we hear today are to be seen not as the result of a heroic attitude, but rather as the result of a full Christian life of high quality and more conforming to the “image of the Son” (Rom 8:29). 



 b) The text: Matthew 5: 38-48



38 "You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  43 "You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  48 Be perfect, therefore, as Your heavenly Father is perfect. 



3. Moment of Silence



So that the Word of God may penetrate in our hearts and enlighten our life



4. For those who wish to go deeper into the theme 



We start from the premise that the Sermon on the Mount is not a "law according to cases", that is the enumeration of "ethical cases" with the solution best suited to each. On the contrary, as the scholar J. Ernst said so well, "Considered as ethical rules, such requests (those inserted in the Sermon on the Mount) are totally meaningless. Their significance is to be found in the role they play as signs and directions.” In fact they want to draw our attention in a drastic way on the new era of salvation, which began with Jesus. The commandment of love has now acquired an ultimate radical stress.  



Matthew 5:38: Jesus' exhortation starts from the "law of retaliation" (eye for an eye), which is a rule born from the civil law to prevent immoderate revenges, especially if hyperbolic; revenges that are to be limited according to a criterion of just balance between the evil committed and the evil given back and, above all, these revenges must be ruled within a judicial sphere.



Matthew 5:39 a: Jesus’ clear intent is not the condemnation of the ancient "eye for an eye" with all its rigors. He intends to suggest to us an approach for practical life, in accordance with the infinite goodness and mercy of our heavenly Father as a general attitude of life, made possible by the proclamation of the kingdom. The disciples of Jesus must be guided by a criterion that exceeds, by virtue of an overflowing love, the natural inclination to demand the absolute respect of one’s rights. Those who belong to Jesus must live according to generosity:  spending one’s life for others, forgetting their own interests, free from meanness, being benevolent, forgiving, giving proof of greatness of soul. This is a practical and really radical way to interpret the beatitude of the meek (Matt 5: 5).



5:39 b-42: Here are a few examples of magnanimity (that is to have a “animus magnus – a soul wide open”) that should characterize the Christian, who is called to give more than is required or claimed by him. Of course, this is not an absolute law, which would upset the socially accepted way of life, but it is a way to show the spirit of love even towards those who have done something bad.

The underlying message contained in these so well known examples corrects deeply the message contained in the "law of retaliation" (eye for an eye) and cannot be properly understood, except in the light of it.

The believer is called to interpret every situation, even those presenting very serious difficulties, in terms of the love of God which he has already received, making a radical leap in the approach: no more retaliation or revenge, nor the defense of himself and of his rights, even though appropriate, but the search for the good of everyone, even those who do evil. In this way one becomes free from the chain of revenge or even violence, which could become endless, to get justice by oneself, risking a fall into the spiral of evil under the influence of excessive zeal. It is on God’s justice, which is always better, that we have to rely.



St. Paul expresses this very well: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.   If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. "(Rom 12:17-21).

The interpretation of these living standards can be found in the general attitude and in several specific episodes of the Passion of Jesus: when he reacts with calmness and firmness to the beatings during the process held by the Jews (Jn 18:23), when He doesn’t flee from being arrested and prevents Peter from fighting for Him (Jn 18:4-10), when He forgives those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34) and takes the thief into paradise (Luke 23:40-43). We know that the key to understanding the passion of Jesus is God's love for humanity (Jn 13:1, 15:13).

A hero of nonviolence, Martin Luther King, wrote: "The oceans of history are made turbulent by the flow of always insurrecting revenge. Man never raised above the commandment of the lex talionis: "Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." In spite of the fact that the law of revenge does not solve any social problem, people continue to pursue its disastrous leadership. The story echoes the noise of the ruin of nations and individuals who have followed this self-destructive path. Jesus from the cross stated eloquently a higher law. He knew that the old law eye for an eye would make all blind, and did not try to overcome evil with evil: He won over evil with good. Crucified by hate, He responded with aggressive love.



What a wonderful lesson! “Generations will rise and fall. Man will continue to worship the god of vengeance and prostrate before the altar of retaliation, but then more and more this noble lesson of Calvary will be an urgent warning that only goodness can eliminate the evil and only love can overcome hate. "(The power of love, Società Editrice Internazionale, Torino, 1994, p. 65).



Matthew 5:43: The Old-Testament commandment that Jesus quotes is the result of the combination of a quote from Leviticus (19:18) and the extra-biblical words "and hate your enemy" that come from a totally negative attitude towards the Gentiles, seen as enemies of God and, therefore, as enemies of the people of God and as such they had to be rejected in any way, in order to avoid the infection of their idolatry and immorality.



Matthew 5:44 a: The evangelist uses, significantly, the verb agapao to indicate the Christian duty to love the enemies far beyond any general rule and any kind of friendship. This is the most typical verb expressing God’s attitude towards men and men’s attitude towards God and his fellows: a radical will of free goodness and self-giving.

This precept, completely new and shocking in many ways, completes the previous teachings of Jesus and refers to the "superabundant justice" from which began the Sermon on the Mount. It is up to this very lofty goal that He wanted to bring His disciples: "Love your enemies." 



The enemies we are talking about here, specifically, are the persecutors, pagans, idolaters, those who most directly contrasted the Christian ideal, thus constituting a threat to faith. However, they are the prototype and the symbol of each enemy. To them the Christian should use the same kindness that he has with his brothers in faith. Not only tolerance, love or friendship in general, but deep and disinterested love of self that the believer can only draw from the heart of God and learn from his example, as seen in the creation and history of the universe. 



Matthew 5:44 b: " Love and pray, love up to pray." It is the supreme gift that can be given to the enemy, because it puts in place the maximum internal energy: the power of faith. It's easier to offer a gesture of external aid or relief than to desire intimately, in one’s heart and in truth, the good of the enemy, as much as to make it the theme and the intention of prayer before God. If you pray for him, asking for him graces and blessings, it means that you desire and want what is good for him. This is to be sincere in love. Prayer is the Christian’s reward to the blames of the enemy. (OP). 



Matthew 5:45: Jesus explains why we should love our enemies. The filiation He is talking about in this passage does not cancel that by creation or adoption, but it is primarily the one of the similarity of our feelings with those of God.



The Christian must imitate in his everyday life the goodness of his heavenly Father.



So, when he loves his enemy, he becomes child of the Heavenly Father, because it is the result of the desire to love as He does.



Of course, the identity of the children of God is not static, but emerges from a dynamic process. Those who are children of God by Baptism, become fully His children living and growing in the same logic of the Father, also making gestures of love that reveal his likeness to God. Since God is good and fair, His sons are good and fair, able to regulate their own love not according to the merits of others, but according to the love and care that each living being receives constantly by God.



The more one lets oneself be shaped by the grace of God, the more one can put into practice this commandment, and the more the Holy Spirit will bear witness to his spirit that He is the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:16). 



Matthew 5:46-47: the real difference between Christians and other people is the attitude and the capacity to love even those who would be "naturally" not lovely. 



Matthew 5:48: Perfect (teleios, complete, accomplished - in this case, complete in love).

Again Jesus links the commandment of love for the enemy with His Father's example, with the actions that He accomplishes daily for the benefit of all and which are the fruit of his heart full of love, that He, the Son, knows deeply. This is the heart of Christian morality which is not a law to observe, but is a communion of life with this Father given by the Holy Spirit, "the law of the Spirit who gives life in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:2).

In this communion, the Christian absorbs the love of the Father, a love that aims to change enemies into friends, changing the bad and making them become good.



Isaac of Nineveh, commenting on  v. 45, states, "By the Creator there is no change, or intention that is before or after, in His nature, there is no hatred or resentment, or smaller or bigger place in His love, either after or first in His knowledge. In fact, if everyone believes that the creation has begun as a result of goodness and love of the Creator, we know that this plea does not change or decrease in the Creator, as a result of a disorder in His creation.

   It would be odious and blasphemous to claim that in God exist hatred or resentment – not even for the demons - or to imagine any other weakness or passion ... On the contrary, God acts with us in ways that are advantageous for us; either causes of pain or relief for us, of joy or sadness, insignificant or glorious. All of them are oriented towards the same eternal Goods "(Discourse, Part 2, 38.5 and 39.3). 



5. Questions for reflection:



to help us in our personal reflection and meditation.

-  Do I know that these words are for me, today?



Do I know that Jesus speaks to me in the situation that I live in this particular moment in my life?

- Do I take seriously the words of the gospel?

- How do I live these high and yet unavoidable ethical standards?

"I tell you:  Do not resist an evil person "

"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also"

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"

"Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

- I examine myself: What are my models of conduct when I am in difficult situations?



When I feel attacked or treated unfairly?

- And when I feel the lack of love of others or their aversion to me, how do I react?



Which pattern does my action follow in this situation?

- In my prayer do I put myself in front of the example of Jesus?



Am I able to look at least a little to the Father who is a merciful Father of all beings in the universe and keeps all in existence?

- It's time to take another step forward in the way I act: I invoke the Holy Spirit, so that He may shape my interior according to the image of Jesus, making me able to love others like Him and because of Him! 



6. ORATIO



The Word of God offers us a magnificent hymn for our prayer.



The beauty and timeliness of the famous "hymn to love" (1 Cor 13:1-9,12b-13) become even stronger for us if, when we pray, we replace the word "charity" with the name of Jesus, who is divine love incarnate, and who is a true reflection of the Father’s love for all His creatures: 



If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.



But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 



Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love 



7. FINAL PRAYER  



O God, in Your Son, stripped and humiliated on the cross, You have revealed the strength of Your love, open our hearts to the gift of your Spirit and provide that, accepting Him, the chains of violence and hatred that bind us to the lifestyle of those who do not know you may be broken within us, so that through the victory of good over evil we may manifest our identity as God’s children and bear witness to Your Gospel of reconciliation and peace.


Lectio Divina:
2020-02-23
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:34

Lectio Divina: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Written by

The new "justice"

This was said to the ancients, but I tell you...

Mt 5:17-37



1. LECTIO



a) Opening prayer



"Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening." Speak to us now, Lord! We want to make room for your Word, to allow the words of the Gospel to permeate our lives so that You become the light the strength of our way. Enliven and transform our attitudes. We all want to mature in the way of listening to Your words so that our hearts may be transformed.



In us, there is a desire to read and to understand. We are depending on Your bounty and generosity to be guided in our comprehension of Your Word.



Let Your word to our hearts not find any obstacles or resistance, so that Your word of life does not flow in vain or in the dried desert of our lives. Enter into our empty hearts with the power of Your Word. Come among our thoughts and feelings. Come to live with us in the light of Your truth.



b) Gospel according to Matthew (Mt 5:17-37)





Jesus said to His disciples,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.

I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,

not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter

will pass from the law,

until all things have taken place.

Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments

and teaches others to do so

will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.

But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments

will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses

that of the scribes and Pharisees,

you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.



“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,

You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.

But I say to you,

whoever is angry with brother

will be liable to judgment;

and whoever says to brother, ‘Raqa,’

will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;

and whoever says, ‘You fool,’

will be liable to fiery Gehenna.

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,

and there recall that your brother

has anything against you,

leave your gift there at the altar,

go first and be reconciled with your brother,

and then come and offer your gift.

Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.

Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,

and the judge will hand you over to the guard,

and you will be thrown into prison.

Amen, I say to you,

you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.



“You have heard that it was said,

You shall not commit adultery.

But I say to you,

everyone who looks at a woman with lust

has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

If your right eye causes you to sin,

tear it out and throw it away.

It is better for you to lose one of your members

than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.

And if your right hand causes you to sin,

cut it off and throw it away.

It is better for you to lose one of your members

than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.



It was also said,

“Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.”

But I say to you,

“whoever divorces his wife -‑ unless the marriage is unlawful -‑

causes her to commit adultery,

and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”



“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,

Do not take a false oath,

but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all;

not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;

nor by the earth, for it is His footstool;

nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

Do not swear by your head,

for you cannot make a single hair white or black.

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,' and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’

Anything more is from the evil one.”



c) Moment of silence



The silence creates an internal atmosphere of intimacy and at the same time increases the spiritual aspect of the Word.



2. MEDITATIO



a) Key to the reading



Mt 5-7: The context in the “Sermon on the Mount”



Jesus addressed the crowds who were in hurry to listen to His teaching. They are amazed with His authority. He speaks to them with strong demand and points out that we are children of God and brothers and sister to each other, in the attempt to give the full meaning of the precept of the Jewish law.



The evangelist, in locating the first discourse of Jesus on the mountain, wished to draw the attention to the readers the image of Moses giving the Law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:9). This teaching takes place as Jesus is seated, a position that recalls the attitude of the Jewish rabbi interpreting Scripture to his disciples. It is difficult to capture the richness of the themes that run through long speech, as some scholars prefer to call it “the evangelical words of Jesus"(cf. 7:28).



Our liturgical text is preceded by a prologue in which the Beatitudes are presented as the fulfillment of the Law (Mt 5:3 to 16). The message of Jesus in this teaching focuses on happiness in the biblical sense, which places man in right relationship with God and, therefore, with total life: happiness tied to the reality of the kingdom of heaven. In a second part Jesus develops the theme of "justice" of the kingdom of heaven (5:17 to 7:12).



Mt 5.17: Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.

In these first statements Jesus presents Himself as the one who come to "fulfill the law": "Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I came not to abolish but to fulfill them " (v.17). Jesus declares that He is the fulfillment of the law.



The consequences of such words are thus understood by the reader: only through Him what we can enter the kingdom of heaven, even the smallest of the commandments makes sense through Him. It's like saying that Jesus is the measure to enter the kingdom of heaven: in Him, anyone, great or small, depends on the choice of letting ourselves be led by one who fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Henceforth the law, the teaching of the prophets, the justice the salvation must bond with Him.



The reader knows that in the Old Testament these truths were seen like separate and distinguished among them: the Law contained the will of God; justice expressed the human engagement in order to observe the contents of God’s will in the Law; the Prophets, exegetes of the Law, were the witnesses of the implementation of the fidelity of God in the history. In the person of Jesus these three truths are unified: they find their meaning and value. Jesus declares openly that He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. What do these affirmations of Jesus mean? What is the meaning of “the Law and the Prophets”? We cannot be thinking of Jesus carrying out prophecies (from a point of view of the content, or in the literal sense) of the Law and the Prophets, but rather the instructions of the Law and the Prophets. But in particular way what does “to abolish”, “to fulfill” the instructions of the Law and the Prophets mean? The answer is placed at two levels.



The first one regards the instruction of Jesus, than it does not change the contents of the Law and the Prophets and whose function was didactic-instructive; indeed, Mathew considers the Prophets like the witnesses of the commandment of  love (Hos 6:6 // Mt 9:13; 12:7). That Jesus accomplishes the instructions of the Law and the Prophets can mean that “manifest them in their meaning”, “brings to complete expression” (U. Luz); it is from excluding the meaning of “to invalidate”, “to abolish”, “not to observe”, “to break (to smash)”.



The second level refers to the actions of Jesus: does the Law itself change or not? In this case to fulfill the Law could mean that Jesus, with His behavior, adds something that lacks or brings to fulfillment. It perfects the instructions of the Law. In more concrete terms: Jesus in His life, with its obedience to the Father, “accomplished” the requirements demanded from the Law and the Prophets; after all, He observes the Law completely. More meaningfully: through His death and resurrection Jesus has fulfilled the Law. To us it seems that the emphasis is placed on the behavior of Jesus: with obedience and practice He has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.



Mt 5:19: Jesus who teaches the will of the Father and the fulfillment of the Law.



To the reader the use of the verbs “to act and to teach” doesn’t escape:  the precepts of the Law for “who will observe them and will teach them”. Such aspects pick in full load the total image of Jesus in the thought of Mathew: Jesus who teaches the will of God and the achievement of the Law is the obedient son of the Father (3:13-4:11). Here the behavior model that appears to us from this Gospel page. Sure, the emphasis is on the implementation of the Law through obedience, but that does not exclude a fulfillment by means of His instruction. We do not forget that to Mathew the conformity of practice with the instruction of Jesus is important: He is master in obedience and the practice. However the praxis as it infers from the warning to watch itself from the pseudo prophets in 7:20 is priority: “From their fruits you will recognize them”. It is interesting to note that Mathew uses this verb to complete, to fulfill, only for Jesus: only He completes the Law, only His person introduces the characteristics of the fullness. Here is its authoritative invitation, that becomes a “shipment”, a task to complete the Law in fullness: “I say to you…” (vv. 18, 20).



Mt 5:20 Jesus fulfills justice.



Such implementation is distinguished from the ways to comprise it and to live it in  Judaism; in Jesus a new specificity of justice is introduced: “I say to you in fact: if your justice will not exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). The scribes are the theologians and the official interpreters of Writing (5:21-48), the Pharisees, instead, are the actively engaged laity of that time, excessively taken from the practice of mercy (6:1-18). Justice practiced from these two groups is not sufficient, cannot serve as a model: it prevents one from entering into the kingdom of heaven. The addressees of this warning, in the end, are the disciples; it is addressed to us. Sure the will of God it is drowned to the Law, but he is Jesus who incarnates a new way to put the justice in practice. Jesus asks one “greater justice”, than, what does it refer to? That one of the Scribes and the Pharisees has been aligned to the justice of the men, that one preached from Jesus, instead, demands one justice more substantial, significantly greater than that one practiced in Judaism. In what consists this “more” our text doesn’t define immediately; it is necessary to read the continuation of the instruction of Jesus.



Mt 5:20 The radicalism of the justice preached from Jesus.



It is not about emphasizing some commandments of the Law; it is rather primary that the commandment of love is at the center of these single commandments. The “most quantitative one” guides us to strengthen the qualitative aspect before God: the commandment of love. The believing community is called to subordinate to the commandment of love, seen as central, the various commandments of Law. There is no tension between the single garnishments and the commandment of love. The instructions of Jesus become binding, in line with the instructions from the Old Testament. For Jesus there is no opposition between the single prescription of the Law and the commandment of love: they are to be considered in a harmonious relationship because in their entirety the will of God is offered to us (U. Luz).



Mt 5:23-25: How to relate between siblings?



Among the radical requirements in inviting us to follow him, Jesus faces the argument of the relations fraternity. It isn’t enough to define all the engagement to the external action of not to kill: “You have heard that it was said from the old ones: You will not kill…” (v. 21); it is essential to break off such narrow norm therefore, but also radical: not to kill! The fifth commandment recommended the respect of life (Ex 20:13; Deut 5:17). A deepening or a completely new horizon in the spirit of the Decalogue comes forward now. If it is not permitted to kill a person physically it wants to say that it is allowed to make it in other ways: hatred, offense, gossip, depreciation, anger, insult. In the completely new perspective of the Sermon on the Mount, every lack of love towards the next one involves the same guilt as homicide. In fact temper, anger, insult are tempered by an undivided heart of love. For Jesus one does not break the single Law only by killing, but also with all those actions that try to destroy or make the other useless.



Jesus doesn’t deal with the issue of who is right or who is wrong but who “offends the brother or slanders him in public does not have more space in front of God, because homicide” (Bonhoeffer, Sequela 120). From here the severity that denies value to the offer, the cult, the prayer and the Eucharistic celebration. Who has separated himself from the brother also has separated himself from relationship with God. He needs, then, to reconcile first with the brother that has something against him: Against you, not you against him. Innovation in this word, even if not easy is one to share. To my brother that has “something against me” I answer coming upon him: “first, go to reconcile yourself”, without increasing the distance. It is not alone a question of asking forgiveness: it is urgent to reconstruct the fraternal relations because the good of the brother is my good. Jesus says: “Go first”… In the first place, before praying, before donating, before that the other makes the first step, is the movement of my heart, of my body towards the other. Such going towards the other has the purpose of the resetting of the wound; a movement that stretches to reconciliation.



b) Some questions



To put the meditation and practice



1.      In your life, are you always open to Jesus' request for a greater justice? Are you aware that they are not yet in full justice?



2.      In the practice of justice, do you match it with the act of God? Do you know that justice lives in the human relations given to us? A confirmation you may find in the word of the Apostle Paul: "My righteousness is not having as one arising from the law, but that which comes from faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God based on faith"(Phil 3:9).



3.      Is the expression of Jesus “but I say to you”  for us an imperative or a theoretical commandment? Are we aware that the more and more great justice is nothing else than the continuous availability to be confronted with the existence of Christ, the only  just (fair) One?



4.      Our justice is supposed to imitate something of the justice of God, of His gratuity, His creativity? God renders us just, free from the paralysis of sin; once rendered free, we mutually transmit this liberation, practicing a justice that does not judge, but always leaves open. Indeed it creates for the other a possible return to an authentic life.



3. ORATIO



a) Psalm 119 (1-5, 17-18, 33-34)



The Psalm invites to us to obey the law of God with personal effort. Such possibility is not only an external obligation but a gift granted to the one that puts his confidence in God. The practice of the new justice in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven cannot only come from an individual commitment, but from a familiar and constant dialogue with the Word of God.



Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk by the teaching of the LORD.

Happy are those who observe God's decrees, who seek the LORD with all their heart.

They do no wrong; they walk in God's ways.

You have given them the command to keep your precepts with care.

May my ways be firm in the observance of Your laws!

Be kind to your servant that I may live, that I may keep Your word.

Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of Your teachings.

LORD, teach me the way of Your laws; I shall observe them with care.

Give me insight to observe Your teaching, to keep it with all my heart.



b) Final prayer



The Word that we have listened to and meditated on has seemed quite strong to us,  my Lord, and has put our attitude in crisis: “Go reconcile yourself!”. In the first place, before being in front of the altar, before introducing our things and donating them to You with love, before that, we must reconcile with our brother. Help our heart to complete that movement that resolves conflict, heals the wound, therefore restores  lost harmony.



4. CONTEMPATIO



Saint John Chrysostom invites us with firmness: “When you refuse to pardon your enemy, you damage yourself, not him. What you are preparing is a punishment for you in the day of judgment” (Speeches 2,6). Let yourself be transformed by God’s love, in order to change your life, to be converted, to find the way of life again.


Lectio Divina:
2020-02-16
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:29

Lectio Divina: Mark 10:17-27

Written by

Ordinary Time



1) Opening prayer



Lord,

guide the course of world events

and give Your Church the joy and peace

of serving You in freedom.

You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10:17-27



As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."



3) Reflection



• The Gospel today narrates two events: (a) it tells the story of a rich man who asks how to obtain eternal life (Mk 10:17-22), and (b) Jesus warns on the danger of riches (Mk 10:23-27). The rich man does not accept the proposal of Jesus because he was very rich. A rich person believes he is protected by the security which is given to him by his riches. He has difficulty openning his hand and detaching himself from this security. He seizes the advantage of his goods, lives being concerned about defending his own interests. A poor person is not accustomed with this concern. But there may also be some poor people who have the mentality of the rich. Then, the desire for riches creates in them dependence and also makes them become slaves of consumerism. They have no time to dedicate themselves to the service of neighbor. Keeping these problems in mind, problems of persons and of countries, let us read and meditate on the text of the rich man.



• Mark 10:17-19: The observance of the commandments and eternal life. A person came up to Jesus and asked: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Gospel of Matthew tells us that it was the case of a young man (Mt 19:20-22). Jesus responds abruptly: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone!” Jesus takes away the attention from Himself to direct it toward God, because what is important is to do God’s will, to reveal the Father’s plan. Then Jesus affirms: “You know the commandments: You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false witness. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother”. It is important to always observe the response of Jesus. The young man had asked something concerning eternal life. He wanted to live together with God. But Jesus does not mention the first three commandments which define our relationship with God! He mentioned only those which indicate respect for the life lived together with others. According to Jesus, we can only be well with God if we know how to be well with our neighbor. It serves nothing to deceive ourselves. The door to reach God is our neighbor.



• Mark 10:20: What good is it to observe the commandments? The young man answered that he observed the commandments since his earliest days. What is strange is what follows. He wanted to know which was the way to eternal lifeNow, the way of life was, and continues to be, to do God’s will expressed in the commandments. It means that he observed the commandments without knowing for what purpose. Otherwise, he would not have asked any questions. This is what can happen today to many Catholics: they do not know what it means to be Catholic. “I was born in a Catholic country; this is why I am Catholic!” It is mindless!



• Mark 10:21-22: To share the goods with the poor and to follow Jesus. Hearing the response of the young man, “Jesus looked at him and was full of love for him and said: You need to do one more thing: go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor and you will have a treasure in heaven, then come, follow Me!” The observance of the commandments is only the first step of a stairway that goes higher. Jesus asks more! The observance of the commandments prepares the person for the total gift of self on behalf of neighbor. Jesus asks for much, but he asks it with much love. The rich young man does not accept the proposal of Jesus and goes away not just because he was a man of great wealth, but because he valued that wealth above all others.



• Mark 10:23-27: The camel and the eye of the needle. After the young man left, Jesus commented on His decision: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astounded. Jesus repeats the same phrase and adds: “It is easier that a camel passes through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God!”



The expression “enter the kingdom” not only indicates in the first place entrance into heaven after death, but also and above all, the entrance into the community around Jesus. The community is and should be a model of the Kingdom. The reference to the impossibility for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle comes from a popular proverb of the time used by the people to say that a thing was, humanly speaking, impossible and unfeasible. The disciples were astounded by hearing this and they ask themselves: “Then who can be saved?” This is a sign that they had not understood the response of Jesus to the young rich man: “Go, sell all you all you own and give the money to the poor and then come follow me”. The young man had observed the commandments since his earliest days, but without understanding the reason for this observance. Something similar was happening to the disciples. They had already abandoned all their goods as Jesus had asked the young rich man, but without understanding the reason, the why of this abandonment. If they had understood, they would not have been astounded at the demands of Jesus. When riches, or the desire for riches, occupies the heart and the gaze, the person cannot perceive the sense of the Gospel. Only God can help! Jesus looks at the disciples and says: “Impossible for man but not for God. For God everything is possible.”



4) Personal questions



• Can someone who lives constantly concerned about her wealth, or who lives always wanting to buy all the things the television advertises, free herself from everything to follow Jesus and live in peace in a Christian community? Is it possible? How do you do it and what are the steps?

• Do you know somebody who has succeeded in abandoning everything for the sake of the Kingdom? What does it mean for us today: “Go, sell all you own, and give the money to the poor”? How can we understand and practice this?

• Does this instruct communities as well, or just individuals? How would a community “abandon everything” and still carry on its mission?



5) Concluding Prayer



I give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart,

in the meeting-place of honest people, in the assembly.

Great are the deeds of Yahweh,

to be pondered by all who delight in them. (Ps 111:1-2)


Lectio Divina:
2019-03-04
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 17:28

Lectio Divina: Mark 10:13-16

Written by

Ordinary Time



1) Opening prayer



Father,

keep before us the wisdom and love

You have revealed in Your Son.

Help us to be like Him

in word and deed,

for He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10:13-16



People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Then he embraced the children and blessed them, placing his hands on them.



3) Reflection



• The Gospel of two days ago indicated the advice of Jesus concerning the relationship of the adults with little ones and with the excluded (Mk 9:41-50). Yesterday’s Gospel indicated the advice on the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife (Mk 10:1-12). Today’s Gospel indicates the advice on the relationship between parents and sons. Jesus asked for the greatest acceptance for the little ones and the excluded. In the relationship man-woman, He asked for the greatest equality. Now, with the sons and their mother, He asks for the greatest tenderness.



• Mark 10:13-16: Receive the Kingdom like a child. People brought little children to Him, for Him to touch them. The disciples wanted to prevent this. Why? The text does not say it. Perhaps because according to the ritual norms of the time, the small children with their mothers lived almost constantly the legal impurity. To touch them meant to become impure! If they touched Jesus, He would become impure! But Jesus does not feel uncomfortable with this ritual norm of legal purity. He corrects the disciples and welcomes the mothers with the children. He touches them, embraces them saying: “Let the little children come to me, do not stop them: for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs”. And He comments: “In truth I tell you, anyone who does not accept the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”. And then Jesus embraces the children and blesses them, and laid His hands on them. What does this phrase mean? (a) The children receive everything from their parents. They cannot merit what they receive, but live from gratuitous love. (b) The parents receive the children as a gift from God and take care of them with the greatest possible love. The concern of the parents is not to dominate the children, but to love them, educate them in a way in which they can grow and be fulfilled! This is the relationship we have with our Father in Heaven! We must be just like these children.



• A sign of the Kingdom: To welcome the little ones and the excluded. There are many signs of the acting presence of the Kingdom in the life and the activity of Jesus. One of these is the way of welcoming, of accepting the little ones and the children:



a) To welcome them and not scandalize them. One of the hardest words of Jesus was against those who cause scandal to the little ones, that is, who are the reason so that the little ones no longer believe in God. For them it is better to have a millstone hung round their neck and be thrown into the sea (Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2; Mt 18:6).



b) To identify oneself with the little ones. Jesus embraces the little ones and identifies Himself with them. Anyone who receives a child, “receives Me” (Mk 9:37). “And as long as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to Me”. (Mt 25:40).



c) To become like children. Jesus asks the disciples to become like children and to accept the Kingdom as they do. Otherwise it is not possible to enter into the Kingdom (Mk 10:15; Mt 18:3; Lk 9:46-48). He makes the children teachers of adults! And that is not normal. Generally, we do the contrary.



d) To defend the right that children have to shout and yell. When Jesus, entering into the Temple, turned over the tables of the money changers, the children were those who shouted the most: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt 21:15). Criticized by the high priests and by the Scribes, Jesus defends them and in defending them He recalls the Scriptures (Mt 21:16).



e) To be pleasing for the Kingdom present in little children. Jesus’ joy is great, when He perceives that the children, the little ones, understand the things of the Kingdom which He announced to the people“. “I bless you, Father!” (Mt 11:25-26). Jesus recognizes that the little ones understand the things of the Kingdom better than the doctors!



f) To welcome, accept and take care. Many are the little children and the young whom Jesus accepts, takes care of and raises from the death: the daughter of Jairus who was 12 years old (Mk 5:41-42), the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Mk 7:29-30), the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:14-15), the epileptic boy (Mk 9:25-26), the son of the Centurion (Lk 7:9-10), the son of the public officer (Jn 4:50), the boy with the five loaves of bread and two fish (Jn 6:9).



4) Personal questions



• In our society and in our community, who are the little ones and the excluded? How do we welcome and accept them?

• What have I learned in my life from children concerning the Kingdom of God?

• There are so many ways modern adults are not like children. What can I do to become more child-like for the Father and in relation to my peers; imitative, obedient, humble, grateful, innocent? Do I even want to?

• I place myself as innocent, obedient, humble, and grateful into my world of friends, my business, recreation and my responsibilities. What happens? How am I perceived by the world around me? If I continue to be this way, how would this make a better world?



5) Concluding Prayer



Yahweh, I am calling, hurry to Me,

listen to my voice when I call to You.

May my prayer be like incense in Your presence,

my uplifted hands like the evening sacrifice. (Ps 141:1-2)


Lectio Divina:
2019-03-02
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 08:30

"Lectio Divina" Bible meditation"

Written by

Meditating day and night on the Law of the Lord and keeping vigil in prayer

 

Carmelite reflections on Lectio Divina,

the prayerful reading of the Bible

by

Carlos Mesters, O.Carm.

(translated by Míceál O’Neill, O.Carm.)

 

Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord’s law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers…

(Carmelite Rule: Chapter 10).

 

 

 

Lectio Divina (‘holy reading/listening’) is the ancient method of prayerfully reading the Bible, the Word of God. Originally cultivated by monastic orders – but now an important part of the lives of many Christians from different traditions – lectio divina enables us to contemplate God and God’s will in our lives. If prayed regularly, lectio can deepen our relationship with God.

 

A prayerful reading of the Bible within what is traditionally called lectio divina is an urgent task if we are to be faithful to what God asks of us today. It is something like curing the veins when the blood which keeps us alive has to flow. To this end, we offer:

 

●         Ten words of advice about the ‘mystical’ life which must guide our prayerful reading of the Bible; that is, the light which needs to be in our eyes when we do our lectio divina. In these words of advice, reference is made to the Carmelite Rule, written by Saint Albert of Jerusalem in the early thirteenth century (the paragraph numbering follows that agreed by the Carmelite and Discalced Carmelite Orders in 1999).

 

●         Ten points of orientation (the least possible) for personal and daily reading of the Bible (each person will gradually develop his or her own way of communicating with the Word of God).

 

●         Seven suggestions for reading the Word of God in groups; in these there is a reflection of the tradition of the ‘four steps’ of Lectio Divina.

 

The Process of Lectio Divina

 

1.         When you begin a lectio divina of the Bible you are not concerned with study; you are not going to read the Bible in order either to increase your knowledge or to prepare for some apostolate. You are not reading the Bible in order to have some extraordinary experience. You are going to read the Word of God in order to listen to what God has to say to you, to know his will and thus ‘to live more deeply in allegiance to Jesus Christ’ (Carmelite Rule: Chapter 2). There must be poverty in you; you must also have the disposition which the old man Eli recommended to Samuel: ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:10).

 

2.        Listening to God does not depend on you or on the effort you make. It depends entirely on God, on God’s freely-made decision to come into dialogue with you and to allow you to listen to the voice to God. Thus you need to prepare yourself by asking him to send his Spirit, since without the Spirit of God it is impossible to discover the meaning of the Word which God has prepared for us today (cf. John 14:26; 16:13; Lk 11:13).

 

3.        It is important to create the right surroundings which will facilitate recollection and an attentive listening to the Word of God. For this, you must build your cell within you and around you and you must stay in it (Carmelite Rule: Chapters 6 & 10), all the time of your lectio divina. Putting one’s body in the right position helps recollection in the mind.

 

4.         When you open the Bible, you have to be conscious that you are opening a Book which is not yours. It belongs to the community. In your lectio divina you are setting foot in the great Tradition of the Church which has come down through the centuries. Your prayerful reading is like the ship which carries down the winding river to the sea. The light shining from the sea has already enlightened the dark night of many generations. In having your own experience of lectio divina you are alone. You are united to brothers and sisters who before you succeeded in ‘meditating day and night upon the Law of the Lord and keeping vigil in prayer’ (Carmelite Rule: Chapter 10).

 

5.        An attentive and fruitful reading of the Bible involves three steps. It has to be marked from beginning to end, by three attitudes:

 

           First Step/Attitude – Reading: First of all, you have to ask, What does the text say as text? This requires you to be silent. Everything in you must be silent so that nothing stands in the way of your gleaning what the texts say to you (Carmelite Rule: Chapter 21) and so that you do not make the text say what you would like to hear.

 

           Second Step/Attitude – Meditation: You must ask, What does the text say to me or to us? In this second step we enter into dialogueCarmelite Rule: Chapter 10). In this way ‘the Word of God will dwell abundantly on your lips and in your heart (Carmelite Rule: Chapter 19). with the text so that its meaning comes across with freshness and penetrates the life of the Carmelite today. Like Mary you will ponder what you have heard and ‘meditate on the Law of the Lord’ (

 

           Third Step/Attitude – Prayer: Furthermore, you have to try to discover What does the text lead me to say to God? This is the moment of prayer, the moment of ‘keeping watch in prayer’ (Carmelite Rule: Chapter 10).

 

6.        The result, the fourth step, the destination of lectio divina, is contemplation. Contemplation means having in one’s eyes something of the ‘wisdom which leads to salvation’ (2 Timothy 3:15). We begin to see the world and life through the eyes of the poor, through the eyes of God. We assume our own poverty and eliminate from our way of thinking all that smacks of the powerful. We recognise all the many things which we thought were fidelity to God, to the Gospel, and to the Tradition; in reality they were nothing more than fidelity to ourselves and our own interests. We get a taste, even now, of the love of God which is above all things. We come to see that in our lives true love of God is revealed in love of our neighbour (Carmelite Rule: Chapters 15 & 19). It is like saying always ‘let it be done according to your Word’ (Luke 1:38). Thus ‘all you do will have the Lord’s word for accompaniment’ (Carmelite Rule: Chapter 19).

 

7.         So that your lectio divina does not end up being the conclusions of your own feelings, thoughts and caprices, but has the deepest roots, it is important to take account of three demands:

 

           First Demand: Check the result of your reading with the community to which you belong (Carmelite Rule: Chapter 15), with the faith of the living Church. Otherwise it could happen that your effort might lead you nowhere (cf. Galatians 2:2).

 

           Second Demand: Check what you read in the Bible with what is going on in life around you. It was in confronting their faith with the situation existing around them that the people of God created the traditions which up to today are visible in the Bible. The desire to embody the contemplative ideal of the Carmelite Order within the reality of ‘minores’ (the poor of each age) brought the first Carmelite hermits to become mendicants among the people. When the lectio divina does not reach its goal in our life, the reason is not always our failure to pray, our lack of attention to the faith of the Church, or our lack of serious study of the text. Oftentimes it is simply our failure to pay attention to the crude and naked reality which surrounds us. The early Christian writer Cassian tells us that anyone who lives superficially – without seeking to go deeper – will not be able to reach the source where the Psalms were born.

 

           Third Demand: Check the conclusions of your reading with the results of biblical studies which have shown the literal meaning of the words. Lectio divina, it has to be said, cannot remain chained to the letter. The Spirit’s meaning has to be sought (2 Corinthians 3:6). However, any effort to identify the Spirit’s meaning without basing it in the written word would be like trying to build a castle on sand ( St. Augustine). That would be a way of falling into the trap of fundamentalism. In this day and age, when so many ideas are flying about, common sense is a most important quality. Common sense will be nourished by critical study of the written word. So that we will not go astray on this point, the Carmelite Rule tells us to follow the example of the Apostle Paul (Carmelite Rule: Chapter 24).

 

8.        The Apostle Paul gives various bits of advice on how to read the Bible. He himself was an excellent interpreter. Here are some of the norms and attitudes which he taught and followed:

 

            When you set yourself to read the Bible…

 

           (a) Look upon yourself as the one to whom the word is addressed, since everything was written for our instruction (1 Corinthians 10:11; Roman 15:4). The Bible is our book.

 

            (b) Keep faith in Jesus Christ in your eyes, since it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that the veil is removed and the Scripture reveals its meaning and tells of that wisdom which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:15; Romans 15:4).

 

            (c) Remember how Paul spoke of ‘Jesus Christ Crucified’ (2 Corinthians 2:2), a ‘stumbling block for some and foolishness for others’. It was this Jesus who opened Paul’s eyes to see how, among the poor on the outskirts of Corinth, the foolishness and the stumbling block of the cross was confounding the wise, the strong, and those who believed themselves to be something in this world (1 Corinthians 1:21-31).

 

            (d) Unite ‘I’ and ‘We’: It is never a question of ‘I’ alone or ‘We’ alone. The Apostle Paul also united the two. He received his mission from the community of Antioch and spoke from that background (Acts 13:1-3).

 

            (e) Keep life’s problems in mind, that is, all that is happening in the Carmelite Family, in the communities, in the Church, and among the people to which you belong and whom you serve. Paul began from what was going on in the communities which he founded (1 Corinthians 10:1-13).

 

9.         When you read the Bible, be always aware that the text of the Bible is not only a fact. It is also a symbol (Hebrews 11:19). It is both a window through which you see what happened to others in the past and a mirror in which you can see what is happening to you today (1 Corinthians 10:6-10). A prayerful reading is like a gentle flood which, little by little, waters the earth and makes it fruitful (Isaiah 55:10-11). In beginning to dialogue with God in lectio divina, you grow like a tree planted near streams of water (Psalm 1:3). You cannot see the growth but you can see its results in your encounter with yourself, with God, and with others. The song says: ‘Like a flood that washes clean, like a fire that devours, so is your Word, leaving its mark upon me each time it passes’.

 

10.       One final point to be born in mind: When you do a lectio divina, the principal object is not to interpret the Bible, nor to get to know its content, nor to increase your knowledge of the history of the people of God, nor to experience extraordinary things, but rather to discover, with the help of the written Word, the living Word which God speaks to you today, in your life, in our lives, in the life of the people, in the world in which we live (Psalm 97:5). The purpose is to grow in faith, like the prophet Elijah, and to experience more and more that ‘the Lord lives, and I stand in his presence’ (1 Kings 17:1; 18:15).

 

Ten points for personal Lectio Divina

 

The attitude of the faithful disciple:

 

The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word the one that is weary. Morning by morning God wakens, wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50:4).

 

 

1.  Opening prayer: an invocation of the Holy Spirit

2.  Slow and attentive reading of the text

3.  A moment of interior silence, to recall what I have read

4.  Look at the meaning of each phrase

5.  Bring the word into the present, ponder it in relation to my life

6.  Broaden my vision by relating this text to other biblical texts

7.  Read the text again, prayerfully, giving a response to God

8.  Formulate my commitment in life

9.  Pray a suitable psalm

10.  Choose a phrase which captures the meaning and memorise it

 

 

The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. I gave my back to the smiters… For the Lord God helps me; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. (Isaiah 50:5-8).

 

Seven suggestions for group Lectio Divina

 

Jesus stood in their midst and said: Peace be with you. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. (Luke 24:36, 45).

 

And Jesus said: the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that 1 have said to you ... the Spirit will guide you into all the truth. (John 14:26; 16:13).

 

1. Welcome and prayer

- A word of welcome and of sharing expectations.

- Opening prayer, asking for the light of the Holy Spirit.

 

2. Reading of the text

- Slow and attentive reading, followed by a moment of silence.

- Remaining silent, allowing the Word to come.

- Repeating the text by asking each one to recall a word or phrase from it, until the whole text is heard again.

 

3. What does the text say?

- Share impressions and questions as to what the text is saying.

- If necessary, read the text again and help one another to understand it.

- A moment of silence in order to assimilate all that has been heard.

 

4. Its meaning for us

- Ponder the text and discover its meaning for today.

- Apply the meaning of the text to the situation in which we live today.

- Broaden the meaning, by relating this text to the other texts in the Bible.

- Situate the text in God's plan which is accomplished in human history.

 

5. Pray with the text

- Read the text again with great attention.

- A moment of silence in order to prepare our response to God.

- Share, in the form of intercessions, the lights and strengths which have been received.

 

6. Contemplation and commitment

    - Formulate the commitment to which the prayerful reading has led.

- Choose a phrase which captures the whole message in order to take that phrase with you throughout the day.

 

7. A psalm

- Pick a psalm which is in tune with all that has been experienced in the meeting.

- Conclude the meeting by reciting the psalm.

 

And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, 'Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.’… And now Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to your servant to speak your word with all boldness...’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:24-26, 29, 31)

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