Prayer Workshop: Lectio Divina

For other posts concerning the Prayer Workshop, click HERE.

I frequently recommend praying with the Scriptures (aka the Bible), but I haven’t always done a good job of explain how to pray with the Scriptures. Sorry about that. Here’s an attempt to remedy this problem.

In today’s Prayer Workshop, we’re going to talk about one of the more popular ways to pray with a passage from Scripture, namely Lectio Divina, which is Latin for Divine Reading. There are many ways to pray with the Scriptures, but this is one I’ve found to be most helpful for my life of prayer. Here’s a basic outline of Lectio Divina:

  • Pick out a passage of Scripture. Something from one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) will probably be best if you haven’t prayed in this way very often in the past.
    • A great option may be the Gospel passage from Mass for the day or for the upcoming Sunday. You can find that HERE.
  • Start with a simple prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and heart during this time of prayer.
    • Example: “Come, Holy Spirit! I ask that you help me remain focused during this time of prayer. Make this passage come alive in my mind and heart. Show me whatever you want me to know. Amen.”
  • Read the passage, either out loud or silently. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes. Meditate on the passage you just read. Is there a word or phrase that stands out to you? Let that word or phrase penetrate your mind.
  • Read the passage again. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes again. This time, are there any images that come to your mind? Are there any particular emotions that come up? Or any ideas about what Jesus has said or how the people are responding to him?
  • Read the passage a third time. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes again. How does the Lord want this passage to change your life? Do you sense a particular invitation from Jesus? What does he want you to do now that you’ve spent this time being refreshed by him? How is this passage of the Word of God piercing your heart?
  • Finish your time with a prayer of thanksgiving.
    • Example: “Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving me this time to rest in the Word. Give me the grace I need to keep this Word at the front of my mind and heart. Let it penetrate everything I say and do. Amen.”

Epiphany: God made manifest

Epiphany is a marvelous and rich feast. Delightfully, that richness lingers throughout this whole last week of the Christmas season as we approach the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We see embers of that richness reflected in the prayers offered in the Church’s liturgy and in the readings proclaimed from Sacred Scripture. We hear declarations of the Kingship of Christ, manifestations of His marvelous glory, and his longing to claim His Bride.

Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia. (Morning Prayer Antiphon)

God himself has taken on our human flesh in the Incarnation, but lest we forget in our gazing upon a sweet infant babe, the ensuing feasts quickly remind us that this sweet babe in the arms of Mary is the all-powerful King of the Universe who has broken into our world to bring light into dark places, to set captives free, and to draw not just a chosen few, but ALL, to himself.

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you… Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. (Isaiah 60:1-5)

In the early hours of Sunday morning the song God With Us by All Sons and Daughters began running through my mind. It is my Epiphany theme song! He has come to be so near to us; He is God with us. Come, stand in His glory; know His peace, hope, and light. And come as the Magi did, no matter how far you must travel, to lay all you are and all you have at His feet, even your costliest treasures. For you shall be radiant at what you see in this great king who comes to take you as His bride, and your heart shall overflow with more joy than you can imagine when His light floods your heart.

“…the Word of our God stands forever.”

 

A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
    their constancy is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:6-8

As we all know, Christmas is almost here. For almost everyone, Christmas is an extremely busy time of the year. Gifts need to be bought and wrapped, and kept within a tight budget. Homes need to be cleaned in preparation for family and friends. Food needs to be prepared. Cookies need to be baked. The intensity only seems to grow as Christmas Day approaches closer and closer. In fact, this time of the year can get so overwhelming that it becomes easy to think, “It would actually be kind of nice if I didn’t have to put up with all this busyness. It would actually be better if I didn’t have to celebrate Christmas.”

Whoa! What?!?

Yes, it seems we’ve gotten to a point in our world where Christmas is more about being busy with gifts, family, friends, and food than it is about celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ. Certainly, giving gifts to family and friends, and celebrating the holidays with them, are great things, but we must avoid focusing on those things so much that we forget the reason for our celebration. We must avoid letting the stress completely overwhelm us to the point that we start to think about how great life would be without celebrating the birth of our Savior! We can’t let the darkness of the world overcome us, but instead must call upon the Light of the World! So, how do we fix this problem? How do we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus amid the holiday pressure?

The passage above gives a good clue. See, when we focus too much on our celebration and not on the reason for our celebration, it’s like we’re living as though it is the word of God that will wither and fade, and people (i.e. the grass and flowers) who will stand forever. It must be the other way around! We need to remember that all things will eventually wither and fade, except the Word of God, which will stand forever. What does that mean for our lives? For starters, it means that we can be refreshed by allowing the Word of God to transform our way of thinking, especially around the holidays.

It’s a good practice to take a few minutes each day and read something from the Word of God, the Bible, because it is there that God speaks to his people and reveals his love for them. If you don’t know where to start, begin by praying with the passages surrounding Christmas. This could even be a good practice for the whole family – the kids, too, can be reminded that the best gift of all was given to all of us 2000 years ago. All four Gospels have something about the birth/coming of the Messiah: Matthew 1:18-25, Mark 1:1-8; Luke 2:1-20; John 1:1-18. Read and pray through these in the upcoming days. Go to a place free of noise. Turn your phone off, turn the radio off, turn the TV off, turn everything off. Picture the scenes in your imagination. Prepare your mind and heart for the great celebration of Christmas. Remind yourself that all the busyness surrounding you will eventually wither and fade, but it is the Word of God that will stand forever.

The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20

Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

There is something hidden in this passage that the modern day reader doesn’t grasp at first glance, or perhaps even at second or third glances. Of course, there is the obvious mission given from Jesus to the disciples to go out and make more disciples, but that is right there in the text. No, this hidden message requires the reader to place this passage within the entire context of the Gospel.

The passage is comprised of the final five verses of the Gospel of Matthew. After it, there is nothing more written by this Gospel author. Before it, though, is where the hidden message is revealed: Before this passage, Jesus is dead. This isn’t a figurative death, no. Before this passage, the disciples watched as their leader was arrested, scourged, mocked, forced to carry his own cross to his place of death, crucified, and lifted up for the all the world to see his final breath. Finally, his dead body was placed in a tomb and a huge stone was placed in front of the entrance so no one could get in or out.

We can try to imagine what was going through the minds and hearts of the disciples when they saw their King for the first time after his resurrection, but one thing is certain: they finally understood everything. They witnessed their King give everything for their sake, and now he was asking them to go and tell people about it. The hidden message from Jesus is this: Your King has given everything for your sake; now you must give everything for the sake of his Kingdom. This radical new way of life they were to proclaim to the nations was sure to lead to further persecution, mockery, beatings, and martyrdom. They were to imitate Jesus in giving everything they had so that more people might come to know the Good News.

The hidden message in this passage wasn’t meant only for those eleven disciples. It was meant for all disciples of Jesus Christ, even those of us who live in the world 2000 years later. We, too, are meant to give everything for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. We, too, are meant to pour ourselves out just as Jesus poured himself out on the cross. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). St. Paul was a martyr for Jesus Christ. He gave everything for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps we won’t be killed for our faith, but our lives ought to be filled with little “deaths” sprinkled throughout the day. Above all, it means keeping a mentality which seeks to give myself to others rather than to take things for myself, and to do this as a way to love as Jesus loved. Many probably know what this looks like – staying up late with the sick child, patiently working through miscommunications with the spouse, waking up earlier so everyone in the house has time to get themselves for school, work, etc., acknowledging a wrong and seeking forgiveness when pride would rather stick to stubbornness, missing the big game on TV for the sake of spending time with friends or going to Mass, the list can go on and on.

“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.”

Giving everything is hard and tiring. It can be easy to throw in the proverbial towel and give up on the fight. After all, a person can only give so much. Well, fortunately for us, Jesus also gives us a great blueprint for sustaining a life of self-sacrifice: check out the first part of Matthew 14:23 (the quote above). Jesus knew that prayer would help sustain his life of self-sacrifice. St. Paul knew the same thing. Countless other saints – all of the saints, in fact – knew the same thing and would often spend significant amounts of time in prayer. “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” St. John Paul II had a great line:

“If the path becomes difficult at times and you are overcome by fatigue, rest in the shade of prayer.”

Make disciples. Give everything. Imitate the saints. Rest in the shade of prayer.

Psalm 16 and What Jesus Knows /// A Deep Thought with a Simple Example

What was in the mind of Jesus, when He walked around Israel in our human flesh?
He was God before He came.
He is God after He ascends.
But what about when He came and walked around on earth?

Did He know everything that was going to happen for Him?  Did He know that He was going to suffer and die and rise on the 3rd day?

jesus praying

This huge question has been asked for centuries, since Jesus is a divine Person, with a divine nature and a human nature: Did Jesus possess divine knowledge, since He took on everything it means to be man, except sin.  “Therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people” Hebrews 2:17.  So, did He not know the things that God knows?

Did Jesus know what God knows, or only what man can know?

In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, Peter gets up and speaks.  He quotes from Psalm 16 and talks about David.  This is a very profound, and very simple, place to dig up a lot of awesomeness.

Peter Preaching

Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2: A breathed upon text, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who with the Son and the Father is God.

Psalm 16, verses 8-11: A breathed upon text, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who with the Son and the Father is God.

Jesus: The 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity.  Before taking on Flesh and the name Jesus, He existed forever with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and who, after dying and rising, took this Flesh with Him back to the right of the Father, to exist with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever.

OK, let’s break this down more.  When using the name Jesus, which He received in time, I am referring to the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, even though He didn’t have the name Jesus before he took on Flesh.  He has always been and will always be the eternal Son of the Father, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

That means that Jesus was with the Father and the Holy Spirit before He took on flesh.  That means that Jesus is with the Father and the Holy Spirit while He is in the flesh.  That means that Jesus will always be with the Father and the Holy Spirit after ascending to Heaven.  That means that there is no time when Jesus is apart from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Let’s break this down another way, using these Scriptures as an example.

Before Jesus took on Flesh, He breathed with the Father the Holy Spirit upon David, who wrote Psalm 16, verses 8-11.  So, Jesus knew this passage as He inspired David to write it.  “I keep the LORD always before me; with the LORD at my right, I shall never be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure, for you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit.  You will show me the path of life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever” Psalm 16: 8-11.

bible-open-on-psalms

After Jesus ascended to the Father, taking His seat at the right of the Father, He breathed with the Father the Holy Spirit upon Peter, who took again these same words from Psalm 16, and applied them explicitly to the resurrection of Jesus. cf. Acts 2:25-36.

Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to be about
when He breathed it through David.
Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to be applied to
when He breathed it through Peter.
Jesus has never not been united to
the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus read the Psalms when He was in the Flesh.  Jesus read Psalm 16 when He was in the Flesh.  Is there any difficulty in thinking that since He had always known what that passage would mean from all eternity and that He would again in Acts refer to what that passage meant for all eternity, that Jesus knew what this passage meant when He read it in the Flesh?

Maybe this is a no-brainer for you.  But, for many who have reflected on what it means that Jesus became like His brothers in all things, they have been trying to figure out what Jesus knew in the Flesh.  Did He have Divine knowledge or only Human knowledge.

Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to mean from all eternity, all the way back, prior to creation.

Jesus knows what Psalm 16 means in reference to His resurrection, after He ascended to the Father, forward for all eternity.

Jesus knew, when He was in the Flesh, what Psalm 16 meant in reference to Him.  He inspired David and was going to inspire Peter.  He Himself is Inspired.

One passage: Psalm 16: 8-11.  A whole lot of realities.  Before, during, and after.  So much to absorb for us.  Thus it is with God and His Word!

“Who is and who was and who is to come” Revelation 1:4.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8.

The Open Heart of Our Father God

“His father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran to him…” (Lk 15:20)

Image

God’s incomprehensible love of penitent sinners*.  Though the sinner has offended Him so grievously and so often, yet He reproaches him not, but forgives him everything, and restores him to his former rights and dignity of sonship.

– He re-clothes him with the robe of innocence, i.e. sanctifying grace (ROBE) (Lk 15:22).

– He adorns him again with the supernatural virtues befitting the state of divine sonship (RING) (Lk 15:22).

– He enables him to walk justly before God (SHOES) (Lk 15:22).

– He prepares a feast for the converted sinner, giving him the Lamb of God, for the nourishment of his soul, in Holy Communion (FATTENED CALF) (Lk 15:23).

God alone can love this in this way, and to us this sort of love is inconceivable.  Our Lord portrays this narrow-mindedness of ours in the conclusion of the parable.  The elder son cannot understand his father’s joy; he murmurs at it, and refuses to take part in it; and even professes to believe that his father prefers the returned prodigal to himself, the faithful, obedient and industrious son.  By this behavior of the elder son our Lord signifies the jealousy of the Pharisees, who considered themselves to be just, and murmured at the deep interest Jesus took in sinners.  By the father’s answer in the parable our Lord shows how very unjustifiable any such jealousy would be.  The just man ought to think of the great happiness which he has had of being always in the love and grace of God: and if he will try to realize what the infinite love of God is for every soul which He has made, he will rejoice with God as often as a soul which had been lost is found or saved.  As the angels rejoice (Lk 15:10) over the return of the prodigal, so ought we to rejoice over the conversion of sinners!

 

– – – – – – – – – –
*Thanks to F. Knecht for his sublime work from which this post is drawn.  None of this post is original.  Its entirety is drawn from “A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture” by Frederick Justus Knecht, which is currently out of print.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑