If you are already familiar with the practice of lectio divina you already know that it is a prayerful reading of Scripture and is an ancient practice in the Church. If you are not familiar with this practice, I encourage you to look into it further and consider practicing this ancient form of prayer. It is a great way to get to know Scripture and to get to know God.
I’d like to start leading our readers through a little bit of lectio divina on some Fridays each month to help us reflect a bit on the upcoming Sunday Gospel and help prepare us for Mass. Lectio divina is best done either on your own or with a small group that can read and reflect and discuss together. For a blog post, we’ll have to get creative (and this may be a work in progress as time goes on and I see what works, so comments appreciated!!).
To start, a little bit of explanation is in order for those unfamiliar with this practice. Lectio divina is a prayerful reading of Scripture. There is no one way to do it, although many monastic communities will follow some sort of formula. The one I am familiar with is a four part reflection. I meet with a small group about once a month and we do this with a Sunday Gospel passage and this is the format we follow.
- Read (lectio): Read a passage of Scripture and “listen” to God’s word. Does a word or phrase speak to you?
- Reflect (meditatio): Read the passage a second time. Reflect on either your word or phrase or the passage as a whole. What is God saying to you?
- Respond (Oratio): Read the passage a third time. Respond to the passage from the heart. What do you want to say to God?
- Rest (Contemplatio): Read the Scripture passage a fourth and final time. Rest in God’s presence.
For more information on lectio divina as well as some further resources, please visit this page.
Usually, I begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit after which we go into the first reading of the Scripture passage (taking turns reading with each step in the process), and we end with an Our Father.
This Sunday is the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. I encourage you to say a short prayer to enter into this prayerfully and then read the Gospel passage here. Read slowly, like you are reading a letter from a dear friend.
Is there a word or phrase that speaks to you? Something that jumps out at you? Say it out loud to yourself. After a moment of quiet, read the Gospel reading a second time.
“Depart from me.” This is the phrase that stuck with me when I first read this coming Sunday’s Gospel. These words are like a punch to the gut. It scares me that I could be one of those that gets locked out, that God will say “I do not know you” and “depart.” It’s a reminder, a very strongly worded one, that I need to stay close to the sacraments and to not neglect my prayer time with God. When I think of the question, “what is God saying to you?” I know that he is telling me to not stray, to stay close to him, but also that this life is hard. It’s very hard. That’s why the gate is narrow. The Christian life is not an easy one and we need to be on guard to not grow complacent. If it feels easy, I’m probably missing something.
How about you? What is God saying to you?
Reflect on this a bit. When you are done, read the Gospel passage again. Our next question is “What do you want to say to God?”
For me, I feel gratitude toward God. I’m thankful for the warning to be vigilant and not let my prayer life slide. I feel like we need these sorts of reminders on a regular basis so we don’t become too comfortable and think we’re doing just fine. The truth is we need to always be on our toes, ready and waiting because we do not know the day or the hour. So thank you, God, for Scripture passages like this that remind us to always seek you and desire to be close to you.
How do you respond to God after reading this passage?
Take a moment to read the passage a fourth time. Simply rest with God when you are done.
To wrap up this lectio divina session you can pray in your own way, say an Our Father, or I offer the following short prayer.
Thank you, God, for this time to reflect and pray on your Word. Grant us fortitude to live out the Christian life in a way that is pleasing to you. May all our thoughts, prayers, and actions be for your glory alone. Amen.
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