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Lectio Divina: Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)

Lectio Divina- 23rd SundayLectio divina is a beautiful way of encountering Jesus in Scripture and is an ancient tradition of the Church. To learn more about it, there is a brief description HERE including citations for further resources.

This coming Sunday is the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary time. Before we begin, you will want to have the Gospel passage ready to go. You can find it HERE. A simple prayer before you begin is a nice way to start (I like starting with the prayer to the Holy Spirit, a Glory Be would be good too).

READ

This first very simple step is to simply read the Gospel passage. This is God sending you a letter, so just read it and be with it. Does any one word or phrase particularly speak to you at this time? If so, say it out loud to yourself. Sometimes there may be more than one. If so, say the first one and sit silently with that word or words. Then speak the second one.

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

After you have sat with your word or phrase for a moment read the Gospel passage a second time. Reflect on the passage as a whole. What is God saying to you through this passage?

In my first reading of this Gospel passage from Luke two phrases caught my attention: “carry his own cross” and “renounce all his possessions.” This led me to think mostly just of material possessions and my constant need to divest myself of the clutter I seem to perpetually have around me. Another thought I had was that Jesus may not be talking only of material possessions, after all pretty much every story we have of Jesus has more than one meaning behind his words.

Reading this passage a second time something else struck me instead. The analogy of the builder constructing a tower. A builder should properly calculate everything before starting. If not, things may not turn out as expected and, as Jesus says, “onlookers should laugh at him.” At first glance it’s not obvious why Jesus uses this analogy in the context of renouncing your family and possessions to follow him. But then I remembered one of my first thoughts, that Jesus is not just talking about material possessions, he’s also talking about our souls and how we prepare our souls to be true followers of Jesus.

I don’t think Jesus wants us to literally hate our family members or the things we need in life (“need” being the important word here). But we must prepare our souls to be detached from the things of this world, even the people of this world. Like a builder who properly calculates and prepares for the construction of his tower, we must be continually preparing our souls for the next world. In addition to detachments from the things of this world, we must also be prepared to take up our cross, the cross that makes us different from the world around us precisely because we are focusing on the world to come.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Read the Gospel passage a third time. After this reading focus on how you would respond to God. What do you want to say to God?

My first thought in answering this question: I’m trying. Preparing my soul is hard. Human weakness being what it is, I want to have my cake and eat it too. So, yes, I’m trying, one day at a time. Slowly but surely, I spend time in prayer, spend time in Scripture, and spend time getting to know Jesus and building that personal relationship with him. As I focus more on those things I think detaching from worldly goods becomes easier and easier. One day at a time, Lord, always keeping you in sight.

REST

Read the Gospel passage a fourth time and simply rest with God in his word. To close your time, I recommend an Our Father, or any other prayer of your choosing.

Lord God, help us to prepare our souls to be joined with you one day in our heavenly home. I pray for the strength to carry my cross, to stay true to the Christian way of life and renounce all worldly things. Help us to always have a focus on you, our Heavenly Father. Amen.

Reflect for Ordinary Time- Sept 4Find our Reflect series, a short version of Lectio Divina, on Instagram.

 

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Embracing Your Own Cross

“If we all threw our crosses in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

Recently, I was having a discussion with a group of women, inspired by the quote above.  Like many conversations do, it opened up into quite an interesting realization.  We womenfolk are quite insightful.

My friends were lamenting their struggles.  Problems that you pray about, and cry over… often very privately.  Problems that resonate in our bones so deeply.  Major burdens that are very much out of our control.

Heavy burdens:  infertility, marriage struggles, financial troubles, health concerns.

We discovered we’re often afraid to talk about them out loud, out of fear that a well-intentioned-friend would offer simple advice without knowledge of the weight of that burden.  Simple, innocent suggestions can so often feel like these friends are jumping right on the cross you’re carrying.  These weren’t simple little lifestyle choices that had daily stressful moments.   It’s so easy to offer a trite “Oh, have you tried oxyclean?” and expect a happy face emoticon and the problem was solved.

No, these are a much heavier kind of burden, not a simple complaint that may have solutions and compromises and ways to get around with a problem-solving exercise.

After a while we learn how to cope with these types of situations.  You learn how to kindly reply, “Thanks for that suggestion!”, smile, and change the subject.  You become thick-skinned to the pain.  Oh, it hurts, but eventually the callous builds and you’re able to survive through the suffering.

So, what if we actually could all throw our own crosses into a pile and pick up a different one?  Would you?

Would you trade in your large family for the pain of infertility?

Would you trade in your gloriously faith-filled husband for a marriage with underlying emotional abuse or conflicting faiths?

Would you trade in your suitable home for one half the size, with underlying rot, sparky breaker box, and leaking roof?

Would you trade your frugal, but sustainable, income for the struggles of unemployment, foreclosure, and bankruptcy?

Would you trade in your random allergy attacks and annual sinus infections for a child or spouse with a serious acute disease?

 

When you stop to think about the crosses you are given, and dwell on them, they weigh us down into the depths of depression.

When you stop to think about the crosses you have NOT been given, in comparison – they are incomprehensible.  These moments start to bring appreciation for the problems we have in life.  Our crosses become something we CLING to with THANKSGIVING.

THANK YOU, GOD for giving me THIS cross.  
It is VERY heavy, but I have already seen you help me cope and survive through it’s struggles.
I TRUST that You will allow me to learn, through this suffering, how to bring others to You.

While these burdens may be very, very challenging at times, God is using them to bring us closer to Him.

He’s asking us to trust Him, during our darkest hours.