Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For this Lent, we will have a Lectio Divina resource for the readings for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent that can be used by individuals or in group settings.
Priorities. Living a good life means choosing the right priorities. What is important to you? What activities matter to you? What people matter to you? What choices do you make about how you live your life? What choices do you make about which people get your time, your care, your concern? Today’s gospel especially focusses on priorities and making those choices that matter for ultimate and eternal happiness.
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. This line of the gospel makes it clear. If your vocation is married life, then you seek the Kingdom of God in a way that makes you the best father, the best husband, the best mother, the best wife. You make decisions based upon bringing yourself and those around you to Jesus. You recognize that nothing is more important than living your life for Christ.
This is really what life is all about. Yet, how often do we seek other things? How often do we seek Netflix, or social media, or games? How often do we first seek job and career success, money, success and wealth? How often do we seek to satisfy sexual desires, not as intended by God, but in pornography? How often do we seek security for our family by working so hard we never see them? How often is our quest first our smart phone, and not the people we find ourselves with?
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. As we stand on the cusp of Lent, this is a good time to think about priorities. This is a good time to consider exactly what is important. This is the time when we ask ourselves if we are seeking God and his kingdom first, which causes us to value all of the right people and goals, or whether we allow ourselves to seek something far less.
Unbelief. In the midst of everything that happens in today’s world, it can be difficult to believe. First, there are the things that have always been difficult for people of faith. Such things as an innocent child who gets sick and dies. Or an inexplicable car accident or other type of accident which takes someone’s life to early. Perhaps there are those instances where a relationship fails, and we seek answers. Maybe the difficulty is simply that we cannot seem to believe in what we cannot see, or experience, or touch. There can be many challenges to belief.
That is true even for people who do believe. Such is what we witnessed in today’s gospel. A man brings his son in faith for a cure. But the disciples are incapable. The disciples simply cannot bring about a cure for this man’s son. And the scene seems more than a little chaotic. Not only is there the inability of the disciples for a cure, we hear that there are scribes arguing with a large crowd and the disciples. One can only imagine the depth of this argument in confronting something that is evil.
For anyone who has been involved in pastoral ministry, in trying to console those who grieve, it becomes clear that there is nothing more difficult, or at least few things more difficult, the parent who has a sick child, or a child who dies. It is in this vein that Jesus reminds us in the gospel that faith makes anything possible. But here’s the interesting line: I do believe, help my unbelief! In the midst of a difficult life even for people of faith, there is the recognition of the need for a closer relationship to God. Let us pray that God strengthens our faith as well.
To listen to the homily, click the links above.
Hospitality. I was struck today with this line in the letter to the Hebrews: “Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” Have I ever entertained angels? Or, is it the case I missed an angel because I was not hospitable? Did I miss an angel because I was not ready for God? Did I miss an angel because I missed out on a key encounter because I was not watchful in prayer?
The letter to the Hebrews stresses the importance of right relationships. Right relationships are not, and cannot be simply about those people we like. God wants us to be hospitable. God wants us to care for prisoners. God wants marriages to reflect that holiness intended from the beginning. God wants me to be generous.
These are interesting challenges. It can be quite difficult to be hospitable. People in need of hospitality come at inconvenient times. We may not always know those people who desire hospitality. We may not always be aware of God in them. We may be afraid of them. We may be concerned that if I am hospitable to them, I may be taken away from my family, and the cares of those with whom I live.
How is it even possible to follow these ideas? It is important to remember the first part of this letter. It is possible because of God through whom all things are possible. If the Lord is my helper, how can anyone harm me? How can I ever be in need? How is it I will be alone? Jesus has won the victory, and in His name I can do all because he strengthens me. So trust. Love. Be generous. For the Lord Jesus expects this of you.
Patience. How long did Simeon and Anna have to wait? Did they ever want to give up? Did they ever feel abandoned by God? We do not know. But we do know that today God fulfilled his promise. Simeon and Anna see the Messiah. And they rejoice.
I simply am not patient. I want everything right away. I want God to answer prayers NOW. I hate waiting. I do not have patience. And no where is that more true than in prayer. I want God to speak to me dramatically, to tell me in no uncertain terms what to do. And yet at those times when he does, I do not always want to do it.
Our lives are hectic and busy. We have so many distractions in our lives. It is so easy not to pray. It is so easy to give up on God because we do not stick with it. It is so easy not to pray because it can be boring. Prayer does not always have the flashiness of technology, television, movies or sports. Prayer does not always provide constant stimulation.
Simeon and Anna came to know God. And in knowing God, they came to experience the pathway to salvation. It is not hard to imagine they are mystics. They are the ones who day in and day out sought for the loving presence of their God. As a result, they were shining examples of the way to holiness. They were the light that guides us to Jesus. In teaching us to wait, Simeon and Anna teach us how to have a holy relationship with God and others. they teach us patience. They teach us the way to holiness that is God himself.
“He is out of his mind.” Isn’t that a strange statement from Jesus’ relatives? They knew Jesus. He was the little boy of Joseph and Mary. They had watched him grow up. They had seen him learn the trade of Joseph his father. How is it they could not understand him. Yet, they do not. “He is out of his mind.” They do not understand him. They do not really know him. He is not a carpenter. He is not following in his father’s footsteps. He is going out into the desert, doing God knows what. He says he was tempted by the devil. He is not eating. Despite attracting crowds, he is not taking care of himself.
How is this? “He is out of his mind.” How can they not understand him? Because understanding comes through faith. It is only with faith we truly understand Jesus. He is preaching a desperately needed message. He is speaking to people who desperately need to hear. He is driven. He does the Father’s will. He is not a carpenter because he is Son of God. He is not making things of wood, he is making holy souls for eternity.
There are those who try to understand Jesus only with reason. How can we believe in him we have not seen? How is it that our modern scientific mind can understand what at times seems so unbelievable? And can we risk being misunderstood? Can we risk the thoughts of others that we too are out of our mind? If we are to understand Jesus, then we must start with faith, with the development of a relationship with him.
All too often we can be tempted to reduce Jesus to simply the nice person who is just a little better than we are. Truth is, Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the fully divine Son of God, who died for our sins to save us. He paid the price of our sinfulness so that we could live for ever in heaven. He showed us the authentic way of life, because as Son of God, he became fully human to witness to the most authentic human life. For this reason, the disciples of Jesus do not fast. For this reason, Jesus is the High Priest who needs no replacement. It is Jesus, as Son of God, who has existed without beginning or end from all eternity. And yet, as loving Son of God, Jesus still invites each of us to that powerful eternal life that is without end.
Do you have faith? Do you want faith? Do you want to see more clearly the presence of God in your life? Then, ask Ask God for mercy, and for sight. Your faith in Jesus can do a lot.
When we think about what types of things are safe, solid and secure, of what types of things make for a good foundation upon which to build something, there are many choices. Upon what do you build your life? Popularity? Fame? Money? This day of Advent challenges us to seek that firm foundation which is the Lord Jesus, the rock of our faith.
Today the readings suggest we are both drawn to God and at the same time sent by God to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. This idea of publicly proclaiming our faith is not always very comfortable for Catholics, but we are invited to share our faith by the Lord Jesus himself.