LECTIO DIVINA: 3rd Sunday of Lent (C)
INVOKING THE HOLY SPIRIT
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holt Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God (s. 128,4).
With the heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood if their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them –do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
“Truly, he affirms, I say to you, if your do not repent, you will all perish as they did. To sum up, if we understand, it is the truth: all the wicked, sinners, all the lost, scoundrels, the scandalous, the lovers of this world, the lascivious and the vile, if they do not repent, will likewise die.
Therefore, their sacrifices, i.e., their prayers, are mixed with their blood, because they ask according to the flesh and the blood. Certain Scripture indicates and argues this saying: You ask but you do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it in you passions. Therefore, you make your sacrifice: you mix it with your blood because you understand carnally and you ask God according to what you carnally understand. In effect, you are flesh and blood; you want to incline God to your flesh, even though you ought to elevate your heart to God. You do not pay attention to what the Apostle tells you: If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, so that your petitions, coming from flesh and blood, may not punish you with the verdict with which they were punished those whose blood an angry king mixed with their sacrifices. Disassociate your sacrifice from the blood, say to your God: In exchange, I will pay to you my vows which my lips clearly uttered. Rightly, the spiritual discerns all because no one judges him. Discerning all things, he does not mix the sacrifice with the blood.
How, then, that those who do not repent die in the same way as those upon whom the tower of Siloam fell? Siloam is translated as ‘sent.’ He was sent, who but the Lord? The Tower of Siloam is the Cross of Christ. If, therefore, you had not been mortified, nailed to the cross in so far as the evil concupiscence of the flesh and blood is concerned, the Crucified falls upon you. Why do you make the sign of the Cross? If you don’t, you do not make the sign, this is ruin, not grace. Recognize the Crucified, recognize the Patient, recognize the One Who Prays for the enemies, recognize him who loved and desired to heal those for whom he suffered these things. If you recognize him, repent and if some time you made bad decisions, make now the good ones (s. 110A, 3-4) [=s. Dolbeau 17, 3-4].
Thus, love inflames; fear humiliates; that is why evil love are felled and under cut. Good fear also humiliates; similarly good love also inflames but in a distinct manner. The vine grower, interceding that the tree that was not bearing fruit be not pulled out, says, I will dig around it and I put a basket of fertilizer. To dig symbolizes the pious humility, and the basket of fertilizer the works of repentance. Above the flame of good love the Lord says: I came to bring fire to earth. Let them be inflamed by this fire all those fervent in Spirit, those who are burning with the love of God and the neighbor. That is why, just as all good works are performed for holy love and holy fear, so also all sin is committed by evil love and evil fear (en. Ps.79:13).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
- “Lord, leave it still for this year; I will dig around it and put fertilizer, to see if it bears fruit” (Lk. 13:9).
- With your life, what fruits do you give to God?
- How do you receive the gifts of God in your life?
- “Therefore, if you had not been mortified, nailed to the Cross as regards the evil passions of the flesh and the blood, the Crucified falls upon you” (s. 110A, 4).
- What does it mean for you: to be nailed to the Cross of Christ?
- How can you kill the evil passions in you?
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you do not need to follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
- Contemplate Christ as the gardener who digs around you, as a fig tree, and who puts fertilizer for you. Contemplate his love and patience, and interiorly beg him for strength to bear fruit.
- Contemplate your heart as you encounter it at this moment, possibly dried up and sterile. Put it in the hands of God and contemplate how Christ makes it to return to life and bear fruit. Be grateful for the gifts of God, and beg the grace that they may bear fruit in your life.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about bearing fruit for God and being converted. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
FINAL PRAYER OF ST. AUGUSTINE
Turning towards the Lord:
Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, give us spiritual thoughts, and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8). +