LECTIO DIVINA: Holy Family Sunday, Cycle A


Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Mt. 2: 13-15, 19-23.

A. 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, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God; put in us your flame; enlighten us and raise us up to God (s. 128, 2). Amen.

B. Lectio.

With the heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

13 When the magi had departed, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” 14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”… 19 When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. 23 He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”

C. Meditatio.

Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to Matthew.

“That Jesus was not born of the flesh of Joseph is what the Scripture trying to demonstrate when with urgency it said what was the origin of Mary’s pregnancy: It is by the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, it did not remove his paternal authority, because he is commanded to impose the name on the child. Finally, on the part of Mary, who well knew that she had not conceived Christ from an embrace or relation with Joseph, still calls Joseph, the father of Christ… They find him in the temple, and his mother tells him: “Son, why have your done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he answers: “Did you not know that I must I must be in my Father’s house?”(Lk. 2:48-49) He said this because, as Son of God, he was in the temple of God. Clearly, that temple was not of Joseph but of God. “Behold, -someone will say- that he admitted he was not Joseph’s son.” …  The response of the Lord, Jesus Christ: It was convenient that I would be occupied with the affairs of my Father does not indicate that the Fatherhood of God excludes that of Joseph. How do we verify this? By the testimony of Scripture itself that says: And he answered them: Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Lk. 2:49-51). It did not say: “He was obedient to his mother,” or “He was obedient to her,” but: He was obedient to them. To whom was he obedient? Was it not to his parents? The one and the other were the parents to whom he was obedient by the same condescension with which he was the Son of man. Up to this point the women received the precepts; let the children now receive them, in the sense that they obey their parents and be subject to them. Christ, to whom the world is subjected, submits himself to his parents! (s. 51, 16. 17. 20). 

D. Oratio.

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.

  1.  “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: Rise and take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt” (Mt. 2:13).
  2. How are your relationship and communication with God?
  3. How do you approach the problems of the family?

b. “Warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee and dwelt in a town named Nazareth” (Mt. 2:22).

  • How important is prayer in the life of your family?
  • What is God’s role in the decision making of your family?

E. Contemplatio.

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.

  1. Contemplate how St. Joseph converses with the angel. Observe the attention he gives to the words of the angel and the promptness of his obedience.
  2. Contemplate how the Holy Family returns from Egypt. Contemplate the happiness of the Boy Jesus and the love of his parents. Contemplate and adore.

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially concerning the listening and obedience to the Word of God for the life of your family. 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?

G. Final prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with a 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, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).

“It means that, Joseph should be called husband of Mary, whom he had as wife with whom he lived in continence; wife, not by carnal union, but by affection; not by the union of bodies, but –which is of greater value- by union of souls” (c. Faust. 23, 8).

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.