LECTIO DIVINA: XXII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR
MK. 7:1-8; 14-15; 21-23
A. INVOCATION OF 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, 4). Amen.
WITH THE HEART WELL DISPOSED, WITH SERENITY, READ SLOWLY THE FOLLOWING WORDS, SAVORING THEM AND ALLOWING YOURSELF TO BE TOUCHED BY THEM.
Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts,’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” … He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” … From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, un-chastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
LET US MEDITATE NOW WITH THE COMMENTARY OF ST. AUGUSTINE ON THESE WORDS OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MARK.
The Lord also said with his own mouth: purify what is inside and what is outside will also be purified. He refuted the foolish words of the scribes, who falsely accused his disciples for eating without washing their hands, and he added: What enters the mouth does not defile a man; rather, what comes out of the mouth that defiles a man. Such a statement is unintelligible if we apply it exclusively to a sensible mouth. Whom the food does not defile, neither does the vomit defile him. If the food is what enters the mouth, the vomit is what comes out of it. The first part without doubt, refers to the mouth of the body, which says: what enters through the mouth does not defile a man. But the second part refers to the mouth of the heart that says: what comes out of the mouth that is what defiles a man. When the Apostle Peter asked Jesus to explain this parable, he answered: Even you are still without understanding? Do you not see that everything that enters the mouth goes to the stomach and is expelled in the toilet? Here without doubt one deals with the mouth of the body, where food enters. The indolence of our heart can scarcely discover that what follows refers to the mouth of the heart…. For in continuation he says: what comes out of the mouth sprouts from the heart. It is like saying: “When you hear it said by the mouth, it is understood from the heart. I refer to both, but I explain the one by the other. The interior man has an interior mouth, and the interior ear discovers it. What proceeds from that mouth, comes out of the heart, and that is what stains the man.” And putting aside the word ‘mouth’ that can be applied to the bodily, he explains the meaning with greater clarity: because from the heart come out evil thoughts: murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, perjuries, blasphemies; this is what defiles the man.
Such crimes can be perpetrated by the members of the body, but they are always preceded by the thought. This defiles the man, even if, because an obstacle intervened, the criminal and torpid activity of the members does not follow. Will the heart of the murderer remain free of guilt because his hands did not execute the murder when they could not? Will someone not be a thief in his intention because he could not achieve all those that he wanted to steal? Had he not pronounced in his interior mouth the perjury someone intended to harm his neighbor with a lie just because he did not have the time or the place to do so?
And he who in his heart says ‘there is no God,’ does he stop being a blasphemer because he fears men and he abstained from pronouncing his blasphemy with his tongue? The mere mental consent, i.e., the malicious error of the interior mouth defiles such persons as these. That is why the Psalmist, fearful that his heart may stoop down to such vices, asks God to put a door of continence in his interior mouth, a door to control the heart, that it may not stoop down to pronounce malignant errors. The word ‘contain’ means that the thought does not pass to consent, since in this way, according to the apostolic precept, sin does not reign in our mortal body, we do not expose our bodies as weapons of iniquity in the hands of sin. They do not fulfill this precept those who do not mobilize their members to sin when they cannot; those who, when they can, at the moment manifest with the movement of their members, like the movement of weapons, who reigns in his interior. As long as it depends on them, they offer to sin their members as weapons of iniquity, since they seek the evil, and if they do not do it, it is because they find no opportunity (cont. 4).
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.
a. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mk. 7:6; Is. 29:13).”
•How is your prayer? What importance do external elements have?
•When you pray and worship God, where is your heart?
b. “The interior man has his interior mouth, and the interior ear discovers it. What proceeds from that mouth, comes from the heart and that is what defiles the man” (cont. 4).
•What are your intentions for acting?
•What importance does love have in your works and actions, especially with those around you?
I PROPOSE TO YOU SOME POINTS FOR AFFECTIVE INTERIOR CONTEMPLATION. ONCE AGAIN, YOU NEED NOT FOLLOW ALL OF IT, RATHER YOU CAN CHOOSE WHAT FITS YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.
a. Contemplate Christ seated at the door of your heart. Ask him that all your thoughts be right and always be directed towards him. Verify your feelings.
b. Contemplate a group of Pharisees that have just arrived from the market. Observe how they wash their hands up to the elbows and how they purify themselves to eat. Contemplate nonetheless that their heart is far from God, since they believe that only the exterior is enough. Contemplate now your own heart and ask God that you do not remain in what is exterior but that you pass into the interior.
THINK OF EVERYTHING THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH THOSE AROUND YOU ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE YOU HAD WITH GOD, ESPECIALLY CONCERNING THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST AND THE UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT. 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 dominant 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, God, forever and ever. Amen (en, Ps. 150:8).
“No one finds himself distant from God by space, but by the heart. Do you love God? You are near. Do you hate him? You are far. Being in the same place, you find yourself near or far” (en. Ps. 84:11).
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