LECTIO DIVINA: Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle C
Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan M. Decena, OAR
- 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. 128,4).
With the heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
10 The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” 11 He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
15Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
“Nevertheless, brothers, all these good works that we do here in this world, are clothed in labor, since rest in reality is not yet possessed, rather it is in hope; but if it is not possessed in hope, we would pass-out in the work. But good deeds will pass with work. What is better than to give bread to the hungry? What better thing can we hear than when the Gospel is read to us? And he tells us in general: Whoever has two tunics, let him share with him who has none, and whoever has food, let him give to him who has none. It is good work to clothe the naked. But will this work always remain? It surely has with it certain discomfort, but it is compensated by the hope of the future rest. How much discomfort is it to clothe the naked? The good work does not cause much discomfort, but the bad, yes, it does. Whoever clothes the naked, if he has the means, it does not cost much; if he does not have them, give glory to God in the highest, and peace to men beloved by God. On the other hand, who can enumerate the works he suffers who wants to undress the clothed? Nonetheless, all these things will disappear when we arrive at that rest where there will be no hungry person to feed, nor naked to clothe. Since all these good works will pass away when the perfect works arrive, then the sixth day has an afternoon. But in the Sabbath we do not find any afternoon, because our rest will have no end. (en. Ps. 92:1).
Neither do I like that the soldiers do such things as to afflict the poor; I do not like it. I want that they also listen to the Gospel. Doing good is not prohibited by the militia, but by malice. Some soldiers came for the baptism of John and they asked him: What about us, what should we do? John answers them: Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse any one, be satisfied with your salary. It should be that way, brothers; if the soldiers were like this, the state would be blessed; but in the condition that also the collector of taxes be as the Gospel indicates. The publicans asked him, i.e. the collectors of taxes: “And we, what should we do?” And he answered them: Do not collect more than what is prescribed. The soldier was instructed, the collector was instructed, let the tax payers also be instructed. You have an exhortation directed to all: What shall we all do? Whoever has two tunics, let him give to someone who does not have. Whoever has food, let him do the same. I want that the soldiers hear what Christ has commanded; let us also hear it ourselves for Christ is ours as well as theirs; and God is theirs and ours at the same time. Let us all listen to him and let us all live harmoniously in peace (s. 302, 15).
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.
- “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk. 3:11).
- How do you share yourself and your possessions with others?
- What does it mean to you: “there is more joy in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35).
- “Good work causes no great inconvenience; bad work, yes, it does” (en. Ps. 92:1).
- What place do you give to good works in your life (first or last)?
- What good works could you have done in your daily life and yet you avoid them for laziness, or for not giving attention?
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 John the Baptist inviting everyone to conversion. Allow yourself to be entreated by his words.
- Contemplate how you approach Christ and you ask him: “What should I do?” Listen to his answer and receive it in your heart.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about doing good works and knowing what to do in our lives. 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).