LECTIO DIVINA: First Sunday of Lent, 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 impressed by them.
1 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert 2 for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” 5 Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. 6 The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. 7 All this will be yours, if you worship me.” 8 Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord your God, and him alone shall you serve.” 9 Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and:’ With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says,’ You shall not put the Lord to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
“He has mentioned three realities and you will find nothing else on which the sickly human appetite is tested which is not the concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes, or concupiscence of worldly power. The devil used these three appetites to put the Lord to the test. He used the concupiscence of the flesh to test him when, upon feeling hungry after a period of fasting, he said to him: “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But, how did he turn down the tempter? How did he teach the soldier to fight back? Pay attention to what he answers in reply: Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
The Lord was also tempted by means of the concupiscence of the eye. The devil was asking from him a miracle when he said: Throw yourself down, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” The Lord resists the tempter. Actually, if he had performed a miracle, he would have given the impression of conceding to the tempter, or that he acted moved by the desire to arouse curiosity. He performed a miracle when, as God, he wanted to cure the sick. If at this point in time he performed it, it could be thought that he wanted to make the miracle just for a miracle. But consider attentively what he answered so that men may not see it in this way and when similar temptation should come your way, you may say the same: Be gone, Satan, for it is written: You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. That is, if I do what you suggest, I would put God to the test. He said what he wanted you to say. When the enemy suggests to you: “Oh, come on man! Oh, come on vulgar Christian! You have not performed even a simple miracle! The dead have not risen at your prayer! You have not cured any fever! If you are of any class, you would perform a miracle.” Answer him with these words: It is written: You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. No, I will not ask a proof from God as if I belong to him only when he performs a miracle, and I do not belong to him when he does not. If that were the reality, where would these words stand: Rejoice that your names are written in heaven!
How did the devil use worldly ambition to tempt the Lord? He brought him to an elevated place and said: I will give to you all these, if you prostrate before me and worship me. He wanted to tempt the king of the centuries resorting to the heights that signify to be king of the world. But the Lord, who made heaven and earth, trampled the devil underfoot. What did he then answer him but that which he taught you to answer him? It is written: You shall adore the Lord your God and him alone shall you serve.
Observing this manner of proceeding, you will lack the concupiscence of worldly power; on lacking the concupiscence of the world, neither the concupiscence of the flesh nor the concupiscence of the eyes nor the worldly ambition will dominate you. And you will give space for charity that comes to you that you may love God. Because if the love of the world were present there, the love of God would not be there. Seize, rather, the love of God so that, because God is eternal, you also may remain eternally, because everyone is like what he loves (ep. Io. tr. 2, 14).
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.
- “It is written: Man does not live by bread alone” (Lk 4:4).
- Up to what point do the things of this world, material objects that satisfy, estrange you from God?
- What is it that really gives meaning to your life, that makes you alive?
- When you do not have concupiscence of the world, neither the desire of the flesh, nor the desire of the eyes, nor worldly ambition will dominate you, and you will make space for charity that comes to you that you may love God” (ep. Io. tr. 2, 14).
- How can you make space for God in your life?
- What temptations impede you from belong totally to God?
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 conquering the temptations of Satan. Ask him that you too be able to conquer the temptations that you confront every day.
Contemplate and ask for strength.
- Contemplate with truth and humility your most frequent temptations. Acknowledge your weakness and smallness, and ask help from God. While you contemplate, repeat: “Give what you command and command what you will” (cof. 10. 40).
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about conquering temptation and living for God. 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 you deign to hear our petitions according to your good will, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our minds, 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).
For the praise and love of the one God
(doctr. Chr. 2, 38, 57).