LECTIO DIVINA: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Lk. 18:1 – 8.
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, 40). Amen.
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a while the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” +
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
“The reading of the holy gospel urges us to pray and to believe and not to presume on ourselves, but on the Lord. What better exhortation to prayer than what has been proposed to us by this parable on the dishonest judge? In fact, a dishonest judge, who neither feared God nor respected any human being, vanquished by boredom not moved by love for any person, listened to a widow who bothered him. If then he listened to someone he did not like who asked him, how would he, who exhorts us to pray, listen? Once through this comparison as argument by contrast, the Lord persuaded us that it is necessary to pray always and not to weaken, he added the following: Nevertheless, do you believe that when the Son of Man comes he will find faith on earth? If faith weakens prayer disappears. For who prays for something he does not believe? That is why the blessed Apostle exhorting to pray, says: Everyone who invokes the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:13). And to show that faith is the fountain of prayer and the river cannot flow when the spring of water is dry, he added: ‘How can they invoke someone in whom they do not believe? (Rom. 10:14). Let us believe, therefore, so we can pray. And in order that the faith through which we pray may not fail, let us pray. Prayer flows from faith; the prayer that flows obtains strength for the same faith. From faith –I repeat- flows prayer; and the prayer that flows obtains strength for the same faith. Precisely, in order that faith may not weaken in the midst of temptations, the Lord said: Be vigilant and pray that you may not fall into temptation (Lk. 22:46). Watch and pray, he says, that you may not fall into temptation. What is to fall into temptation if not to fall out of faith? The temptation progresses as much as the faith fails; and so much does temptation weaken as much as faith progresses. But in order that you, dear brothers, may see more clearly, the Lord said: Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation, referring to the faith that it may not fail and disappear, so the Lord says in the same Gospel passage: This night Satan has asked to sieve you like wheat; I have prayed for you Peter that your faith may not fail (Lk 22:31-32). He prays who defends, and he who is in danger does not pray? The words of the Lord: ‘Do you believe that when the Son of Man comes he will find faith on earth?’ refer to perfect faith. This is scarcely found on earth. See, that the Church of God is full of people; if there were no faith, who would come to her? Who would not transfer mountains if faith were full? Look at the apostles themselves: they would not have followed the Lord, after having abandoned everything and trampled all human hope, if they had not possessed great faith. On the other hand, if they had possessed fullness of faith they would not have said: “Increase our faith” (Lk. 17:5). Think also of the other who confesses about himself the one and the other; notice that he has faith, but not full. Having presented his son to the Lord to heal him freeing him from an evil spirit, when asked if he believed, he answered saying: ‘I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief’ (Mk. 9:23) . ‘I believe’ he said; I believe, Lord; therefore, faith exists. But ‘help my unbelief’; therefore, faith is not full” (s. 115, 1). +
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 affection 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. “If, then, he who did not tolerate to be asked listened, how does he, who exhorts us to ask, listen?” (s. 115, 1).
- In what occasions in your life have you come to believe that God does not listen when you pray?
- If the widow in the parable was listened to for her insistence, how must your prayer be?
b. “Prayer flows from faith; the prayer that flows obtains strength for the faith itself” (s. 115, 1)
- How do you live this virtuous cycle of faith-prayer-greater faith that St. Augustine gives us?
- Why do you believe that prayer springs forth from faith?
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 how the widow insists before the door of the dishonest judge that he may do justice for her some day. Learn from this contemplation the perseverance in prayer.
b. Contemplate how Christ is near you and listens to you. Contemplate how he gives attention to everything that you say, and hears you as no one has ever done for you. Contemplate and open your heart before Christ who always hears you and receives your prayer.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially as regards not weakening in prayer and to know that God always hears us when we pray. The following points can help you share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on the 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 Reflection of St. Augustine.
“God hears only one prayer of the obedient before the ten thousand of the rebel” (op. mon. 17, 20).
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 goodwill, 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 and 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). +