LECTIO DIVINA: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C


Lk. 18:9 – 14.

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.

B. Lectio.

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

          He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

C. Meditatio.

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

           But, given that faith is not proper of the proud but of the humble, to some who believed themselves righteous and despised others, Jesus proposed this parable: Two men ascended to the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, the other a Publican. The Pharisee said: I thank you, O God, because I am not like other men, If at least he had said ‘like many men’! What does ‘like other men’ mean but ‘all’ except him? He said “I am just; all the others are sinners.” I am not like the other men who are unjust, thieves, adulterers. The nearby presence of the publican gave him an occasion for greater arrogance. Like that publican –he says. “I am, he says, unique; that is like the others.” I am not, he said, like that, owing to my just acts, thanks to these I am not wicked.”  I fast two times a week and I give the tenth part of what I possess.  What did he ask from God? Examine his words  and you will find nothing. He went up to pray, but he did not like to ask from God, rather to praise himself. It is little not to ask from God, and to praise oneself; even more, he went up to insult the one he petitions. The publican, on the other hand, kept standing at a distance, and nevertheless, was near God. The knowledge  of  his heart, kept him far, his filial love kept him near. The publican, on the other hand, remained standing at a distance, but the Lord was looking at him from near. Since the Lord is on high and directs his eyes at the things lowly. In turn, he knows from afar those who exalt themselves like the Pharisee. The haughty he knows from afar and he does not pardon them. Yet he hears the humility of the publican. Is it little to say that he stood at a distance? He did not even raise his eyes to heaven. In order to be looked at, he avoided looking. He did not dare to raise his eyes upwards; his conscience was oppressing him, hope was lifting him. Hear some more: He was beating his breast. He claimed punishment for himself. That is why the Lord forgave him who confessed his sin. He beat his breast saying: Lord, be merciful to me for I am a sinner. Look who asks. Would you then be surprised that God forgives the sinner who acknowledges himself as such? You have heard the case between the Pharisee and the Publican, now listen to the sentence. You have heard the arrogant plaintiff and the humble defendant; listen now to the judge: Truly I say to you. The Truth speaks, God says, the Judge speaks: Truly I say to you, that the publican descended from the temple justified, not the Pharisee. Tell us, Lord, the reason. I see that the publican goes down from the temple justified, but not the Pharisee, I ask why? You ask why? Listen to him: “Because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted. You have heard the sentence. Beware lest your cause be evil. I say another thing: You have heard the sentence, beware of pride.

          Look now, see this I don’t know what impious charlatans, listen to him those who presume of their strength and say: “God made me a man, but it is I who make myself righteous”. O man, worse and more detestable than the Pharisee. The Pharisee, certainly with pride, declared himself righteous, but he was giving thanks  to God for it. He was declaring himself righteous but despite everything he was giving thanks to God. I give you thanks, O God! because I am not like other men. I give you thanks, O God! He gives thanks because he is not like other men, and nevertheless he is rebuked because he is proud and conceited.  Not because he gives thanks to God, but because it seems he did not want anything else to be added. I give you thanks because I am not like the other men who are unjust. Therefore, you are just; therefore you ask for nothing, therefore you are full; therefore, human life on earth is not a temptation (Job 7:1), therefore you are already full, therefore you live in abundance, therefore you have no reason to say: Forgive us our trespasses (Mt. 6:12). What then is he who impiously attacks grace, if one who proudly gives thanks is rebuked?” (s. 115, 2-3).

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.

a. “He went up to pray, but he did not like to petition God, but to praise himself” (s. 115,2).

  • What is truly important in prayer?
  • How can prayer truly become an act of praising God?

b. “God made me a man, but it is I who make myself just” (s. 115, 2).

  • Why are these words worse than the proud prayer of the Pharisee?
  • In your prayer, what importance does thanksgiving have?

E. Contemplatio.

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 Pharisee and the publican go up the temple and con- template how the Pharisee prays with pride, and the publican with his humility from the back of the temple. Fix your attention on the publican and ask God that your prayer be always like his prayer, humble and trustful.

b. Contemplate in your interior all the gifts that you have received from God, and make your prayer a moment of thankful contemplation. Just as the Pharisee did not know how to be grateful and believed that everything was his, contemplate your poverty together with the gifts that God has given you and give thanks.

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially as regards being humble in prayer, thanking God for all his benefits and gifts. The following points can help you share with your community the experience of the lectiodivina 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 ot Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

Final Reflection of St. Augustine.

          “From afar God knew the Pharisee who boasted of himself, and at close

          quarters he was helping the publican who was repentant. That man was

          boasting of his good works and was hiding his wounds; this man did not

          boast of his merits, but was confessing his wounds” (en. Ps. 39, 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). +

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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.