LECTIO DIVINA: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Lk. 21:5 – 19.
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.
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified, for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues from place to place, and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will save your souls.” +
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
St. Augustine, in different places of his work, comments on the words of Jesus,“even the hairs of your head are counted” in order to invite above all to trust and to know that the life of the believer is in the hands of God. When one has to confront tribulation, it is necessary to know that it is a moment of trial so that the believer may grow in humility or that he may be purified and exercised in patience. Thus it is important to trust in God who never puts us to the test beyond our strength. St. Augustine comments thus: “He who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted (Lk. 14:11). Here we reasonably understand that he does not deal with that humility with which each one humbles himself confessing his sins and not attributing justice to himself, but of that with which he is humiliated by some tribulation or dejection that his pride merited; or with which his patience is exercised or is tried; by which a little later this Psalm says: ‘Before I was humbled I transgressed’; and also the Book of Wisdom: ‘Be strong in pain and be patient in humiliation, because gold and silver are purified with fire, and men are acceptable in the furnace of tribulation (Si. 2:4-5). By saying acceptable, he gave the hope that consoles in humility. Our Lord Jesus Christ, also upon predicting that his disciples would be humiliated by their persecutors, did not leave them without hope, but gave them hope for their consolation, telling them: ‘By your patience you will gain your souls.’ And on the body that the enemies can kill and can be completely destroyed, he says: ‘Not a hair of your head will perish.’ This hope was given to the Body of Christ which is the Church, that she may be consoled in her humility. On this hope St. Paul the Apostle says: ‘We hope for what we do not see, we await it with patience’ (Rom. 8:25). But this hope refers to the eternal rewards. There is another hope that greatly consoles in the humility of tribulation, that is given to the saints by the word of God, that promises the help of grace so that no one may grow weak. Of this the Apostle also says: ‘God is faithful, and he does not permit that you be tempted beyond your strength, but that with the temptation he gives you the means to overcome it’ (1 Cor. 10:13), (en. Ps. 118, 15,1).
In one sermon, St. Augustine emphasizes the importance of being attached to God in tribulation having full trust in him: “Make sure, brothers, that the enemies do not permit you to act against the faithful beyond what is useful to subject them to temptation or to trial. Make sure of this, brothers, let no one say the contrary. Unload to the Lord all your cares (1 Pt. 5:7); throw yourselves into his arms. He does not step back that you may fall. He who created us gave us guarantees even for our own hair. Truly, I say to you –he affirms- all the hair of you head has been counted. God has counted our hair; how much more will he know our customs he who knows our hair. See how God does not despise even our most insignificant things, for if he despised them he would not have created them.
In fact, he also created our hair and has counted them. “But –you may say- even if they exist now perhaps they will perish.” Listen also to his words on the matter: ‘Truly I say to you: not even a hair from your head will perish.’ Why do you fear a man, you, oh man, who find yourself on the lap of your God? Strive not to fall from his lap; whatever you suffer there, will be for your salvation, not for your condemnation. The martyrs suffered the tearing to pieces of their members, and the Christians fear the difficulties of Christian times?” (s. 62, 15).
On the other hand, St. Augustine comments on the last words of the Gospel of today inviting to patience and to persevere, since what is at stake is the salvation of the soul: “The Lord has said: in your patience you will possess your souls. He did not say: ‘you will possess your farms, your honor and your pleasures,’ but your souls. If the soul suffers so much to arrive at the cause of its perdition, how much more should it suffer in order not to perish? And to mention something not sinful, if it suffers so much for the health of its body in the hands of the doctors who cut or dismembers, how much should it suffer for its salvation among the blows of its enemies? The doctors treat the body with torments so that it may not die, but the enemies threaten us with punishments and bodily death, to push us towards hell where body and soul die.
The truth is that we look more prudently after our own body when we disregard its temporal health for justice, and for justice we tolerate with patience the punishments and death. Because of the ultimate and definitive redemption of the body the Apostle speaks when he says: within ourselves we sigh, waiting for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our body. Then he proceeds: in hope we have been saved; but hope that is seen is not hope since how can one hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, then we await it in patience” (pat. 6-7).
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. “Make sure, brothers, that you do not allow the enemies to act against the faithful beyond what is useful to subject them to temptation and trial” (s. 62, 15).
- How do you face the moments of tribulation and trial?
- How is your trust in God?
b. “By your perseverance you will save your souls” (Lk. 21:19).
- For you, what importance does perseverance have?
- How do you live persevering in the 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 your life is in the hands of God. Consider all the tribulations that afflict and trouble you. Nonetheless contemplate how your life is protected by God and feel the tranquility and the peace in your soul. Contemplate, be grateful and trust.
b. Contemplate your life like a piece of gold that is placed in the furnace, where the gold is melted but at the same time purified of its dross. Contemplate the pain that the flames of the furnace cause, but at the same time contemplate the consolation of the purification and the purity that the fire causes. Contemplate and adore the wisdom of God who never puts us in trials beyond our strength.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially as regards trust in God as not to have fear before any tribulation and as regards final perseverance. 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.
“What do you think, brothers: is it difficult or not, to persevere in the Word of God? If you find it difficult, focus your gaze on the greatness of the reward” (s. 134, 1).
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). +