LECTIO DIVINA: Christ the King
Lk. 23:35 – 43.
CHRIST THE KING.
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.
… The rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him saved himself if he is the Chosen One, the messiah of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “
This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
St. Augustine emphasizes that the Good Thief on the cross professed with his lips his faith for salvation. Even though his hands and feet were nailed to the cross, his tongue was free; he professed his faith in Christ and was saved: “This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me (Is. 29:13). You speak with your lips and come close with the heart, since with the heart one believes to achieve justification, and with the mouth one confesses to achieve salvation. Thus it happened with that thief nailed to the cross with the Lord, he recognized the Lord on the cross. The others did not acknowledge him when he was performing miracles, but this one recognized him hanging on the cross. He was pegged to the cross with all his members, his hands were nailed, and his feet were pierced, his whole body was fixed to the wood; that body could not move the other members, but, yes, his tongue and his heart were free: he believed with his heart, and confessed with his mouth. ‘Remember me, Lord, he was saying, when you arrive at your kingdom.’ He expected that his salvation would be late in coming, and he was content to receive it after a long time, he expected it for a long period, but the day did not allow a waiting. He said: Remember me when you arrive at your kingdom. And Jesus answered him: I assure you that today you will be with me in Paradise. Paradise has the tree of happiness: today you are with me on the tree of the cross, also today you are with me on the tree of salvation (en. Ps. 39, 15).
St. Augustine also comments how the Good Thief on the cross stole heaven from Jesus, since Christ himself had instructed him as interior Teacher in the heart: “Consider the three crosses present when the Lord was crucified in the midst of two thieves. The torment was the same, but the cause separated those whom the torment united. One of those thieves believed in Jesus Christ the Lord while hanging from the wood. First he speaks to his companion the other thief, his companion insulted Christ the Lord, saying to him: ‘If you are the Son of God, save yourself’; but the other answered him: ‘You do not fear God; we suffer these evils because of our actions, but this is the Holy One of God.’ Oh what a confession! If he confessed that way, he was hanging not without reason. Then he says to Christ the Lord himself: ‘Lord, think of me when you arrive at your kingdom.’ What a faith! He expected that he whom he saw crucified was also to reign. That thief did not despise Christ for suffering the same punishment as he. He saw him die like himself, and he expected him to reign over him, How great was this thief! He struggled and he took away the kingdom of heaven. Where did he learn it? With armed hand he assaulted in the narrow paths, he was brought before the judge and he heard the sentence: from the narrow path to the judge and from the judge to the cross. Where did he learn what he said if the Teacher beside him had not taught him? Truly, Christ the Lord, the Teacher of everyone, who was hanging beside him, was teaching him in the heart. Why did I say this, my brothers? Because the punishment does not make the martyr, but the cause. There were three crosses: the torment was the same, but the cause was distinct. Of the thieves, one was to be condemned, and the other saved, in the middle was he who condemned and who saved. One he punishes, the other he absolves. That cross was a tribunal” (s. 328, 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. “There was above an inscription in Greek, Latin and Hebrew: ‘This is the king of the Jews.’ (Lk. 23:38).
- What does this mean for you: Christ is King of the Universe?
- How does Christ reign in your life?
b. “Where did he learn what he said if the Teacher at his side did not teach him? In fact, Christ the Lord, the Teacher of all, was hanging at his side and was teaching him in the heart” (s. 328, 7).
- What is the principal teaching that Christ gives you in the heart?
- How can you imitate the Good Thief?
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 Christ reigning from the cross. Fix your soul’s gaze on Christ crucified, the King who opens for us the gates of the eternal kingdom through his death. Contemplate, adore and give thanks for the salvation obtained by Christ on the cross.
b. Contemplate Christ in his glory, King of the whole creation and of all things. Contemplate his greatness and his power. Contemplate, praise and love.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially as regards the Royalty of Christ, his power and his mercy. 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.
“The Son of God, who created us, was made among us and rules us because he is our King, because he is our Creator who made us. He who created us is the same who rules us; that is why we are Christians because he is the Christ” (en. Ps. 149, 6).
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 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). +