LECTIO DIVINA: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
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 I 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) Amen.
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. 16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. 18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are about to pray, if shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
“Therefore, we ought to correct with love: not desiring to harm, but seeking amendment. If we do so, we fulfill exactly the advice given to us today: If your brother sins against you, correct him between you and him alone. Why do you correct him? Because it hurts you that he has sinned against you? No way! If you do it for self-love, you do nothing. If you do it for love of him, your action is best. Take note further in the text itself what kind of love is to impel your action: if it is love for yourself or love for your brother. It says: If he listens, you have gained your brother. Therefore, do it for him, to gain him back. If by your action you gain him back, then if you have not acted, he could have perished. For what reason do majority of persons scorn these sins and say: “What extraordinary thing have I done? I have only sinned against one man?” Do not scorn them. Yes, you have sinned against one man; do you want to know that, sinning against one man, you have perished? If he whom you have offended has corrected between him and you alone and you listened to him, he would have regained you. What does it mean “he would have regained you,” but that you could have perished, if he had not regained you? For, if you had not perished, how could he have gained you back? Therefore, let no one scorn the sin against the brother. In fact, the Apostle says in a certain passage: Thus, you who sin against the brothers and beat their weak conscience, sin against Christ, precisely because we have all become members of Christ. How can you not sin against Christ if you sin against a member of Christ?” (s. 82, 4)
On the power to bind and to loose, St. Augustine comments: “As the Apostle says: They answer not knowing what they are saying and about what they are speaking. They answer and say: “If men do not forgive the sins, then what Christ says is false: What you loose on earth will also remain loosed in heaven.” You do not know why and how that was said. The Lord, who was going to give the Holy Spirit to men, wanted that it be understood that, the faithful receive the forgiveness of sins from the Holy Spirit, not by their merits. For what is man but a sick person who needs to be cured? Do you want to be my physician? Seek the physician with me. Because the Lord, to show in a clearer way that sins are forgiven by the Holy Spirit, whom he gave to his faithful, and not by human merits, says at a certain moment after he rose from the dead: Receive the Holy Spirit. And after having said that he continued and said: Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. That is, the Holy Spirit, not you, forgives them. Now then, the Holy Spirit is God; therefore, it is God who forgives, not you” (s. 99, 9).
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. “We must correct with love: not desiring to harm, but seeking amendment” (s. 82, 4).
- What is the motive with which I correct my brothers?
- Why is correction important?
b. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 18:18).
- What do these words mean for you?
- In your life, what importance does the sacrament of “binding and loosing” (confession) have?
c. Pray with this phrase: “Help me, O Lord, to accept correction with humility.”
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 at this moment, when you are assembled in prayer with your brothers, that Christ is in your midst. Contemplate Christ’s presence: discrete, silent, loving and praying with you as well as praying for you. Listen to his voice, listen to what he whispers in your ears. Contemplate, listen and adore.
b. Contemplate in your interior your own defects and limitations, as if these were bad weeds and harmful plants that sprouted in the garden that God made in your heart. Contemplate how Christ himself, in the midst of your brothers in community, invites you to correct yourself and change. Contemplate above all those defects and elements that you have to change in your life. Ask Christ to give you strength to do it, and allow him, with the loving hands of the Divine Gardiner, to uproot the bad weeds in the garden of your heart. Contemplate and pray.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about carrying your cross and following Christ, about being able to order the affections in your heart. The following points can help you 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 permit, 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, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).
“Give thanks to him who corrects you that you may receive the inheritance of God who corrects you” (en. Ps. 48:2, 9).