LECTIO DIVINA: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Lk. 14:25 – 33
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.
Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them. “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resource to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. +
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
St. Augustine points out that there are things that tend to separate us from the love of Christ, and that some things gratify us and are pleasant, like the family, and others are bitter and painful, like the cross; but the following of Jesus demands that we leave behind some and bravely embrace others. They threaten to separate us from Christ, not only those things that harm us but also those that encourage us (…) if someone comes to me and does not hate his father, his mother, his wife, his children, his brothers including his own life, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not take up his own cross and follow me, cannot be my disciple. The Lord mentions both things: that which is gratifying and can deceive us with flattery, and that which oppresses us with its threats. Against the deceitful gratification that comes from carnal affection he says: If one comes to me and does not hate his father, his mother, his wife, his children, etc. Against that which separates from the faith with furious anger through fear he makes us strong by means of that support and the armor that he calls with only one name “cross”. He says, he who does not take up his own cross and follow me (…) He speaks of someone who does not patiently support – this means take upon the shoulders – all those that are bitter and heavy in this world, as the “cross”. He who does not follow like this, cannot be my disciple (s. Dolb. 13, 2 = s. 159A, 2).
On the other hand, St. Augustine himself in his letter to Leto (ep. 243). Uses this text of the Gospel to remind him that he must leave behind human affections to return to the monastery; only by leaving what is one’s own can he accept what is common and could respond to the call of Christ, whose “soldier” he is for being a monk: “Wherein we see that the investment to build the tower and the ten thousand soldiers that move against the one who comes with twenty thousand, mean nothing else than the renunciation of everything one possesses. The preceding agree with the conclusion. Because in the renunciation of all possessions are included also hating father, mother, wife, children brothers, sisters and even one’s own self. These are the possessions that almost always tie and impede obtaining not what is temporal and transitory, but the common things that must always remain (…) Let not the parents be angry because God commands us to hate them, when he commands us the same in respect to our soul. And as regard the soul we are commanded to hate it for Christ together with the parents, so also in another passage we are told regarding the soul can be applied equally to the parents: He who loves his soul will lose it, he says. And I will say without doubt : “He who love his parents will lose them.” As regards the soul he said there: “he will hate”, like here “he will lose”. This command where we are ordered to lose our soul does not mean that we are to kill ourselves, which would be unpardonable crime. It means that we are to kill in the self the carnal affection of the soul, by which the present life delights us to the detriment of the future. It means the same to lose the soul as hating it, and both things are done with love, since the fruit of the conquest of that soul is clearly presented when in the same commandment it tells us: He who loses his soul in this world, will find it in eternal lie. The same we can reasonably say about the parents: He who loves them will lose them, not by killing them, like the patricides, but wounding and killing them, urged by piety and faith, with the spiritual sword of the Word of God, that carnal affection with which they insist on
chaining up the children they begot to the obstacles of this world and to themselves. But giving life at the same time to this affection by which they are brothers, by which in the company of their temporal sons they acknowledge God, and the Church as eternal parents” (ep. 243, 3.5).
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 who does not take up his cross and follow me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27).
- What is the cross that you must carry?
- How do you live the discipleship following Jesus?
b. “He who does not hate his own life cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26).
- What is the love that guides your life?
- St. Augustine said: Concerning the soul he said there “He shall hate”, like here “He shall lose”. This commandment in which we are ordered to lose our soul does not mean that we are to kill ourselves, which would be an unforgivable crime. It means that we have to kill in ourselves the carnal affection of the soul, by which the present life delights us to the detriment of the future (ep. 243, 31). What do these words suggest to you?
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 and allow him to order the love in your heart. Contemplate how he removes from it the disordered loves for yourself and those around you and how he puts in the center of your heart the love of Christ.
b. Contemplate how Christ invites you to bravely take up your cross and follow him. Contemplate your cross. See its size, its characteristics. Contemplate that it is Christ who puts it on your shoulders, and it is Christ who helps you carry it. Be conscious of your feelings and sentiments.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about carrying your cross while following Christ and of being able to put order to the affections in your heart. 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.
“He sails far away from the path of iniquity who plows through the waters of this world on the wood of the cross” (en. Ps.118: 26, 8).
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 you r 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).