LECTIO DIVINA: XI Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR
A. INVOCATION OF 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, 4). Amen.
WITH THE HEART WELL DISPOSED, WITH SERENITY, READ SLOWLY THE FOLLOWING WORDS, SAVORING THEM AND ALLOWING YOURSELF TO BE TOUCHED BY THEM.
He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.+
LET US MEDITATE NOW WITH THE COMMENTARY OF ST. AUGUSTINE ON THESE WORDS OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MARK.
This Gospel text brings St. Augustine to think of the Passion of Christ. His moment of greatest humiliation and prostration is of the greatest glory and exaltation. Christ is the grain of mustard seed that dying on the cross as something insignificant, gave way to the big tree of the Church which today is spread throughout the whole world, and gathers in all the peoples. For this St. Augustine says: Sublime grace! It achieved its greatness precisely when the Jews considered it defeated. What greatness, what sublimity of someone who hang from a wood, of one crucified. [The Good Thief] Hung with someone hung from the cross, trusting in what is permanent, knew it was the grain of mustard. He did not yet see the tree, yet he already knew the seed.” (s. 111, 2).
And bound up to the Passion is the Resurrection. Christ is the keeper of the garden of the heart of every believer wherein the seed of faith is cultivated, which is as small as the mustard seed. St. Augustine is inspired in the Gospel text in which Mary Magdalene goes to the sepulcher on the morning of the resurrection, and not finding the body of Jesus, she searches for it, and in her enthusiasm confuses Jesus with the gardener. St. Augustine beautifully comments on this passage to point out that Christ is truly the gardener of the heart of every believer, where the mustard seed of faith must grow. St. Augustine comments thus: But Mary Magdalene thought that the risen Christ was the gardener. And, if you consider that we are his vegetable gardens, Christ is gardener. Is not the gardener the one who sowed the mustard seed, the smallest of grain yet full of vigor? It is the seed that grew, raised itself up and became a tree so big that the birds of the sky rest on its branches?… The mustard seed is insignificant, there is nothing as contemptible to the eyes, and yet nothing has as strong a flavor. Considering all that, what does it all mean but the extraordinary vigor and intimate strength of the faith of the Church?” (s. 246, 3).
St. Augustine also interprets the Gospel text to see in the smallness of the mustard seed and the few number of preachers of the Gospel: despite all this God builds his Church beginning from the smallness and the poverty, as seen in the mustard seed. St. Augustine comments thus: To this also refers what he answered them previously about the mustard seed: that first they must count on the faith necessary for the present life, faith that seems the smallest while we guard this treasure in vessels of clay, but which bustles about vigorously and ends up germinating. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who wants to pasture his flock through the ministry of servants, i.e., who wants to transplant his body to the believers as though they were slaughtered and then eaten, nourishes them here with the word of the faith and with the mystery of his Passion. He did not come to be served but to serve” (qu. eu. 2, 39, 3).
Finally, for St. Augustine, the Church was born from this in significant element of the preaching, and today it is extended like the mustard tree to all the ends of the earth. These are the words of St. Augustine: We have been born and have been gathered into the people of God in this world at the time in which that bush, born of the grain of the mustard seed has extended its branches; and in the time in which that leaven, at first insignificant, let us recognize it symbolized, let us recognize him as already hayng fermented three measures of flour, i.e. the whole orbit of the earth, let us recognize him symbolized in the mustard seed. Let us separate for a while the thought of growing into a bush, and from the extension of its branches, and thus like that glory in which the birds of the sky come and rest, let us put our attention in how the size of the bush which amaze us or from what small origin it came” (en. Ps. 68, 1,1).
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. “The seed germinates and grows, and he knows not how” Mk. 4:27).
•What are the signs in your life indicating that the seed of the kingdom is growing in you?
•What can you do to let the seed grow in you?
b. “Christ is the gardener. Isn’t it the gardener who sowed the mustard seed, that smallest seed but full of vigor?” (s. 246,3)
•From your own personal experience, why is Christ the gardener of your heart?
•How can you recognize in your life the vigor and the strength of the small seed of the Word of God and of 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 the words of God grows in your heart, Allow it to expand and take roots in your being, removing all that do not pertain to the kingdom of God.
b. Contemplate Christ as the Gardener working in your heart, and sowing the small seed of faith and his word. Live the moment of prayer with receptiveness and gratitude.
THINK OF EVERYTHING THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH THOSE AROUND YOU ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE YOU HAD WITH GOD, ESPECIALLY CONCERNING THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST AND THE UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT. THE FOLLOWING POINTS CAN HELP YOU AS GUIDE 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 dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
G. FINAL PRAYER OF ST. AUGUSTINE
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with a 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 by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, 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).
“We shall be happy if we put into action what we hear and sing. Our listening is our sowing, putting it into action is the fruit of the seed” (s. 23A, 1).