January 4, 2018
I thought we could try an activity together today. I've included my own adaptation of instructions I recently received from my spiritual director on how to perform a brief lectio divina with scripture.
1. Settle into your place of prayer. Quiet your heart, head off other distractions, close other browser tabs, turn off your phone, be real with yourself about what distracts you when you try to pray. It's not just good spiritual practice, it's good human psychology!
2. Pray a short prayer of praise and thanksgiving, asking the Lord's help to do your part in this prayer.
3. Compose yourself for prayer. This is done by placing yourself as vividly as possible in the presence of God.
4. Ask for the grace. You should begin every prayer by asking for the grace to reflect on the themes present in the day's Gospel or readings, and to possess/live out this theme in your life.
5. Read the Scripture. Be as receptive as you can. You might read it once completely and then a second time more slowly, stopping when something touches you. Allow the mystery to speak to your heart. Let any movement of feeling or intuitive knowing have its way. Do not try to control it, but rather give yourself up to its working.
Today's Gospel: Jn 1:29-34
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.'
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel."
John testified further, saying,
"I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."
6. Ponder in the heart, not in the head. This is the one I struggle with most. It is often valuable in prayer to avoid reasoning about the truths of faith, but rather to dispose yourself to receive the impact of God's words and acts in the depths of your being. This is where the Holy Spirit loves to move our personal responses, our "felt-knowing". Allow God to help you apply the Scripture to your personal life
7. Listen to any movement of the Spirit. God speaks in silence. Be attentive to what occurs in your heart. Be comfortable in the quiet.
8. Dialogue. At the conclusion of ever exercise, have brief conversation with the Lord, person to Person. This should be spontaneous, heartfelt, thankful, praising God and emerging concretely out of the prayer experiences received.
9. End with the Our Father.
STOP HERE. ACTUALLY PRAY THIS BEFORE READING THE REST OF MY MESSAGE. NO, REALLY. I DON'T WANT TO INFLUENCE YOUR PRAYER. I ALSO JUST WANT YOU TO ACTUALLY TRY IT.
Okay, you may proceed :)
In praying in this way with today's Gospel, I found myself reflecting on the phrase John the Baptist was repeating: "I did not know him." Normally, that would feel like a negative statement, right? But it wasn't really John the Baptist's style to lament or complain; he was a man of facts and proclamation.
Instead, thinking of John's phrase, "I did not know him", I am drawn to reflect on his faith. He was confident in his prayer and ministry because he heard the Lord's promises, took them to heart, and ministered unquestioningly. God's promises are not good-natured, hopeful thinking. The promises of an eternal and almighty Lord are rock solid fact. John knew this.
What are the Lord's promises in my life? The Bible is full of his promises which all, in their own way, apply to me. What other promises has he tried to make to me in a time of personal prayer or reflection? Do I believe that he can and will make promises about my life? Do I treat His truths as rock solid fact?
Have you tried this type of scriptural reflection in the past? What did you experience or reflect on? I would love to hear it!
Praised be Jesus Christ.