Friday, 21 February 2014

91: Lectio divina in daily life 1: Lectio and the Two Commandments of Love

"If Yahweh does not build the house,
in vain have its builders
laboured at it." (Ps 127:1)

Lectio is God’s great profession of faith in man and in his intellect. God needs our eyes and our hands in order to see, to love and to act in the world. Through lectio we become, just like St. Paul, “collaborators” in God’s work. Lectio is therefore vital. It is a yardstick for life and a scale by which the quality of our life is measured. Lectio brings us into relationship with God and leads us to intelligent communion with Him.

If we listen closely to the message that God himself sends us each day, if we offer Him the time and the attention that are necessary, He will transform our lives. Let us now look at the implications for daily life.

I - Lectio and the Two Commandments of Love

1. The two commandments sum up the whole of Scripture, the Law and the Prophets

These two commandments are the ultimate aim of all things, and in them we find everything. Now, lectio helps us to grow in the accomplishment of these two commandments. And indeed through lectio Christ unifies these commandments, making them into a single one, his own precept: we are to love our neighbour as he, Christ, loved us. Lectio introduces us into the depths of the mystery of these two commandments, the mystery of the love of God and of our brethren. Through it we come to know God and contemplate His love for us day after day.
a) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart”

Lectio’s aim is very simple; and this aim is the highest pinnacle of Scripture[1]: the possession of God himself. It is absolutely normal, after years of practicing lectio, for a word or an expression to be sufficient. We will then be able to savour it more deeply. We may notice that the messages the Lord addresses to us each day are centred and condensed in a few elements or in one essential notion. In fact, the role of Scripture is to lead us to full union with God, not to resolve our material problems. We can make use of our intelligence and we can listen to the counsel of competent people in order to find answers in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel.

A man once came up to the Lord and asked him: “Judge between my brother and me, to see how we should divide our heritage between us” (cf. Lk 12:13-14). The Lord’s reaction was clear and decisive: “who set me a judge or a divider over you?” We even hear him say: “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36). “The reign of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). This means that if we expect lectio to give us concrete answers, we would be trying, in a certain way, to appropriate the Word for ourselves; but by doing so, we would also completely miss the purpose of Scripture! This does not mean that God is not interested in our daily lives: Jesus said that each hair on our head is counted! But the essential aim is our sanctification: “this is the will of God -- your sanctification” (1 Th 4:3). This would be an aberration of the meaning and Spirit of the Word of God.

Through lectio the Lord talks to us about Himself each day. He opens his heart to us and shows us his meekness and humility. In response, our hearts sing: “Come and see how good the Lord is!” Or, He may set our hearts ablaze with a single word, by revealing a new depth of meaning to us and leading us, in this way, further into his divine heart. We thus come to better understand the fire he came to throw on the earth and his great desire to eat the Passover with us (Lk 22:15).

b) “You shall love your neighbour”

Through lectio the Lord leads us into the depth of his love for us and reveals all he has accomplished for us. With his Word, he takes us by the hand and, day after day, illumines our intellect and stimulates our will so that we may love not just according to our limitations, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, which he gives to us. Thus we discover the depth, the width and the height of his love for us and enter into the mystery of what he undertook for us at the Last Supper, in Gethsemane and on the Cross.

This makes our capacity to love grow. Thanks to this living relationship with Christ, which is sustained through lectio, we penetrate the mystery of his love for all people and, from him, we learn to love them with His own love.

In the letters St. Paul wrote while in prison, he manifests a new and deeper understanding of the mystery of the Body of Christ, or of the “Christus totus” as St. Augustine put it. This is the sign that a new horizon for charity has opened up. At the end of her short life on earth, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus said that the Lord had revealed the mystery of charity to her in a new way. And St. John, in his Gospel, indirectly suggests that we are called to do everything the Son of man does. This allows us to read the Gospel on another level: as a call for us to renew our being in Christ’s mystery for our brothers. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, filled with blessed audaciousness, took Christ’s words in St. John Chapter 17 literally and applied them to herself.

Lectio, this powerful means of staying in touch with the Lord on a daily basis, introduces us into the mystery of love for one another and the mystery of the New Commandment. And this unfathomable mystery is truly overwhelming.

[1] This expression comes from Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, Mystical Theology I, 1, but we find the same idea in the writings of Origen.

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