Friday, 29 July 2016

154: Lectio Divina in daily life 7: Lectio in a busy life

Continuation of 153: Lectio Divina in daily life 6

We encounter objections to lectio in ourselves. We do not have time for it because our days are already full and, moreover, it is quite possible that we consecrate our free time to various groups or associations, to our Parish or a movement. What should we do then? Let us look at these two objections.

a) “I don’t have time”

This is a big issue: How can an hour of lectio be integrated into each day when one already has so many occupations? Even if we were to give examples of people who are immersed in the activities of the world or who have numerous activities who still find time to listen to the Word that Christ speaks to them each day, this would probably not be convincing. So how should we proceed? There is a simple way that is useful to many people who really have the desire to do lectio.

If we are truly convinced that lectio has an essential place in our lives but we think that we are unable of finding time for it in our day, and if this saddens us, we might address this simple prayer to the Lord: “Lord, you have made me understand how important encountering you and listening to you in the Words of the daily Mass readings is, but you see that my daily schedule doesn’t allow it. Since you have the desire to speak to me and since you are Almighty, I offer you my schedule, my life, my plans: organise my daily life and show me how to find the time, how to use the time you give me; tell me how to reorganise my life, take away the obstacles and strengthen what is good, and establish this sacred time for our encounter.” Let us address this prayer to him with all our heart. Let us repeat it from time to time, and, above all, let us put our faith in the Lord and open our eyes. He will show us many things. If we want Him to be the Master of our lives – and this is the meaning of Baptism – then we should have faith in Him, hand everything over to Him, and, at the very least, make this prayer. It will not be long before we see some results.

Of course, the lack of time is a formidable argument. This argument is apparently solid and reasonable (our occupations are always legitimate and necessary, and often more necessary than the Lord who gives us life and health). Nothing could break down this argument. But the prayer given here, as an example, is all-powerful. When we make it, our sincerity is absolutely crucial.
Very busy

b) “I already have commitments in the Church”

Another argument might be put forward: “I already give a good deal of time to God and the Church; that’s prayer and listening to the Lord, isn’t it?” One may be engaged in Catholic Action, in a movement of the Church, and there are many of these, both active and charitable. This also seems to some people to be a strong argument, sufficient to exclude all other possible ways of giving oneself. But lurking behind this kind of excuse there may be a desire to calm one’s conscience, or to flee from these “other ways of giving oneself” by re-assuring oneself that one already does lots of things for the Lord; But all of this comes down to escapism. This does not mean that action is bad, but more precisely that one is made for action. The Lord also wants action. He said so explicitly: “I work , and my Father works till now” (see Jn 5:17). But the Lord wants action that proceeds from God; He wants contemplation and union with God. In the first book we showed how lectio is fundamentally directed to the will, action and change. But what good is it to want to change the world if one does not change on a personal level. This, however, is the most difficult undertaking. Let us change through lectio and thus the entire world will have changed with us and through us. A single act of pure love, i.e. accomplished in God – and this is what lectio is –, is of greater value than all the works one could do1.

The mission can only be accomplished by and in Christ, who is the Master. “Apart from me you are not able to do anything” (Jn 15:5). Now, lectio brings us into direct communion with the Author of our lives and allows us to bear lasting fruit, to do God’s work and not our own.

He who remains in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, because apart from me you are not able to do anything” (Jn 15:5). But how can we remain in Him? “If you remain in me, and my Words remain in you […]”. We see quite clearly that in order to remain in Christ and to bear fruit, it is necessary for His Words to remain in us. “No more do I call you servants, because the servant does not know what his lord does, and I have called you friends, because all things that I heard from my Father, I made known to you.” In lectio He reveals to us, day after day, what He taught us, what He heard and saw from His Father. He does nothing by himself. He gave us the example so that we may do as He did. This point is essential. If the Son had not acted in response to the situations, if he had simply applied rules or laws, if the Son had not continuously and ever anew contemplated the Father who each day was showing him his plan, he would not have born fruit. In order to bear fruit he contemplated what his Father does. He let himself be instructed by this vision. And then he told us to do likewise. He revealed to us what he had received from his Father, and he also showed us his method: “‘Verily, verily, I say to you, The Son is not able to do anything of himself, if he does not see the Father doing it; for whatever things He may do, these also the Son does in like manner; for the Father loves the Son, and He shows to him all things that He himself does; and greater works than these He will show him, that you may wonder” (Jn 5:19-20). Lectio is the way of putting this attitude of the Son into practice.

In this way we march to God’s rhythm. We do not impose our personal daily or weekly programme on God. We do not insert God into our lives. We insert ourselves into his plan and into His life. So we bear fruit and our fruit is lasting. The true work is done “in God”.

Even if these words of St. John of the Cross concern mental prayer, we perceive that they elucidate quite vigorously what we have said about lectio:

Because of her determined desire to please her Bridegroom and benefit the Church, Mary Magdalene, even though she was accomplishing great good by her preaching and would have continued to do so, hid in the desert for thirty years in order to surrender herself truly to this love. It seemed to her, after all, that by such retirement she would obtain much more because of the notable benefit and gain that a little of this love brings to the Church.
Let those, then, who are singularly active, who think they can win the world with their preaching and exterior works, observe here that they would profit the Church and please God much more, not to mention the good example they would give, were they to spend at least half an hour of this time with God in prayer, even though they might not have reached a prayer as sublime as this. Then they would accomplish more, and with less labour, by one work than they would by a thousand. For through their prayer they would merit this result, and themselves be spiritually strengthened. Without prayer they would do a great deal of hammering but accomplish little, and sometimes nothing, and even at times cause harm. God forbid that the salt should begin to lose its savour (Mt. 5:13). However much they appear to achieve externally, they will in substance be accomplishing nothing; it is beyond doubt that good works can be preformed only by the power of God.”
Oh, how much could be written here on this subject! […] [for] all those who impugn her holy idleness and desire every work to be the kind that shines outwardly and satisfies the eye, and do not know the secret source from which both the water flows and all fruit is produced. (Spiritual Canticle B 29,1-4)

1 “For a little of this pure love is more precious to God and the soul and more beneficial to the Church, even though it seems one is doing nothing, than all these other works put together.” (Saint John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle B 29, 2).

Note 1: This is an extract from the book: "Lectio divina in daily life" (please click here)
Note 2: To know more about Lectio Divina see: A keynote on Lectio Divina
Note 3: Remember to subscribe to this Blog so you can receive the posts directly to your email.

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