Monday, 1 August 2016

155: Lectio Divina in daily life 8: Lectio and daily difficulties

Continuation of 154: Lectio in a busy life.

We have already spoken about this question in the book "The Method". In daily life we are confronted with a variety of difficulties and problems of different kinds: these may be material, moral or family-related problems... When we begin lectio all our worries are present in us and often they weigh heavily. We experience our inability to leave them aside. Either they become the centre of our lectio or our effort to put them aside is so intense that we cannot do lectio at all. What should be done when this happens? Given that these are daily problems, how can we extricate ourselves from them and practise lectio? We may feel obliged to deviate lectio toward our preoccupations or we may begin to daydream about the monks who do not have all these problems. One might come to the point of losing all hope of remaining faithful to the Lord in the given situation. And then temptations begin to invade our thoughts: Has the Lord forgotten me? Does He care about my life at all? One no longer knows what to think.

The yoke

Let us take a closer look at one of the Lord’s words. In the Gospel according to Matthew he calls us to him with words of consolation, which contain the answer to our preoccupations: “Come to me, all you who are labouring and burdened, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, because I am meek and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30). By saying this, the Lord seems to propose an exchange to us. Give me your worries and I will give you my burden. You have a heavy burden; I do too. He does not in any way mention the Cross, but he talks about 'burdens', and he invites us to exchange burdens with Him. Nor does he ask us to abandon every possible burden - life on earth would lose its meaning without them because we are here to do something that will make us better. The exchange he is inviting us to is actually an exchange of perspectives, of goals and meaning. Our way of looking at life permeates what we do in lectio. And very often we are not really as detached from our lives as the Lord would like us to be. He wants us to be in the world but not of the world. The Lord asks us to live well and to be active in the world in a detached manner. St. Paul said this in his own words: “And this I say, brethren, the time henceforth is short - that both those having wives may be as not having them; and those weeping, as not weeping; and those rejoicing, as not rejoicing; and those buying, as not possessing; and those using this world, as not using it; for the way of this world is passing away. And I wish you to be without anxiety” (1 Col 7:29-32). The Lord does not ask us to leave the world; but here is what he asks of his Father in prayer: “I do not ask that you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from evil” (Jn 17:15). What is important to him is the absence of worry, because worry stifles the Word of God and makes it unfruitful in our lives. In his explanation of the parable of the Sower, the third kind of soil is the one covered with thorns and wity regard to the Word sown in our worrying hearts, the Lord says: “And that sown among the thorns, is the one who hears the word, but the anxiety of this age, and the deceitfulness of the riches, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mt 13:22). This is why the Lord multiplies his recommendations for us to be without worry. He knows that there will always be difficulties and tribulations in life; but he wants us to avoid anxiety precisely because anxiety cannot change situations. “And who of you, being anxious, is able to add to his age one cubit?” (Mt 6:27); and in Luke: Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. (Lk 12:15). It is important to understand the difference between difficulties and anxiety or worry. There will indeed always be problems, no matter what our lifestyle may be. Those who think that a monk’s life is free of all worry only have a superficial knowledge of human nature. The world pursues the monk in his desert and into his cell. Let us repeat what we have already said: the Lord’s persistent desire is that we do not let ourselves be enslaved by anxiety. In fact, anxiety can absorb the energy of the human heart, as we have seen in the first book. Our heart is made exclusively for God, but it is inhabited by worries and all manner of created beings, which enslave us and hold us captive. The warfare therefore has to take place in our hearts. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” That is the challenge that the Gospel addresses to us. 'All' your heart… How can we keep inner peace in the midst of the waves that agitate this world? The Lord wants us in this world. So there must be an answer.

So how are we going to deal with this? He asks us to give him our worries. We need his help to be freed not from difficulties but from the worries they engender in our hearts. We need his Holy Spirit to help us confide our worries and our anxieties. We need the Lord to teach us how to work in peace in the midst of difficulties without being beset by them. Yes, the Lord does ask us to work since “if any one is not willing to work, he should not eat either” (2 Th 3:10); rather: “we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all work with quietness, that you may eat your own bread” (see 2 Th 3:12).
The Lord helps us through his Spirit of Love. David reminds us of this:

When I said, My foot slips;
your mercy, o Lord, holds me up.
In the multitude of my worries within me
your comforts delight my soul.” (Ps 94:18-19).

We exchange burdens with him. We give up our burdens; we linger in petition and prayer. We entrust all our worries to Him and receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit, who calms our hearts and prepares us for lectio. We renew our faith in him. The Lord is our friend; He listens to us and consoles us. He also prepares us to listen.

And what is this burden of his that we should take up? We often think that it is the cross, but in fact the Lord shows us his burden, the particular worry that should be in our hearts. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt 6:33). That is the worry and the burden we should carry each day. The Lord is right in saying that his burden is light. The burden is to remain firmly attached with him to the same yoke: the Holy Spirit, his Love. Knowing the Lord, that is the Kingdom. And that is also lectio. Because implicit in loving the Lord is doing his will. The one who loves me accomplishes my will and puts my Word into practice. “If any one loves me, he will keep my word” (Jn 14:23).

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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