Father Stefan reflects on Pope Francis ‘Joy of the Gospel’ Spiritual reading

Pope Francis writes, “There is one particular way of listening to what the Lord wishes to tell us in his word and of letting ourselves be transformed by the Spirit. It is what we call lectio divina…In the presence of God, during a recollected reading of the text,it is good to ask, for example: ‘Lord what does this text say to me? What is it about my life that you want to change by this text? What troubles me about this text? Why am I not interested in this? What is it about this? Or perhaps: What do u find pleasant in this text? What is it about this word that moves me? What attracts me? Why does it attract me?”

The bible is a love letter written by God to you. John Paul II wrote, “It is necessary that the hearing of the Word becomes a vital encounter, in the ancient and valid lectio divina that allows us to pick out out of the biblical text the living word that questions, orients and molds existence.” Lectio divina, or divine reading, is allowing God’s word to speak directly to your heart.

There are 3 stages: Receiving the Word. Contemplating the Word. Putting the Word into practice.

 Receive the word our intention is not to study the bible. We place ourselves in the presence of God and ask the Holy Spirit to touch our heart with some verse from God’s word.  

Contemplating on the word. Cantalamessa in his book, ‘Jesus Began to Preach’ writes, “The second stage suggested by St James consists in ‘fixating the eyes’ or meditating on the word, by staying at length in front of the mirror. In this regard, the fathers evoke images of chewing and ruminating. Reading, as it where puts food whole in the mouth, meditation chews it and breaks it up. Saint Augustine adds, ‘When one recalls the things heard and sweetly thinks of them in his heart, he becomes similar to the ruminant.’ The soul that sees itself in the mirror of the word learns to know ‘how it it’ learns to know itself, and discovers its deformity from the image of Christ. Jesus says, (John 8:50) well, the mirror is in front of you and immediately you see how far you are from Jesus. ‘Blessed are the poor in Spirit’ (Matt 5:3) the mirror is again in front of you and immediately you see that you are full of attachments and full of superfluous things. ‘Charity is patient’ ( 1 Cor 13: 4) and you realize how impatient, envious, and self-interested you are. More than to ‘search the Scriptures’ (John 5:39) you must let yourself be searched by scripture.”

The third stage is putting the word into practice. If we don’t put the word into practice our prayer will never give us life. One author used this image, hearing and receiving God’s word is similar to conceiving a baby, but not putting that word into action is similar to a still born baby. St Ignatius taught that every time you read God’s word you ought to ask yourself, “What is God’s word asking me to do?” 

In closing, Pope Francis gives this advice about homilies, “Another feature of a good homily is that it is positive. It is not so much concerned with pointing out what shouldn’t be done, but with suggesting what we can do better. In any case, if it does draw attention to something negative, it will also attempt to point to a positive and attractive value, lest it remain mired in complaints, laments, criticisms, and reproaches. Positive preaching always offers hope, points to the future, does not leave us trapped in negativity.”

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