Praying with the Holy Scriptures this Lent: Monday March 19
In the spirit of the pastoral letter written by our bishop at the beginning of the season of Lent, where he urges us to "take one step with the Holy Spirit this Lent and so deepen our love for the inspired Sacred Scriptures," we would like to lead you in a prayerful encounter with the scriptures for each day of the season of Lent. This is not a bible study but a heart-felt encounter with the One who has longed to reveal himself to you in prayer.
The manner in which we will read the scriptures is called "Lectio Divina," an ancient method of reading, meditating, praying and contemplating the living word of God. Each day we will take the scripture of the day (the scripture of the daily Mass) and guide you through this beautiful process.
Today, Feast of Saint Joseph
Text: Matthew 1: 18-21, 24a
Step One: Lectio:
Slowly read the text below. As in all prayer, it is God who takes the first step, and so God now desires to speak to you through this holy text. Savor the words, but more importantly, savor the love with which the Lord speaks these words to you today.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
Step Two: Meditatio:
What does the biblical text say to us? I become aware of the thoughts and feelings I have as I encounter this holy text. The following reflection may help you today to focus on the meaning of the text for your life today.
Does God make contracts or does God make covenants? We would say, ”Of course God makes covenants. Those are the words that I have heard since I was young.”But even if I have heard the language, I am not sure what it means.
Well a contract is a legally binding agreement between two parties - a kind of quid pro quo arrangement. If you do this for me, I will do this for you. If you don’t fulfill your end of the deal, I have no obligation to fulfill my end. You break the contract, and the deal is off. Some people may think of God as entering into a contract with us. “Here are the rules. Break the rules, and don’t go expecting anything from me!”
A covenant, at least in the religious sense, is totally different. A covenant describes a relationship of sacrificial love. I will always be here for you no matter what. This is the relationship that God made with us from the beginning of time.
Joseph and Mary enter into a betrothal contract. And, to Joseph, it seems that Mary broke the contract by getting herself pregnant. Such a severe breaking of the contract (infidelity) invoked the penalty of stoning. Joseph does not want to deal with this betrothed in a contractual way. He wants their love to be a covenant love - but he can’t figure out how not to “expose her shame.” God gives him a way out - a way out of contractual thinking and a way into covenant love. “Don’t be afraid to take Mary into your home.”
God made a covenant with us. He will betroth himself to us no matter what. He wants us to likewise to imitate that kind of covenant love with one another. Joseph is open to letting God show him how to love in an extraordinary way
Step three: Oratio:
What do we say to the Lord in response to His word? What are the petitions or praise I offer him? What are the graces I am seeking as I encounter this holy text?
Is there a situation in your life right now where God is asking you to go even further -- to extend even more compassion and love than you are at present? Sit quietly and ask the Lord to unveil for you where he may be calling you to take that extra step.
Step Four: Contemplatio
We take the time to be silent, to allow our heart to rest in the One who loves us so. We simply allow our hearts to be still for all that we need and all that we have asked for has now been placed in the hands of the One who loves us so.