Praying with the Holy Scriptures this Lent; Friday, March 8

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, Friday after Ash Wednesday
Text: Isaiah 58:5-8

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.

Is this the manner of fasting I wish,of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

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.

“I know many people who have been broken in life. In a sense, they live a perpetual Lent, a time of sadness as they long for God to bring them relief in their time of need. Take, for example, the people who have lost a loved one. They long for the day when all our tears will be wiped away in heaven. Such sadness reminds us the words of today’s gospel when Jesus says, “On the day when the bridegroom (Me) is taken away from them, then they (my disciples) will fast.” Fasting is living out the reality that this is not heaven, and nothing on earth is going to really satisfy our deepest longings for heaven.
Is that all we are left with – the reality that earth stinks and someday we’re going to get to heaven and we’ll all be happy? Is that all that fasting is – longing for heaven, longing for the one who can fulfill all our desires? Today’s first reading gives all of us people, broken by the world, a new hope. God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, promises that if we get out of ourselves, out of our pain and sorrow, and share our bread with the hungry and clothe the naked and set free the oppressed, then “your wound shall be quickly healed.” 
This has been a long winter. We can either complain about it, count down days to springtime, or we can get out of our own misery by doing something loving and positive, relieving those who are in need.

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?

Reflect on a recent moment when you gave someone your time when they most needed it. How did you feel at that moment when your time and energy were demanded of you? Did your feelings change in the midst of your giving of yourself? From that experience, what gracce do you now ask from our Lord?

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 hat we need and all that we have asked for has now been placed in the hands of the One who loves us so.