Praying with the Holy Scriptures this Lent: Friday, March 15

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 of the First Week of Lent
Text: Matthew 5:20-26

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.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny."

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.

In Wednesday’s reflection, Jesus invited us to look to see where our life was a mess. Today, Jesus invites us to examine the way in which we got into this mess in the first place and offers us a strategy to get out. In the gospel today, Jesus tells us that “whoever is angry is liable to judgment,” and even abusive language will bring us to the fires of Gehenna. At first reading, that all sounds pretty strict – who doesn’t get angry? Who doesn’t say (or think) things that are mean spirited? Are we all going to hell?

Jesus reveals to us the tactics of the Evil One. We are not tempted “out of the blue” to commit heinous crimes of hatred, passion and lust. No one of us (normally) wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I’m going to kill someone today.” Evil in its more dramatic forms can easily be resisted. But the tactics of the Evil One can be simply summed up by saying, “toe hold, foot hold, strong hold.” Things begin with that angry thought, that lustful gaze, that inappropriate remark. Of course, if we have awareness, it is not hard to realize where that thought, that inclination is headed. However, because it is not a full blown act of murder or fornication or revenge, we don’t bother to resist. And things snowball out of control. Haven’t you ever wondered, “How did we get into this mess in the first place?”

“Settle quickly with your opponent while on the way to court with him. “ In the passage above, Jesus is not just simply offering a strategy to stay out of prison. He is giving us the psychology of sin itself, and the strategy to resist when things are small enough to resist. We can shake things off when they have but a toehold on us. Act quickly – calling upon the grace of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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?

I ask the question, “Lord, is there a situation in my life right now where you are inviting me to ‘act quickly’ before it gets out of control?”

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.