Translated by Fray Emilio Larlar, Jr., OAR
A. Invocation to the Holy Spirit
Let us invoke the Holy Spirit with the words of St. Augustine.
Come Holy Spirit, by whom every pious soul who believes in Christ in order to make himself a citizen of the City of God is made holy! (En. in Ps. 45, 8). Come Holy Spirit, grant that we may receive the promptings of God, place in us Your fire, illumine us and raise us up to God (Sermon 128, 4).
With a willing heart, and with sincerity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing them to have an impact on you:
When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village. As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “[Lord,] let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” [To him] Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Let us meditate now with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel of St. Luke:
The foxes have dens, and the birds of heaven
have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head. The foxes have in
you their hideout, the birds of heaven their nests in you; the foxes mean
deceit, and the birds of the air, pride.
In the same way as the birds seek the heights, the same happens to the proud; and as the foxes have their lairs in hiding, so it happens with the people who are insidious and deceitful. What was the response of our Lord? Pride and deceit can dwell in you; Christ has nowhere to stay in you, where to rest His head. Since the resting of the head is the humility of Christ. If Christ had not rested His head, you had not been justified. (…) Why do you seek the sublimity of the Kingdom, and you do not imitate my humility? (En. in Ps. 90, 2, 7).
“I will follow you wherever you go, and You say Follow Me to him who does not wish to follow you? “To this –He affirms – I exclude him because I see in him hideouts, I see in him nests”. But why do you bother this whom you invite and excuses himself? Look You oblige him and he does not come, You exhort him and he does not follow You. Because what does he say? I will go first and burry my father. He showed to the Lord the faith of his heart, but his filial affection led him to postpone following Him. But, when our Lord Jesus Christ assigns men to the service of the Gospel, He does not want that any excuse based on carnal or temporal affection to stand on the way. Certainly the law orders this filial affection, and the Lord Himself accused the Jews of repealing this divine command. The Apostle Paul likewise wrote it in his letter, and said: This is the first commandment that carries a promise. What? Honor your father and mother (Eph 6:2). There is no doubt that God command-ed it. This young man wanted, therefore, to obey God and bury his father. But there are places and circumstances and things that must be placed in the service of these things, this circumstance, this place. One must hon-or father, but one must obey God; one must love father and mother, but one must put God before. I – Jesus says – call you to the service of the Gospel; I need you for another task greater than what you wish to do. Let the dead bury their dead. Your father has died: there are other dead who can bury the dead. Who are the dead who bury the dead? Can a dead be buried by another dead? How can they wrap him in shroud if they are dead? They do not only wrap him in shroud, they also carry the corpse, they lament, they are dead: because they lack faith. What is written in the Song of Songs has taught us, when the Church says: set love before me (Sg 2:4 [Septuagint version]).What does to set love before me mean? To establish order and give to each what must be given. Do not submit what comes ahead to what comes be-hind. Love your parents but put God before them. Consider the mother of the Macca-bees: Sons – she says – I do not know how you came to be in my womb. I could not con-ceive and give you life, I could not form you. Therefore listen to Him, and put Him before me, do not worry about my being without you (2 Mc 7:22). She told them, they obeyed her. What the mother taught her children, that our Lord Jesus Christ taught to the one to whom He said: follow me” (Sermon 100, 2).
Let us pray now from the bottom of our heart with the text. I suggest to you the following phrases and questions that may arouse in you the dialogue with God, and, at the same time, may elicit affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not pass to the other phrase or question if you can still continue dialoging with God in some of them. It is not a matter of finishing this list, but of helping you to pray with those points that are most applicable to your personal experience:
a.- For St. Augustine the foxes represent deceits and the birds pride, for this reason he says: “Christ has nowhere to stay in you, where to rest His head” (En. in Ps. 90: 2, 7).
- What space are you reserving in your inner self for Christ where He may stay?
- How can you free yourself of the elements that impede you from following Christ?
b.- “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9: 62).
- St. Augustine comments: “There is nothing more opposed to hope than looking back, that is, to put one’s hope in things that slip and pass away” (Sermon 105, 7). How can you apply this to your life?
- How is your following of Christ?
I propose to you some points of affective inner contemplation. Once again, there is no need that you follow everything, but that you choose what is more applicable to your personal experience:
a.- Reflect on how Christ approaches you and tells you: “Follow me” Pay atten-tion to the look of Jesus, in the way that He has told you and contemplate the response that you give Him.
b.- Ponder on how Jesus tells you: “Let the dead bury their dead”. Consider who are the dead you must leave behind and ask Christ the power in order to be able to fol-low Him by leaving behind what is dead in you.
Think about everything that you can share with those who surround you of the experience that you have had of God, especially with regard to who is Christ for you and how you can carry your cross everyday by following Him. The following points can help you as a guide, in sharing with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself during this moment of prayer?
- How can I, in these moments of my life, apply this text of the Scriptures? What lights does it offer me? What challenges does it present to me?
- To what does this text of the Scripture concretely commit me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant feeling in this moment of prayer?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine
“What is contrary to hope is looking behind; when talking about hope, it is about future things, not about past things” (De Cons. Ev.2, 22).