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 He looked up He saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and He noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, He said, All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Then they asked Him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.
“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking—that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.
Let us meditate now with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Evangelist St. Luke:
St. Augustine in different places of his work comments on the words of Jesus, “even the hairs of your head are numbered” in order to invite us to trust and know that the life of the believer is in the hands of God. When one has to face tribulation there is a need to know that it is a moment of trial so that the humility of the believer or rather that he may be purified and may practice patience. Here lies the importance of trusting God who never tries us beyond our powers. This is how St. Augustine comments: He who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Lk 14:11). Here we understand, with reason, that it is about that humility with which each one humbles himself by confessing his sins and not attributing justice to oneself, but that with which one is humbled with certain tribulation or dejection that his pride deserves; or with which his patience is exercised or is proven; that is why shortly after the Psalm says: Before I am humbled I sinned; and likewise the Book of Wisdom: Accept whatever happens to you; in periods of humiliation be patient, for in fire gold and silver are purified, and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation. (Sir 2:4-5). On saying the chosen, He offered hope that would console in humility. Our Lord Jesus Christ also, when he predicted to His Disciples that they had to be humiliated by their persecutors, did not leave them without hope, but He gave it to them for their consolation saying to them: With your patience you will gain your souls. And about the body, that their enemies could kill, and that they would almost be totally destroyed, He says: Not a hair of your heads will be lost. This hope was given the Body of Christ, which is the Church, so that she might be consoled in her humility. For this hope the Apostle St. Paul says: If we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance (Rom 8:25). But this hope refers to the eternal rewards. There is another hope that greatly consoles in humility and tribulation, which was given to the saints by the word of God, which promises the help of grace so that nobody may falter. The Apostle likewise says about it: God is faithful, and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial He will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. (1 Cor 10:13); (En. in Ps. 118, 15, 1).
And in a sermon, St. Augustine stresses the importance of being attached to God in tribulation having total confidence in Him: “Be sure, brothers, that the enemies are not allowed to act against the faithful beyond what is useful to submit them to temptation and trial. Be sure of it, brothers, let no one say another thing. Cast all your worries upon the Lord (1 Pt 5:7); throw yourself just like that to His arms. He does not go away so that you may fall. He who created us gave us assurance even over our own hairs. Truly I say to you – He Himself affirms – all the hairs of your head are numbered. God has our hairs counted; how much more will He know our conducts He who knows our hairs! See that God does not despise even our most insignificant things, because if He despised them, He would have not created them. In fact, He likewise created our hairs and have counted them, “But, even if they exist now- you say -, perhaps they will perish”. Listen also to His words on this regard: Truly, I say to you: not even one of your hairs will be lost. Why are you afraid of man, you, man, who find yourself at the bosom of God? Try not to fall from His bosom; whatever you suffer there, will be for you salvation, not condemnation. The martyrs endured the cutting into pieces of the parts of their bodies, and, Christians fear the difficulties of Christian times?” (Sermon 62, 15).
On the other hand, St. Augustine comments on the last words of the Gospel today inviting us have patience and to persevere, because what is at stake is the salvation of souls: “The Lord has said: in your patience you will possess your souls. He did not say: You will possess your properties, your honors, your pleasures, but your souls. If the soul suffers so much in order to attain the cause of its condemnation, how much more must it suffer so as not to perish? And, in order to mention something that is not sinful, it suffers so much for health of its body in the hands of the physicians who cut and cauterize, how much must it suffer for its salvation in the midst of the outbursts of its enemies? The physicians treat the body with torments so that it may not die, but the enemies threaten us with punishments and physical death, in order to push us to hell where body and soul perish.
It is true that we care more prudently about our own body when we despise temporal health, for justice, and by justice we endure with patience punishments and death. The Apostle speaks about the last and definitive redemption of the body when he says: inside us, we groan, waiting is for the adoption of children, the redemption of our body. Then he continues: in hope we have been saved; but hope that is seen is not hope, since what one sees, how does he hope for it?, and if we hope what we do not see, we hope for it with patience”. (De Patientia 6-7).
Let us pray now from the bottom of our heart with the text. I suggest to you the following phrases and questions that may a-rouse 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 talking 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:
- «Be sure, brothers, that the enemies are not allowed to act against the faithful beyond what is useful for submitting them to the temptation of trial” (Sermon 62, 15).
- How do you face the moments of tribulation and trial?
- How is your trust in God?
- By your perseverance you will secure your lives”. (Lk 21:19).
- What importance does perseverance have for you?
- How can you live by persevering in faith?
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:
- Contemplate how your life is in the hands of God. Consider all the tribulations that afflict and bother you. However, reflect on how your life is protected by God and feel the tranquility and peace in your soul. Contemplate and be grateful and be confident.
- Consider your life as a piece of gold that is placed in oven, where gold is melted but at the same time is purified of its dregs. Reflect on the pain that is caused by the flames of furnace but at the same time, contemplate the consolation of the purification and the cleanliness that the fire gives. Contemplate and adore the wisdom of God, who never tries us beyond our powers.
Think about everything you can share with those who surround you of the experience you have had of God, especially with regards to trust in God and not to be afraid in the face of tribulation and about final perseverance. The following points can be of help as 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 do you think, brothers: is it hard or not to persevere in the word of God? If it requires efforts, put your eyes on the greatness of the reward” (Sermon 134, 1).