Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
- Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God; put in us your flame; enlighten us and raise us up to God (s. 128, 4). Amen.
With the heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
1 In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locust and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit that befits repentance, 9 and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
“Prepare the way of the Lord.” The voice of one crying in the wilderness, the voice of one who breaks the silence. Prepare the way of the Lord: as if to say: “My sound is aimed at making that He enter the hearts; but he does not deign to come to the place where I like to introduce him unless you prepare the way.” What does it mean: Prepare the way for him, but “Request him properly”? What does it mean: Prepare the way for him, but: “Have thoughts of humility”? Receive from him the example of humility. They take him for Christ, and he says that he is not that for whom they take him; he does not make his own the error of others not even to feed his ego. If he had said that it was he, how easily they would have believed him since they were believing that it was he even before he said anything. But he did not say it; he acknowledged who he was, he deferred to Christ, he humbled himself. He saw where his salvation was; he understood that he was a lamp, and he feared that the wind of pride would put it out” (s. 293,3).
“You must be just with yourself, including punishing yourself; since the first justice of man is to punish himself for being bad, and thus God will make you good. And this first justice of man opens for him the road to God, that he may come to you. Open the road to him by the confession of your sins. John acted that way, when he was baptizing with the water of repentance, and he wanted that those who repented of past actions come to him, and he said to them: Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight his paths. If you, man, took pleasure in your sins, that now let what you were displease you, so that you can become what you were not. Prepare the way of the Lord; let that justice precede by acknowledging your sins. He will come to visit you, because he will put his steps in the road, because he has where to put his foot, and where he can come near you. On the contrary, before you confessed your sins, the road was obstructed for God to arrive to you. He had no path to approach you. Confess your life, and you will open the road, and Christ will come to you, he will put his steps on the road; thus he will instruct you to follow his tracts” (en. Ps. 84, 16).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and question that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
- “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Mt. 3:3).
- What does ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ mean?
- How can you concretely prepare the way of the Lord in your life?
- “What does it mean: Prepare the way of the Lord, but “Have thoughts of humility”? Receive from John the Baptist the example of humility” (s. 293, 3).
- What does “having thought of humility” mean to you?
- How can you imitate the example of John the Baptist?
- Pray with the phrase: “Help me to prepare your ways, O Lord.”
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you do not need to follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
- Contemplate John the Baptist, how he preaches forcefully and with conviction the Word of God. Contemplate and ask the same enthusiasm and conviction for your life.
- Contemplate how Christ through his spirit makes straight the roads of your heart. Contemplate what he has to remove to make them straight and plain.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially on how to prepare the way for the Lord. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does if give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
- Final Prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with a pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, give us spiritual thoughts, and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen (en, Ps. 150:8).
“(God) calls us to conversion; he waits that we return to him; he pardons if we return to him and he crowns us if we do not depart from him”(s. 29A, 2). +