Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
A. 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 hearts well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
26 Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. 27 What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. 30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. 33 But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to Matthew.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But what is clearly affirmed? Fear rather the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. Behold that he dies, behold that he does not die. What is its death? What for the body is to die? For your body to die is to lose its life; for your soul to die is to lose its life. The life of your body is your soul; the life of your soul is your God. Just as the body dies losing the soul which is its life, so too the soul dies losing God who is its life. Certainly the soul is immortal, simply and clearly immortal because it lives though dead. Therefore, what the Apostle said of the sensual widow, can also be said of the soul that has lost God: Though alive, it is dead” (Io. eu. tr. 47,8).
St. Augustine points out the same thing on speaking about the martyrs: “Therefore, the Lord in person, who will make martyrs and be the head of martyrs, asserts: Do not fear those who kill the body but can do no more. What do you mean they can do no more? And if after killing the body, they throw it to the beasts to be ripped apart and to the birds to pick its flesh? The cruelty seems to have still something to do. But, to what does it do it? To someone who emigrated. The body exists, but does not feel anything. The dwelling is on the ground, but the dweller is gone. Afterwards then, they can do nothing, because they do nothing to one who feels nothing. But fear him who has the power to kill the body and the soul in the furnace of fire. Behold what kind of death he was speaking when he said: Whoever keeps my word will never see death. Let us, therefore, keep with faith his word, in order to arrive at the vision when we shall have obtained fullest freedom” (Io. eu. tr. 43, 12).
St. Augustine also comments about the martyrs: “It is easy that his sword, i.e., his thrust, pierces your body, as the sword of the persecutors pierced and transfixed the body of the martyrs; but though the body was wounded, the heart remained unharmed; on the contrary, the heart of one who unsheathed his sword against the body of the just, did not absolutely remain unharmed. This psalm bears witness to it. He does not say that the sword did not pierce the body, but that: His sword shall pierce his own heart. They wanted to kill the body, but they will die in soul. And to those whose bodies they wanted to destroy, the Lord gave them assurance telling them: Do not fear those who kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul. Of what use is teaching with the sword, if you can kill only the body of the enemy, with the danger of killing your own soul? They have lost their mind, they teach against themselves, they are insane in not considering themselves. It is like desiring to tear the tunic of someone, piercing one’s own body with the sword. You focused on where you arrived but you did not see through which you passed. You tore the tunic of the other at the cost of your own body. It is evident, therefore, that the sinners do more harm to themselves, that they injure themselves more than they believe they do injury to those they hate. Thus: Their sword shall pierce their own heart. The judgment is the Lord’s, it cannot be otherwise” (en. Ps. 36:2, 3).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions 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.
a. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul” (Mt. 10:28).
- What are you afraid of?
- What is it that can kill your soul?
b. “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge” (Mt. 10:29).
- How is your trust in God?
- What does it mean for you: “God is omnipotent”?
c. Pray with this Phrase: “Lord, all things are in your hands.”
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
a. Contemplate how God holds all things in his hand. Contemplate his power and his mercy. Abandon yourself into his hands and experience peace and serenity.
b. Contemplate how you put all your fears and anxieties in the hands of Christ. Feel how your heart can breathe tranquil and serene, free from all fears and anxieties. Contemplate Christ and listen as he says: “Fear not.” Live a moment of contemplation of peace and serenity.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about trust in God and how everything is in the hands of God. 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 it 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 dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
Final Prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with 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 you deign to hear our petitions according to your good will, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind, and 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, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps 150:8).
“Nothing happens that the Almighty does not will it, or permit it to happen or He himself do it” (ench. 95, 24).