LECTIO DIVINA: III Sunday of Advent, Cycle B
Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR
Jn. 1:6-8, 19-28.
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. 128,40) Amen.
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Messiah.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. John.
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert. John was the voice; the Lord, on the other hand, was the Word that existed in the beginning. John was the temporal voice; Christ, the eternal Word who existed in the beginning. Remove the word, what becomes of the voice? When it means nothing, it is an empty noise. The voice without word beats the air, but does not edify the heart. But let us consider what is the order of things in the same act of edifying our heart. If I think of something to say, the word is already in my heart; but if I want to speak it to you, I think of how it can be also in your heart what is already in mine. Looking for a way of how I can arrive at you and plant in your heart the word which is already in mine, I take a voice, and once taken I speak to you. The sound of the voice brings to you even the understanding of the word; and once it has completed this function, the sound passes away but the word which the sound brought to you is already in your heart without having departed from mine. Once the sound has transferred the word to you, don’t you think it tells you: she must increase and I must decrease? The sound of the voice resounded to fulfill its service and it departed saying: My joy has been complete. Let us retain the word; let us not lose the word conceived in the marrow of our being. Do you like to see the voice that passes away and the divinity of the Word who remains? Where now is the baptism of John? It fulfilled its function and disappeared; the baptism of Christ is repeated now. We all believe in Christ and we hope for salvation from him. This is what the voice said. But how difficult it is to distinguish the Word from the voice, even John was considered the Christ. The voice was confused for the Word; but the voice recognized itself in order not to offend the Word. I am not he said the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. They replied: Then who are you? He said: I am the voice of one crying in the desert: “Prepare the roads for the Lord.” The voice that cries in the desert, the voice that breaks the silence. Prepare the roads for the Lord: as though he were saying: “My sound is directed to make him enter into the hearts, but he will not deign to come to the place where I want to introduce him unless you prepare the way” What does it mean: Prepare the way for him, if not “Ask him properly?” What does it mean: Prepare the way for him, if not “have thoughts of humility?” Receive from him the example of humility. They take him as the Christ, and he says that he is not the one whom they think him to be; he does not accept their error not even to feed his pride. If he had said that it was he, how easily they would have believed him whom they believed him to be even before he said anything. But he did not say it, he distinguished himself from Christ, he humbled himself. He saw where salvation was; he understood that he was a lamp, and feared that the wind of pride will put it out (s. 293, 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. “In your midst there is someone whom you do not recognize” (Jn. 1:26).
- In this time of Advent, do you recognize the presence of Christ in the midst of your life?
- How can you become conscious of Christ’s presence in the midst of your life?
b. What does this statement of St. Augustine suggest to you: “My sound is directed towards making Him enter the hearts; but He will not deign to come to a place where I want to introduce Him unless you prepare the way”? (s. 293, 3).
- What space do you make for Christ in your heart?
- How can you prepare the way for Christ?
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 John the Baptist inviting everyone to conversion. Let his words appeal to you.
b. Contemplate Christ as the Light and you as a testimony to that light. Allow yourself to be illuminated by the light of Christ and experience the joy of being illumined by Christ.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about being witnesses to the light of Christ and preparing his way. The following points can help you share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on the 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 goodwill, 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).