LECTIO DIVINA: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto 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, 40) Amen.
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Mark,
In the first place, St. Augustine clearly says that it profits nothing to the demons to know who Jesus is, because they do not have charity: “Have you come here to torments us before it is time? By these words it is clear that they have great wisdom but there was no charity. They feared punishment from Christ, they did not love the justice in him. He manifested himself to them as much as he wanted, he wanted only as much as was convenient. But he made himself known to them not as he did to the holy angels, who enjoy participating in his eternity, in so far as he is the Word of God, rather as much as was necessary for them to know him in order to torment them, by whose tyrannical power, one may say, he had to free the predestined to the kingdom and to his glory, always truthful and in eternal truth(civ. 9,21).
On the other hand St. Augustine is conscious that the demons’ “profession of faith”, i.e., the fact that the demons proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God is very different from Peter’s profession of faith, since Peter proclaims his faith for love, while the demons out of fear. On the other hand, faith serves for nothing if it is not moved by love, by charity. This love is the dress that all those invited to the banquet of the kingdom of heaven must put on: “Do you want to see how Peter’s blessedness was not rooted in those words? The same words were also said by the demons: “We know who you are; you are the Son of God. Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God; that he was the Son of God the demons also confessed. Distinguish, Lord, distinguish. Without doubt I distinguish. The words of Peter came out from love; the demons’ words from fear. Furthermore, Peter says: ‘I am with you until death;’ the demons: ‘What have we got to do with you?’ Therefore, you who have come to the banquet, do not glory only in your faith. Discern your faith, and then the wedding dress (the love) is also recognized in you. Let the Apostle make the distinction, let him instruct us: Neither the circumcision – he says- nor the uncircumcision are of value, but only faith (Gal. 5:6) Say which: Don’t perhaps the demons believe and shake in fear? Yes, -he says- listen, I establish the distinction, now I establish it: But only the faith that works for charity (Gal. 5:6). Which faith, then? Which one? That which works for love. Even if I would have all knowledge –he says- and all the faith so that I transfer the mountains, if I do not have charity, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). Possess faith side by side with love, because you cannot have love without faith. This is my admonition, this is my exhortation; this is what I teach you my Brothers in the Name of the Lord: that your faith be accompanied by love, because you can have faith and be lacking in love. I do not exhort you to have faith, but that you have love. In fact, you cannot have love without faith; I refer to the love of God and neighbor. How can this love exist without faith? How can one love God if he does not believe in him? How can a fool love God if he says in his heart ‘God does not exist?’ It is possible that you believe that has come and yet you do not love him. But it is not possible that you love Christ and still say that he has not come (s. 90, 8).
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. St. Augustine says: ”Peter’s words sprout from love; those of the demons, from fear” (s. 90, 8).
- From where do your words and actions sprout?
- From what demons do you need to be liberated (demon of fear, lack of faith, of egoism, of sloth, etc.)?
b. “Possess faith together with love, for you cannot possess love without faith” (s. 90, 8).
- How do you live the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity?
- Why can you not possess love without faith?
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 Christ liberates you from your “demons”. Experience the liberating action of Christ and of his Word, and try to make this moment of contemplation into a commitment with the liberating grace of Christ in order to strip off your “demons”.
b. Contemplate Christ expelling the demon from the man in the Gospel. Contemplate the power and the glory of Christ. Let your interior eyes open to admire the greatness and the infinite power of Christ the Lord.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about freedom from your interior demons and the greatness and Lordship of Christ. 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 may 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).
“The demons confessed Christ. Faith, not love, made them say: “What is there between us and you?” They had faith but they did not have charity. That is why they were demons” (Io. eu. tr. 6, 21).