LECTIO DIVINA XXVI Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR
Mk. 9:38-43, 45, 47-48.
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.
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” 39 Jesus replied, Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. 42 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. …. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna….. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched.’ +
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Mark.
Then he continues and says: Now, if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw I far from you; for it is better for you that one of your members is lost than that your whole body be thrown into eternal punishment. In this case one needs to have much fortitude to amputate one’s members. Whatever thing is signified here for an eye, undoubtedly refers to something intensely loved. Thus, those who desire to vehemently express their love, used to say: ‘I love him like my eyes and more than my eyes.’ In adding ‘right’ perhaps serves to increase the strength of that love. Even though we use both eyes to see and they effect similarly at the moment of seeing, nevertheless, men fear greatly the loss of the right eye. This can be the meaning. Whatever it is that you love, and given that you hold it as you right eye, if it causes you to sin, i.e., if it is for you an impediment to achieve true happiness, pluck it out and throw it away from you. It is better for you that one of these things, that you love like your members adhering to you, perish; rather than your whole body being thrown into eternal punishment.
He continues speaking about the right hand and of it he likewise says: If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; it is better for you to lose one of your members than that the whole body be thrown into eternal punishment. This obliges us to examine more attentively what is understood by ‘eye’. On this question, nothing seems more opportune than that it refers to an intimate friend; for nothing can be considered like a member (of the body) that we love more intensely. It is also a counselor, because the eye shows us the way, and counselor in divine things because it is our right eye; in order that also the left eye be a beloved counselor but for earthly things, attentive to the needs of the body. It was superfluous to speak of him as occasion of scandal from the moment that neither the right must be pardoned. In the things of God, the counselor is occasion of scandal, if with the pretext of religion and of doctrine, he intends to induce someone to ruinous heresy. The right hand can also be interpreted as helper and beloved collaborator in the works that refer to God. Therefore, as in the eye is understood contemplation, so also in the hand is rightly understood the action, in such a way that in the left hand is understood the works that are necessary for this life and for the body (s. dom. m. 1, 37-38).
St. Augustine also comments on the words of today’s Gospel on those who cause scandal to the little ones. The Bishop of Hippo offers us a brief and rich commentary: “The words of the Lord: He who scandalizes one of these little ones, i.e., the humble, as he wants his disciples to be, and makes them run towards disobedience and contumacy, after the example of Alexander the metallurgist of whom the Apostle speaks: It is better for him that they put around his neck one of these millstones that donkeys move and be submerged in the depth of the sea. This means that it is fitting that the appetite for temporal realities to which the foolish and the blind are tied, drag him to damnation, chained to its own weight” (qu. eu. 1, 24).
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. “He who gives you a glass of water to drink because you belong to Christ, I assure you he will not remain without his reward”(Mk. 9:40).
- With what intention do you perform the works that you do?
- What do you think is the value of the little things you do every day?
b. “Whatever it is you love and you esteem it like your right eye, if it causes you to sin, i.e., if it is an impediment to acquiring true happiness, pluck it out and throw it away from you” (s. dom. m. 1, 37).
- In your present life, what things are an impediment to following Christ?
- With what radicalism do you live the Gospel in your daily life?
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 Christ who invites you to remove from your life everything that impedes you from following him. Live with serenity this moment and contemplate how the hand of Christ goes taking out and purifying you of all in your life that is an obstacle to following him. With great peace and serenity, verify your feelings.
b. Contemplate your heart as a tree. Contemplate how Christ goes pruning the tree and cutting off the branches that bear no fruit. Live the moment of contemplation from the docility, the serenity, the trust, and the commitment to accomplish what you contemplate in prayer.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially as regards removing from your life everything that impedes the following of Christ and avoiding the scandals or being an occasion of sin for another person. 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 toward 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, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).
“Christ put on sale the kingdom of heaven and put its price in a glass of cold water. When it is a poor man who gives alms, it is enough that he gives a glass of cold water.” (s. 39, 6).