LECTIO DIVINA: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Lk. 15:1 – 10.
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.
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” +
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel of St. Luke.
“The insipid salt symbolizes the apostate and the lost sheep is a figure of all the sinners who reconciled with God through penance. He carries it on his shoulders because upon humbling himself, he elevated them. He said that there were ninety-nine sheep that the shepherd left in the field, because they are a symbol of the proud, who bear in their interior a kind of solitude, on desiring to appear as the only ones who, in order to achieve perfection, lack unity. Because everyone who strips away from true unity, is stripped away by pride; desiring to be of one’s exclusive dominion, he does not pursue the unity that is of God. That is why, the ninety-nine sheep as well as the nine drachmas are an image of those who, satisfied with themselves, esteem themselves better than the sinners who return to salvation. The nine lacks one to become ten, and the ninety-nine lacks one to become one hundred, something that occurs in the following numbers: the nine hundred ninety-nine lacks one to become one thousand; the nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine lacks one to become ten thousand. The numbers may vary being more or less, to which only one unit for its perfection; but they reach it when one unit is added, that without varying remains always identical to itself. To that unity the Lord binds all the reconciled, thanks to repentance, the fruit of humility (qu. eu. 2, 32).
St. Augustine in the Confessions makes a succinct commentary on this Gospel text with rich autobiographical resonances: “and we hear with great joy the narrative of the lost sheep, that returned to the fold on the happy shoulders of the Good Shepherd, and that of the drachma, that is replaced in the treasury after the well wishes of the neighbors to the woman who found it. And tears bring out of our eyes the jubilee of the solemnity of your house when in it is read the story of the younger son who was dead and had come back to life, was lost and was found” (conf. 8, 6).
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 of 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. “We heard with great joy the narrative of the lost sheep, who is returned to the fold on the happy shoulders of the Good Shepherd” (Conf. 8. 6)
- What feelings does this narrative of the lost and found sheep awaken in me?
- What elements of your life can be seen reflected in this parable?
b. “Rejoice with me for I have found my lost sheep!” (Lk. 15:6).
- Why is the Good Shepherd happy?
- What is the importance of happiness in your Christian 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 the Good Shepherd who looks for the lost sheep. Contemplate the care with which he sought it and how he finally finds it and happily puts in on his shoulders. Contemplate above all the happiness.
b. Contemplate how you are the sheep that the Good Shepherd has found, and now you are carried on his shoulders. Acknowledge you strayed paths, ask forgiveness, but also experience the happiness and the trust of knowing that you are loved by the Good Shepherd. Confirm you feelings and sentiments.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about being sought by the Good Shepherd and the happiness of the Shepherd upon finding the lost sheep. 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 do 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?
G. Final reflection of St. Augustine.
“He who looks for the lost sheep knows not only whom he is looking for, but also where to look for him” (s. 173, 2).
Final Prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord:
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, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8). +