The other day a priest in my community, Father Theophane Cooney, CP, gave me a short instruction that he gives to people about reading the scriptures; it’s based on an old method called in latin “lectio divina” or “sacred reading.” I put his instruction on my blog yesterday and a surprising number of people read it, so I’d like to share it with you today as we read from the Gospel of John.
What is Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)?
It is a spiritual, rather than academic, reading of the Bible. It enables the reader to get to know Jesus in a more personal way, through reading, above all through listening.
It is to experience a personal meeting of an intimate kind with the God who loves you and comes to meet you in the sacred reading. You should not feel obliged to read a complete passage, you are there to listen. God can say an awful lot in a few words.
Avoid opening the scriptures at random: choose rather the Sunday gospel, for example.
Time: set aside 10 or 15 minutes when you will be free from interruptions.
Place: somewhere free of interruptions, no telephone, no television, no computer.
1. Take some moments to calm down.
2. Invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Pray to be enlightened with an inspiration that may inspire your life.
3. Read calmly, very slowly, the biblical text. Read it again. Take the time to listen to the Lord and the message he wishes to share with you from this reading. Don’t expect blinding revelations. God is teaching you to listen and seek him in silence.
4. Meditate: ask yourself–“What does this word of God, which I have read carefully say to me.”
5. Pray. Speak to the Lord who has spoken to you in the text you have reflected on. Let your attitude be that of the Virgin Mary: “Be it done onto me according to your word.”
6. Contemplate in silence. Remain fascinated and impressed as you calmly allow the word of God to inspire you as though it were the heat of the sun.
7. Act. Make a commitment that springs from this encounter with the Lord. Inspired and filled with the word of God you return to daily life with a renewed attitude.
If you are faithful to this practice, your life will begin to change. The word of God will lead you to a change of attitudes, values and feelings. Love the word of God. Study it and allow it to form your personality.
This Sunday’s gospel’s a good gospel for practicing the lectio divina. Do you remember how it begins? “Jesus said to his disciples.” Who are his disciples? Aren’t they us? Jesus said these words when he was with his disciples at the Last Supper. Isn’t he with us now?
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower…I am the vine and you are the branches. Can God be so close that we are branches on the vine? “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” “Remain in me,” Jesus tells us. “I remain in you,” he tells us. “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”
If we cut ourselves off from our God, we become lifeless branches.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
If we remain in Jesus, we have life and bear fruit, and listen to his promise: “Ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.”
You can see how these words bring us into the presence of the Lord, how fascinating they are, how they bring close to God and God close to us.
“If you are faithful to this practice, your life will begin to change. The word of God will lead you to a change of attitudes, values and feelings. Love the word of God. Study it and allow it to form your personality.”