Mar 10, 2011

Lent and the Scriptures

As we start on this pilgrim way through Lent, the reading of sacred scripture can provide a rich feast for reflection. A rich feast in a season of fasting is to be treasured indeed. An age old practice called Lectio Divina is likely familiar to many of you. Or, you may have heard about it somewhere along the line but never really approached the reading of scripture from this perspective. The first part of the Mass, of which there are two, is entitled the Liturgy of the Word. Here the scriptures are presented to us, on Sundays, through a three year cycle: A, B, and C and this year of 2011 we are once again in year A. I think sadly, many well meaning folks never crack open the Bible during the week. They simply get their scripture fill by listening at Mass to the chosen scriptures.

But St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of what we know today as the Jesuit priests, is the master of spiritual discernment and direction. He encouraged the reading of scripture with the use of our heart and mind. Our imagination, our emotions, our thoughts all play a role in the living word of God. In this way, you don’t just read the Bible as you would a newspaper or a novel. You don’t just passively sit there. You experience the sacred word as a living, breathing source through which God communicates to you. The true Word of God made flesh, Jesus the Christ, is the Word among us and his presence lies waiting to be touched through the Scriptures. In the end we are changed by the holy writings and by the Word of God himself if we approach it in this manner. The Bible has a purpose – to renew the hearts and minds of us humans to know who God is and who we are.

Here are four simple steps summarized in a wonderful source entitled, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by Fr. James Martin, SJ. The purpose of Lent is to draw us into a deeper relationship with God. As you read a passage of scripture, a scene from one of the Gospels of the New Testament for example, use both your imagination and intellect. Begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit for an open heart and mind:

1. What does the text say? What is going on?

2. What is God saying to me through the text? (link this with your life events).

3. What do you want to say to God about the text? Speak to God about your concerns. What questions cross your mind? What is your reaction to what you’ve read?

4. What do you want to do based on your prayer? Prayer should move us to action – not necessarily to save the world but perhaps to be more contemplative. More loving. More forgiving.

As we walk in the spiritual desert with our Lord this Lent, below is the Gospel for this coming First Sunday of Lent. (Matthew 4: 1-11) It is chock full of imagery and emotion. Take some time to prepare for Sunday and create your Lenten desert by listening to your heart and mind as you share this pivotal experience with Jesus. Take the four steps above and apply them as you find some quiet space to be alone: You with Jesus and his unwelcome guest in the desert. Feel free to leave a comment if you like: