Summary: Take the risk; take the challenge; take the grace and grow.
Thursday of 21st Week in Course
St. Paul’s words to Corinth today are like a commentary on the Gospel. Simon and the boys have been fishing all night, casting and pulling, casting and pulling. All they got was garbage. But at the word of Jesus, they put out into deep water–not the best place for fishing–and hauled in a great catch that their nets could hardly hold. The wisdom of the fisherman world would have them on the shore, cleaning and mending nets for tomorrow. The wisdom of the God-man acted with the creative Word of the God-man to produce a huge harvest. As our psalm says, with clean hands and pure heart we can latch onto that kind of wisdom, and produce a harvest of souls for Our Lord and the Church.
The Word of God has incredible power. We have seen with the Pope that going deep into the word of God is the critical base of all preaching and all witnessing. Now the Holy Father turns to a subordinate, but important tool: ‘There is one particular way of listening to what the Lord wishes to tell us in his word and of letting ourselves be transformed by the Spirit. It is what we call lectio divina. It consists of reading God’s word in a moment of prayer and allowing it to enlighten and renew us. This prayerful reading of the Bible is not something separate from the study undertaken by the preacher to ascertain the central message of the text; on the contrary, it should begin with that study and then go on to discern how that same message speaks to his own life. The spiritual reading of a text must start with its literal sense. Otherwise we can easily make the text say what we think is convenient, useful for confirming us in our previous decisions, suited to our own patterns of thought. Ultimately this would be tantamount to using something sacred for our own benefit and then passing on this confusion to God’s people. We must never forget that sometimes “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).
Pope Francis continues: ‘In the presence of God, during a recollected reading of the text, it is good to ask, for example: “Lord, what does this text say to me? What is it about my life that you want to change by this text? What troubles me about this text? Why am I not interested in this? Or perhaps: What do I find pleasant in this text? What is it about this word that moves me? What attracts me? Why does it attract me?” When we make an effort to listen to the Lord, temptations usually arise. One of them is simply to feel troubled or burdened, and to turn away. Another common temptation is to think about what the text means for other people, and so avoid applying it to our own life. It can also happen that we look for excuses to water down the clear meaning of the text. Or we can wonder if God is demanding too much of us, asking for a decision which we are not yet prepared to make. This leads many people to stop taking pleasure in the encounter with God’s word; but this would mean forgetting that no one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait. He always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. He simply asks that we sincerely look at our life and present ourselves honestly before him, and that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from him what we ourselves cannot as yet achieve.’
There is risk attached to lectio divina, when we ask God to tell us what we must change as a result of our recollected reading of the Word. We want to grow, but we may not want to change. There may be a habit–not evil in itself but holding us back from where God wants us to be–that we must give up. God will give us the grace to do so. It may be a practice of grumbling interiorly when we are faced with an inconvenience. It may be a common response to stress like buying something we don’t need–on line or in a store. It may be giving a glowering look when we need to do something but don’t want to. God has become human in Jesus. He understands every human feeling, every human disappointment. He is patient with us, but sometimes we need to provide the impatience. I know if I delay growth, it just gets harder later on. Take the risk; take the challenge; take the grace and grow.