Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8; Psalm 15:2-5; James 1:17-18,21-22,27; Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23)
Allowing the Word of God to Transform Our Lives
“Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” (James 1:22)
Words, words, words! We live in a very verbal world. Televisions, radios, iPods, tablet computers, newspapers, billboards, books, magazines—they are all ready to saturate our minds and stimulate our interests. But so much comes at us that it goes in one ear and right out the other.
If our judgment is spiritually acute, this can be a good protection against ungodly influences. But we also run the risk of closing our ears to the most important word of all, the word of God. Without even realizing it, we may end up treating Scripture as we do other words: tuning it out, shielding ourselves from its challenge, not feeling any need to apply it to our lives. So what can we do to make sure that we become “doers” of God’s word?
One of the best answers is the ancient practice of lectio divina, or “sacred reading.” Its basic steps are simple. First, read a passage of Scripture slowly and carefully (lectio). Use your Bible’s footnotes or a trusted commentary if you need help. Next, reflect quietly on the meaning of the passage (meditatio). Let the words sink deeply into your mind. Next, in prayer, talk with God about the passage (oratio). “Lord, how does this verse apply to my own life?”
Lectio divina doesn’t end here. The goal of lectio is to bring you in touch with the Lord, not just to read and understand his word. So the next two steps are crucial. First, in the silence of your heart, simply rest in God’s presence, contemplating the goodness he has shown you in his word (contemplatio). And then, as a fruit of your prayer and reading, decide how you will respond to what God has shown you (operatio). How will you live out the word that has come alive?
Jesus tells us: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28). May this word—the word of life—find a place in all our hearts!
“Holy Spirit, help me to welcome the word that you have planted in me. May it take root in my heart and bear abundant fruit in my life.”
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- In today’s first reading, Moses declares that the Israelites obedience to the commandments of God will be a great witness to other nations and will bring glory to God. Why do you believe this is so? Moses also warns the Israelites to keep God’s law, not adding or subtracting from it. In what way is our obedience to Christ and his commandments in our daily lives a witness to others that he is truly the Lord? How are you doing? What steps can you take to do better; knowing that “doing better” is not just a matter of trying harder but a greater reliance on the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit?
- In the Responsorial Psalm, we are invited to see that God demands that our daily actions, and our dealings with others, need to be carried out “blamelessly” and in “justice.” We also hear these words of encouragement, “Whoever does these things will not be disturbed” (Psalm 15:5). Why is our interior peace so dependent on living a godly life?
- In the second reading, James tells us that we need to keep ourselves from sin and “to care” for others. What are some steps we can take in our spiritual growth to open ourselves more deeply to God’s transforming love, so that as Christians we will “be doers of the word and not hearers only?” What steps can you take to reach out more to others, especially “orphans,” “widows,” and others less fortunate than you?
- In the Gospel, Jesus presents examples where the Pharisees have added to God’s law their own commandments (e.g., certain ritual purifications). We are warned against religious observance that is purely external and ritualistic. How does Jesus distinguish between rituals that are empty and those that are from God and are life-giving? We too can be like those Jesus said, “honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” What can we do in our celebration of the Eucharist, and the other Sacraments, that will allow us to experience greater renewal in our inner selves and begin to manifest the love, power, and compassion of Christ to others?
- The meditation begins by reminding us that our minds are bombarded every day by words from many different sources — and the importance of learning to tune out those that are ungodly, or at best, a distraction from “hearing and observing” the Word of God. The meditation goes on to challenge us with these words: “If our judgment is spiritually acute, this can be a good protection against ungodly influences. But we also run the risk of closing our ears to the most important word of all, the word of God. Without even realizing it, we may end up treating Scripture as we do other words: tuning it out, shielding ourselves from its challenge, not feeling any need to apply it to our lives.” How would you compare the impact the world’s words have on you versus the Scriptures?
- The meditation also describes the “ancient practice of lectio divina” as one way of being “doers” of God’s word? Have you ever used this practice? What were the results? Are you willing to experiment with this practice now and see what happens? If not, why not?
- Take some time now to pray for the grace to be a better “hearer” and “doer” of the Word of God. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.