Third Sunday of Advent
December 15, 2019
A friend called me this week and asked what I know about the Latin phrase Lectio Divina.
Translated as Divine Reading, the term describes an ancient tradition of our Church, which recognizes the truth that Sacred Scripture is alive and has a fresh and relevant message for every person in every age. Accordingly, we should engage the text in a special and very deliberate way.
After reading a passage, seekers should spend time in quiet reflection. Next comes prayer, centered on what we have read and pondered. The process concludes with contemplation. Here, we invite the Holy Spirit to be our dinner Companion, enlightening our minds so that we can better comprehend what God is saying to us. The ultimate goal in all of this is an ever-deepening relationship with Christ.
Teachers of this process often describe it as” feasting on the Word of God.” A wonderful meal begins with that first bite. As a diner begins to chew, they realize they have been served up something very special. Rather than hurrying through the meal, they slowly savor and delight in the experience. Finally, as they digest what they have taken in, it becomes a part of them…of who they are.
As we begin this third week of Advent, it occurs to me that all four Sundays come together to offer a lavish and rich buffet banquet. Each Reading of the Season is like an exotic blend of ingredients, spiced with provocative thoughts. Regardless of how we choose to fill our plate, we can be assured of the most delightful bite. At first taste, we get a hint of PATIENCE. But as we continue to savor the Reading, we clearly detect a note of RADICAL IMPATIENCE. Blended together so pleasantly within God’s Eternal Word, we begin to appreciate that Advent calls us to joyfully prepare for a time of perfect and endless joy…with assurances that the Day of the Lord is coming, and that until it arrives, our hearts will be restless.
The aroma wafting from the serving table stimulates a sense of PROMISE. But, as we begin to chew, there is an undeniable note of WARNING. These seemingly contradictory flavors work together and leave on our palate a taste of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
Consider taking a portion of Isaiah 35:1-6, 10, which has been placed on the Table of The Word this Gaudete Sunday. The opening lines are very light, but, below this garnish of HOPE, there is more substantial, more practical fare.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble; make firm the knees that are weak.
Is there a hint of WORK in this passage? Are we called to embark on a spiritual therapy program that makes what we can only hope for seem more real? More attainable? At hand?
Complementing the Old Testament Reading is James 5:7-10. Here again, we find a curious blend of PASSIVE and ACTIVE. Maybe this is the way of offering nourishment and at the same time cultivating an appetite for something totally and completely satisfying.
Ever present in the Advent Season, John the Baptist presents the Gospel in a somewhat confusing way. Even in the womb, he recognized Jesus as the Messiah. As he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, he introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God. But here, he seems to be asking for confirmation of Jesus’s identity. Why? Why would CERTAINTY be seasoned with UNCERTAINTY?
This Gospel selection invites exhaustive reflection, prayer, and contemplation. Still, the first taste of this passage seems to lay out the guest list for the heavenly banquet, and, at the same time, suggest the proper attire. Those who are hungry are INVITED. Those who have their fill of things that are neither nourishing nor lasting are likely to DECLINE. The proper attire is humility and charity.
Lectio Divina…the Divine reading…the holy reading…the spiritual reading of each of the Advent passages generates an appetite for the heavenly banquet where God will provide for all our needs. Until then, we are encouraged to feast at the Table of the Word, where we enhance our appetite for the eternal.