Lectio Divina: 2020-09-04

One

Matthew 18 15-20
Every now and again I read some bible verses that I have a strong reaction to. I felt very angry when I first read verses 15-17, especially the comments about treating people like pagans and tax collectors. Who are we to judge others and exclude those who may be different from us? Matthew 7 says ‘Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

It was pointed out to me that these verses are sandwiched between a parable about a compassionate God who would go to any lengths to save one soul and a God who forgives over and over again.

I have wrestled with this passage because I knew there was so much I didn’t understand and I asked God to help me hear his voice. I know he is still reaching out in love to all humanity , we cannot hide from him. Even ‘tax collectors and pagans’ are not outside of His embrace.

Jesus says in verse 20 ‘When two or more are gathered in my name there am I amongst them.’ I thought about situations where I have found my voice and spoken out. When I have prayed and asked Him to help me choose the right words it has made such a difference.He wants us to invite him into those situations, because he knows what happens when we don’t.

So this is what these verses are saying to me. God is in the business of reconciling us to Himself, to ourselves and to each other. Left to our own devices our egos can take over and relationships are fractured. People don’t want to look at themselves when they feel judged and criticized. They just become defensive. I don’t believe that is the way of a God who forgives and is always reaching out to us in love. He wants to heal us and our communities. It will happen when we invite him in and get out of the way so that he can do His work through us.

Two

Another tough one!

Truly = verily verily = Amen! We use Amen to agree and affirm some words that have been read or spoken – Jesus used it as the introduction to a weighty saying.

I’m not sure if anybody has sinned against me in quite this way,though some have done things I didn’t like. This sounds very heavy to me, but at any rate gives us a guideline procedure for dealing with it.

What stands out for me is – don’t let it fester within you, but bring it out into the open, first privately and then in a small group of witnesses and then in the whole church.

Sounds fearsome all round and I can’t quite imagine taking anything that far. But perhaps if I’d been seriously sinned against – slander for example – I’d be prepared to take it up.

But the next section does resonate – we covered it recently, about binding and loosing, or perhaps more carefully binding OR loosing, because they are alternatives.

There will be several interpretations, but what helps me is forgiveness or non-forgiveness – letting it go or holding on to it. And sometimes accepting the unacceptable, even forgiving the unforgivable.

I know very well, though I don’t find it easy, that forgiveness is always the right way, and that in forgiving others we forgive ourselves, and are forgiven.

And two verses on, v22, Jesus suggests forgiveness not seven times, but seventy times seven – in effect never-ending. I don’t think he meant count to 490!

I suspect there’s a close relationship between forgiveness and salvation.

Three

The passage before this and after this are about forgiveness – seventy times seven.
So I think in this passage Jesus is talking about forgiveness but within the church community which he defines at the end of the passage – when two or three meet in my name. Jesus seems to be giving different rules for within the church community.

I do have some frustration with the obsession by the hierarchy with trying to translate from the Latin as literally as possible (what about the Greek or Aramaic). So in this passage “If my brother does something wrong.” Is it only men who need correcting? The translation in the Catholic Women’s Bible seems more appropriate to me – “If another member of the church ..” Emphasising not only everyone but also only within the church community.

I think I have always ignored this passage, first because who am I to judge and secondly because I avoid confrontation. However I can see myself gossiping about such issues and I think what Jesus is saying to me is not to gossip. St Benedict in his rule is strongly against this which he calls murmuring.

A few weeks ago Jesus gave similar words to Peter about binding and loosing. In this passage He extends this to everyone. Jesus is stressing the importance of resolving issues (forgiving) within the church community because if they are not resolved they remain bound on earth and in heaven.

It has just struck me that I may be guilty of “murmuring” by expressing my thoughts on translations. Perhaps I should write to the Bishop!

Four

Sometimes the bible can seem a little obtuse or hard to understand but here a Jesus gives clear guidance about dealing with situations like these.
It isn’t an easy passage for me as I if someone “sins against me” my natural response is to run away and hide and not speak to the person involved. Not quite what Jesus is telling me to do.

This passage leads me into thinking about forgiveness. If the person who has “”wronged us” acknowledges this and asks for forgiveness then I have my part to play too. I have to forgive and sometimes it isn’t easy. I have to work on forgiveness often many times. Holding on to hurts and resentments is not loving and is damaging. I am forgiven and therefore I have to forgive. In the words of the Lord’s Prayer “forgive us our trespasses as we forgiven them that trespass against us”

There is so much freedom in forgiving and letting go.

The person who has offended me is loved by God in the same way that God loves me. We will never look into the eyes of someone that a God doesn’t love.

Jesus reminds me at the end that he is right in the middle of the situation.

Five

“I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in Heaven.”

The “I tell you solemnly” has never, in this particular instance, struck me with such force. This is such a powerful promise.

Petitionary prayer is often seen as a poor prayer form to “elite” Christians. “Go into your secret room” is more often quoted these days. Well, from what I am hearing here, Our Lord would want us to take at least one other person with us into that inner room when it is a case of asking for the needs of the community. Don’t get me wrong, contemplative prayer is important to me but to ignore petition and intercession or “put it down” is not scriptural.
If you read the “mystics”, did they really not specifically “pray for”. We need look no further than St. Therese.

I would like to see a greater resurgence, in our Catholic parishes especially, of prayer partnering, or prayer triangles. These are so powerful! Intercessory teams do exist but seem few and far between. It is difficult to find a Charismatic group these days, where folk could be prayed over for help in any need. Without Christians praying together, the Charisms are not developed. They, too, are often considered “infra-dig” in favour of more alternative or superior expressions of spirituality. Yet Pope Francis has asked that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit be widely spread. Our Church needs the Charisms! Intercessory prayer is a Charism and with it comes prayer of petition.

Those who are sick are supposed to call on the elders for prayer – not just to help them die – but so they can be healed!

In these days, which are going to get much darker yet ( because not enough people have asked the Father together, maybe?) we need our 2 and 3 prayer. We need our night watchmen not only to sit in meditation but to cry to the Lord with all our might; to claim his Victory and give loud thanks and praise. To beseech – aloud and in silent tears : “Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!”

Maybe in these days of isolation we should also be looking at email prayer lines. They do exist. I have long been interested. Watch this space…

In responding personally to the Lectio prayer, I sensed there was an urgent need to be prayed for. After seeking the Lord, he showed me what it was – to some extent. I contacted many people to ask them to “agree with me” and petition the Father. Later, as I prayed for the intentions of those whom I had asked to join me, I felt a very strong spiritual connection between us all.

If you were one of the people and you prayed, thank you.

Six

Forgiveness! This is something I have to work very hard at. It can take me a long time to forgive someone who has hurt me. I thank God He doesn’t take as long to forgive me. I wouldn’t want to confront anyone about a wrong because I would feel too uncomfortable. I must say that there is no-one I need to have that conversation with as I have reconciled my hurt through prayer… eventually.

Where two or three are gathered…….makes me think how sad it is that we can no longer meet up to pray Lectio Divina. Thank God for technology. At least we are still together spiritually if not physically. A modern saying is ‘There is strength in numbers’ and Jesus says that our prayers will be granted “By My Father in Heaven” if we pray together. He just doesn’t say when and how. God’s time is not our time and God’s way is not our way. So I never stop praying for a cause or a person or whatever my request is. I have been praying for something for someone else for thirteen years and I will continue to do so. I think it is important that we ask each other to pray for us and with us and I am happy and in the knowledge that we will do exactly that.

God bless all you lovely people.

Seven

The word that caught more my attention today was ‘brother’.

It has been very emotional for me this Gospel, and I didn’t like the first part, I never did.

I don’t consider myself an envious person but it is something I always have ‘envied’ from my friends: a good relation with my brother.

I never have been able to understand him, his values and ways to see life are so different than mine and those of my parents, that at times I thought, how can we be from the same family?

My dad asked me nearly at the end of his days not to argue with my brother. I answered him that I would try, but I couldn’t promise it, because I know myself, and how difficult is not to argue with somebody that never listen, just shouts at you, and is convinced that is always right. So far, I have achieved it and kept a ‘civil’ relation, especially for the sake of my mum.

But day by day his attitude and behaviour towards our elderly and not so healthy mum has become more incomprehensible for me. He has ‘washed his hands’ from everything related to her. He never cared much when my dad was alive, but now our mum is living alone, he doesn’t visit her, nor even call her. He just lives an hour by train from her, I am in England, but if something happens it is me who has to go or to do whatever is necessary. I don’t complain from my part, it is my mum, I love her, I will do anything for her. But it hurts her, and hurts me to see that after a life of sacrifices for me and for him, he is not able even to
call her to see if she is alive or dead. While considering the most normal thing to drive with his wife all the way till the north of France to see her parents, because with the Covid she has not been able to see them. And our mum? Doesn’t she deserve at least the same treat, when she is his mum, is closer by, and is alone? How can he said that?… He doesn’t attend to reason, nor from me, nor from other people from the family, with whom he has already cut the relation when they said something he doesn’t want to listen.

But, there is hope in the second part of the Gospel, ‘if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven’ Thus, I ask from all of you to join me in praying to our Lord for my brother and his wife. For they to be happy in their lives, to become less self-centred, to be more loving with my mum, and for the Lord to be by them, helping them to return to Him. Thank you.

Blessed be the Lord.

Eight

I have thought a lot about how our little group supports each other through the personal reflections, but especially this morning when the prayer requests came. There are so many things we are powerless over, and when I am afraid it is hard to accept that God is working things out in his own way in his own time. The serenity prayer is such a comfort in times of stress. I hope it will be a comfort to you.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.