This third edition of my free, weekly newsletter comes out on the day we remember St Therese of Lisieux. This beautiful icon was written by my friend Claude Lane, and we used it for the cover of my book St Benedict and St Therese, The Little Rule and the Little Way.
You can learn more about St Therese of Lisieux from some of my blog posts today, and from this website dedicated to sharing the story of this most popular saint for our times.
St Therese was born in 1873. She died at the age of 24 and left to the world her spiritual memoirs The Story of a Soul. The wisdom she shared with the world is known as '"the little way" which can be summed up as a spirituality of total confidence in God's love--trusting him without having to accomplish great deeds of holiness.
Are there sins in your life that really weigh you down? In this edition of FaithWorks I continue my series on Finding Forgiveness, and this week's article on prayer examines the way of listening to God called lectio Divina or sacred reading.
I hope you'll take a look at the books and resources I mention and that you will join in prayer for the success of this ministry. If you like the newsletter why not recommend it to a friend and invite them to sign up. Just send them to the sign up form on my blog here.
If somebody says to me, "That person hurt me badly Father, but it's okay. I've forgiven them!" I'm tempted to say, "Then they must not have hurt you very badly."
More often I hear people admit that they simply can't forgive the person who has hurt them. The injury weighs on their mind. They keep running over and over what has happened. They sometimes play the same conversations over in their mind thinking what they should have said and how they should have got even.
This is the way sin eats away at our lives. It's like rust on a piece of metal or a terrible cancer that just won't go away. We try to forgive, but it's impossible.
The key is to get access to Christ's forgiveness. One of the best ways to do this is through a more intentional attendance at Mass. What I mean by this is that we go to Mass with a clearer intention of what we want to accomplish.
To understand how this works we have to remember what the Mass is really for. The Mass is not just a time to come together and gather up our thoughts about God. It's not just a time to sing hymns and listen to an inspiring message. Instead it is a re-presentation of the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
On the cross Jesus died to win forgiveness for the whole world. At Mass we bring that sacrifice into the present moment and apply it to our needs. That means the forgiveness of Jesus is coming alive in our own lives as we participate in Mass.
So if Jesus' forgiving power is available at Mass, we need to see the Mass as our way of tapping into Christ's forgiveness. Here's how to do it:
First of all understand that the Mass is a sacrifice. It's your sacrifice--not just the priest's! In the Maronite rite they refer to "the forgiving altar of God". That's what it is--the altar is where you place all your concerns, fears, regrets and all those burdens that you can't get rid of.
Secondly, watch and listen. Whenever the word sacrifice is used in Mass, silently affirm that word. Whenever you see an action of sacrifice--like the gifts being brought forward and the priest lifting them to God--see those gifts as representing the sins, hurts, fears and regrets for which you seek forgiveness.
Finally, remember Christ's words, "Come to me all who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest." Jesus Christ wants to grant you his forgiveness, and as you receive his forgiveness you will be released for all the burdens of guilt and regrets from the past that trouble you.
One of the ways to listen to God is to take more time to read the Sacred Scriptures. There are many good resources for reading the Scriptures, but whatever we use we should make sure we read the Scriptures with the whole church.
Scriptures are appointed each day not only for Mass, but also for Morning and Evening prayer and the Office of Readings. These are available online and on your personal electronic devices. There are several resources but the best is a website called Universalis
To really listen to God's voice through the sacred Scriptures we need to develop the proper skills. The Carmelites and Benedictines teach a method of reading called lectio divina
or "Divine reading". This website
will teach you how to practice lectio divina
In brief, lectio divina is a totally different way of reading than most of us do day by day. It is a prayerful way of reading. Instead of simply looking for the surface meaning and information, we learn to read with the heart. This requires time and patience. It means allowing the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures to inspire us as we read them.
There are four stages to lectio divina: reading, meditation, response and contemplation. First we read the passage of Scriptures slowly and carefully. Next we meditate on what we've read. Then we respond in prayer to God before opening our hearts to listen to him in quiet contemplation.
As a Benedictine oblate--a third order Benedictine--I've tried to apply this method of reading Scripture in my life, and it's amazing how the Word of God comes alive just by taking time to approach it i a new and more prayerful way.
God really is alive and faith really does work. But for faith to work we have to put in some work too. Learning to read the Scriptures more prayerfully takes some time and perseverance, but it is worth the trouble.
It is in the final stage of contemplation that we learn to discern the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Discovering what the voice is saying specifically is what I'll write on next week in my column on prayer.