Step #1: Lectio / Read
Click the link below or open your Bible to the passage and read through the reading at least once, paying attention to what is happening in the text.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Use the following meditation to help you reflect more deeply on the Scripture (you may want to read the passage again).
In one particular passage from the second reading today, St. Peter instructs all of us to conduct ourselves, in certain situations, in a way that probably challenges most of our instincts and abilities. He counsels:
“…do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”
Bear with me for a minute, because I seem to recall some very similar sentiments sprinkled throughout other books of the New Testament:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
"But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
[1 Thessalonians 5]
See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.
[1 Peter 3]
Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
How does all of this stand up to reason? What is your normal reflex when someone has wronged you, or said something mean about you or someone you love, or is just rude or downright mean to you? I know my usual knee-jerk reaction is to strike back in some way. Do you share similar feelings? Why are there so many exhortations in the Bible to live differently than these immediate impulses of ours lead us to when we give into them? Why have so many of the saints throughout history appealed to us in the same way the authors of the Bible passages have?
On the face of things, when someone does something wrong to you, most of the time it can appropriately be said that it is unfair, unjust, undeserved, and sometimes even evil. Evil exists, and we are all victims of it at times.
But consider this: at some point you will meet God, and He will talk to you about how you utilized the life He gave you. Do you think that conversation will go down like “So, let’s chat about all the sins of everyone you’ve met during your life”? Or do you think it’s apt to be more along the lines of “I gave you life so that you could experience and share in my love… to what degree did you achieve that”? He will ask the latter, because what He wants most is to be in complete communion with you and with all of us.
God would prefer we don’t waste any moments of our lives being apart from Him in even the slightest way. Of course that is impossible for us, as we are imperfect beings. He knows this and is infinitely patient and merciful with us. Nevertheless, many times in our lives we consent to let the evils of the world lure us away from God’s love. These moments are, from a spiritual perspective, tragic. During those moments it is God himself we are losing. For that monumental reason, we should all strive to “overcome evil with good” and attune ourselves to God. St. Peter and the saints have given us a road map to guide us as we proceed on this journey.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
These questions are to be used to talk to God; have a conversation with the Lord about these questions and what is going on in your heart as you pray today.
What are some times in your life that you have overreacted or reacted inappropriately or negatively to something someone has done? Even if your reaction was "understandable" or "reasonable", how do you think you could have reacted better?
What are some of the moments you have reacted in a virtuous and saintly way, even if it was counter-cultural or difficult? Why do you think you had the strength and humility to respond that way?
What are some ways you can prepare yourself to respond better in times of trial and tribulation? What are some ways you can begin to work on the virtues you will need - before you need them?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
In this step, you listen. Stop talking, let God speak to your heart. You may repeat one of these short phrases to focus your mind on the Lord.
"And the greatest of these is love."
"Gentleness and reverence."
Step #5: Actio / Act
In light of today's reading and your time spent in prayer with the Lord, what concrete action or actions will you take to let this encounter with the Lord bear fruit in you today?
Love is an action before it is ever a word. We must learn to love people, especially when they don't love us, before we can preach or talk about what love is. Find the Litany of Humility and pray that today. Continue to pray it as a way to build virtue so that you can love in those moments where revenge or hate seems more "appealing".
Smartphone Lock Screen
The following image is here for you to save and use as a background or lock screen on your smartphone or device to help you carry today's Lectio Divina with you the rest of the day.
Today's prayer was prepared by Jim Lundgren, a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Crystal Lake, IL.