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).
One of the lifelong projects of the Catholic life is moving from a place where we primarily see God as some distant, angry, vengeful God to a loving Father.
Looking at the first reading, though, we can sometimes have questions about how a loving Father can demand such embarrassment for these unclean lepers. They're made to live apart from the community and everywhere they go, they have to declare themselves unclean as they walk.
The spiritual meaning of leprosy in the Bible is always sinfulness. Leprosy, the literal physical disease, often also serves, in the spiritual sense of Scripture, as an analogy for sin. What these lepers are doing, then, by walking around stating their uncleanliness, is an act of repentance. When we start to see it this way, we see where this could be part of the plan of a loving Father.
The Gospel reading from this Sunday ties it all together for us. The leper comes up to Jesus and says, "If you will it, you can make me clean." He shows great faith that Jesus is actually capable of working a miracle for him, but He is also pointing to his own very real uncleanliness.
Why do you need to be made clean if you are not first unclean?
I think sometimes we feel like repentance is an ugly word. To repent of our sins means to be moved to tell God we have done wrong and make a firm commitment to not wanting to do wrong anymore. The Act of Contrition that we say after Confession is supposed to be an act of stating the intention of our repentant heart.
There can be a tendency sometimes to think that a loving Father would never ask for repentance from us, that He would never want us to have to point to our own shame and brokenness. That God just "accepting me as I am" means we never have to admit that we have sinned or done wrong.
The opposite is true though. Isn't it a greater thing to have God completely aware of all of our ugliness, all of our uncleanliness, and sinfulness, and love us so much in the midst of all of that brokenness that He still looks on us with the eyes of love? And, even better, His love is so great that He doesn't want to leave us in our sorrowful state. Like a good Father, He wants to pick us up and make us better, make us whole.
If we never repent though, never admit that we have done wrong, never point to our own uncleanliness, like the leper did, we don't give God room to actually make us whole. We just begin to live a life of trying to ignore or avoid our own brokenness, but don't open up those wounds to be cleaned out by God.
Jesus, in healing the leper, actually takes his place, enters into his brokenness with His very person. What was the Old Testament leper required to do because of his/her leprosy? Go and live apart from the community. After having healed the leper, Jesus is no longer able to enter the towns and and has to remain outside in deserted places. He has switched places with the leper.
God loves us too much to pretend our brokenness doesn't exist. He died for us to make us whole again. He stepped into our place to take away our uncleanliness. He can only do that though, step into our place personally, if we allow Him into those areas of our life by repentance. This is why this Gospel is a perfect pre-Lenten reading. The words we will hear when the ashes are put on our forehead on Ash Wednesday are, "Repent and believe in the Gospel." The entire point of Lent is to bring us to a place where we are more perfectly able to own up to our own sin without it causing us to despair or just throw in the towel. Repentance, is fundamentally, an act of hope. In no longer hiding our sin, but by exposing it to God, we are doing so out of a place of real belief that he is our Dad, that He will lift us up and make us whole.
Here is my challenge to you in prayer today: stop avoiding the patterns of sin in your life. Own up to them with the Lord, but not out of a place of just shame. Place them before the Lord as real wounds, real hurts, real brokenness and uncleanliness, and ask Him to make you whole. Know that He will walk with you through the long process of "taking your place" and bringing you healing from the bondage of slavery to sin that exists in all of our hearts. Let Him make you clean, step by agonizing step.
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 the things in your life that you need to repent of? How have you allowed yourself to remain unclean instead of presenting that to the Lord so that He can make you clean?
How can this Lent be an opportunity for you to rely on the Lord's love and mercy?
Why is it sometimes difficult to admit to God your faults and failures? Naming those struggles can help you look at them and turn them to the Lord, so in this moment give Him the chance to speak into them and invite you back to Him.
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.
"I turn back to You."
"I give you my whole heart."
"You can make me clean."
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?
Formalize your plan for this Lenten season, and be sure that as you plan on what you'll do to pray, fast, and give alms, you include at least 1, but hopefully more like 2 or 3 times you will return to God through repentance in the Sacrament of Confession.
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 Tim Glemkowski, Founder and President of L'Alto Catholic Institute.
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