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).
"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me."
This Gospel never ceases to make me incredibly uncomfortable, as I'm sure it does for all of us. It is tempting to just pass over this passage and focus on other things in the Gospels that don't really demand anything of us, or at least don't demand anything that yanks us out of our comfort zone.
Why does this passage make us so uncomfortable? Because Jesus is clear about "the least brothers (and sisters) of mine." We don't mind loving those whom we like to love. I don't mind loving people who I know will somehow love me back in some way or who I know that in loving them that I will get something out of it. But what about the "least" of those around me, those whom by loving I can expect absolutely nothing in return. There is nothing in it for me, what?! Why would I want to do that?!
I think Jesus spoke so emphatically about this because He knew we would be tempted to rationalize our actions in not loving the least of those around us. So he spoke very plainly and clearly about it. Sometimes the path to holiness is presented to us as a matter of just praying a certain amount and loving God, while loving our neighbor (especially the "least" and the "enemy") is just a footnote or an optional addition. But Jesus will not have any of that. He makes loving God and loving neighbor two sides of the same coin. And in fact, He has left us no direct way of loving Him except precisely through loving our neighbor.
What then is the purpose of prayer? What is the purpose of this lectio divina and these scriptures that you are praying with daily through Carpe Verbum? Is it just about going off by myself to talk to God and maybe get a warm fuzzy feeling and then going back to life as usual? Nope. Prayer is about opening and exposing my life to God so that He can speak His love into every area of my life and then out of that live, drive me out of prayer to go and spread that love by loving my neighbor. If we only receive His love and never give it to others, then we don't really have it. You may have heard the saying "you can't give what you don't have," but I like to flip it around: "you can't have what you don't give."
So how is God calling you to love the "least" around you this week? As we prepare to enter Advent, maybe we can spend this week reflecting on one practical way we can love the "least" around us during Advent to prepare for Him who comes to us as the "least" in the form of a helpless child born in a pig sty. And we don't have to fly around the world to those dying of hunger (although it is crucially important that we help them in any way we can), but who is the "least" of your neighbors that is right around you. Maybe it's picking one lunch a week during Advent to go sit with somebody who doesn't have any friends and get to know them. Maybe it's deciding that every party or gathering you walk into, you will seek out the person that looks most awkward and out of place and talk to them and make them feel welcome instead of just going straight to the comfort zone of our friends. Maybe it's something else. Spend some time praying and asking God how you answer his call in Matthew 25 this Advent, because He is the King. But in His Kingdom, the least are the greatest.
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.
When Jesus tells you to love the least, how do you feel? How do you react?
How are you serving the least around you?
What can you do to that you can give what you have? What can you do to have what you give?
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.
"Love the least."
"Christ is my king."
"Have what you give."
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?
We are only a week away from Advent. Spend time today in prayer and ask the Lord to show you one way you can love the least through the Advent Season.
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 Austin Ashcraft, a graduate student in New Orleans.