Further to his wonderful introductory article on the practice of lectio divina, Fr Marcelo offers this meditation based upon today’s reading from Mass (September 13th…but take note, this doesn’t mean you can’t read it or think about it on other days too! ).
Fr Marcelo begins with the gospel reading and then drawing on the commentary of St Thomas offers us a way to meditate upon it:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way.
Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the Apostle Paul admonishes against the seductions that corrupt morals. First, he provides a mode of instruction, mentions the favor received, and the reasons why. (The commentary is 1 SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, Expositio et lectura super epistolas Pauli Apostoli, Volume 4. Edizioni Studio Domenicano. Bologna, Italy, 2007.)
v.1. The favour received is that we as Christians have risen with Christ, and this in two ways: through the hope of the corporal resurrection, and through his resurrection we have recovered the life of justice, He died for our sins and resurrected for our justification (Rm 4: 25); as if he were saying, if Christ has risen, you have risen with him.
v.2. Then there is an exhortation to seek the things from above, as in Mt 6: 33, seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice, which is the goal or end.
Other things should be judged in the same manner, seeking the things from above. Do not think of the things of the earth because you are dead to earthly conduct. If you have died with Christ, then do not think of worldly matters. You are dead to sin but alive for God (Rm 6: 11).
v.3. This other life, being alive for God, is hidden and we acquire it through Christ who is (hidden) in the glory of the Father. In the same manner, the life that is given to us from him, is also found in hiddenness, that is where Christ is: in the glory of the Father.
v.4. When Christ your life appears… He is the author of our life, and our life consists in knowing him and loving him: It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2: 20).
v.5. Then, there is a clear reference to the human order (and/or disorder) indicating that Christians need to stop sin (“apply the break to sin”) through the teaching of good customs.
The admonition is about mortifying what is earthly and mortifying the members (of our bodies). There is a parallel between our conduct that has many acts, and our body, which has many parts.
We die to our sins in the measure that we live through God’s grace. The life of grace restores us in the mind, but not completely in the body due to the fomes peccati (see a quote from Catechism below). Since we have died to sin (in our minds) then, we must mortify the concupiscence of our bodily members as well, not to fall into carnal sins.
The text lists some of these sins: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. And shows why these sins must be avoided: Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. The reason why these sins attract the wrath of God is double: First, it should do with the justice of God: because immorality is the daughter of despair, and many abandon completely the spiritual things due to despair and then abandon themselves completely to carnal things. The second reason had to do with the past behavior (of Colossians, and they were going from bad to worse). It is a reminder to not fall into these sins again. There is no advantage in such behavior, but only confusion and it must be put away.
I have simply highlighted the main point of Aquinas’ explanation to help us do lectio divina. We can use the intellect to understand the objective meaning of the scriptural text (lectio); we use our hearts to meditate on it and find what the text is saying to us (meditatio); we pray about it by engaging in conversation with God (oratio); we allow the Lord to open and reveal to us what conversion of mind, heart and life he is asking of us (contemplatio); and we use our will to make the text come to life in our actions (actio).
Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that Mary is the model of docile acceptance to God’s word (VD, 87). Inspired by our Blessed Mother, we can put into practice the divine word which we have meditate by drawing a resolution or two.
Fr. Marcelo J. Navarro Muñoz, IVE
Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1264: “Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati); since concupiscence “is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by
the grace of Jesus Christ.” Indeed, “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”