What Does It Take To Follow God’s Path? (Lectio Divina Diligens for the First Sunday of Lent)

What Does It Take To Follow God’s Path? (Lectio Divina Diligens for the First Sunday of Lent) February 16, 2018
Guide me, humbly, even through the desert, Lord.

I am using the Psalm selection for the first Sunday of Lent (Psalm 25:4-9) for my Lectio Divina Diligens devotion.

Lectio — reading

Make known to me your ways, Lord;
teach me your paths.
Guide me by your fidelity and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
for you I wait all the day long.
Remember your compassion and your mercy, O Lord,
for they are ages old.
Remember no more the sins of my youth;
remember me according to your mercy,
because of your goodness, Lord.
Good and upright is the Lord,
therefore he shows sinners the way,
He guides the humble in righteousness,
and teaches the humble his way.

Investigatio — research

The first Sunday in Lent traditionally has a Gospel reading about Jesus’s 40-day sojourn in the wilderness following his Baptism, But this year pulls most of its Gospel readings from St. Mark — where the time in the desert barely gets a passing mention. That reading ends with Jesus echoing the teaching of John the Baptist: “Repent and believe the Gospel” — where in Greek we see the evocative word metanoia, which implies that repentance involves far more than mere contrition: it is an entire re-structuring of the heart and mind, adopting a new consciousness (“the mind of Christ”) that makes belief — faith, and trust — possible.

So for today’s Lectio Divina Dilligens exercise I’ve chosen the Psalm reading for the First Sunday of Lent, which I think illustrates what the faith born of metanoia looks like. The two words that leap out are “remember” — what the Psalmist keeps asking of God — and “humble” — how the Psalmist describes the person who is guided by God.

The Hebrew word that comes to us as “Remember” is זכר (zkr), which means not only remember but also to recall, to think of, to speak of , to be mindful of, and even to name. So here is something much deeper than just revisiting in your mind’s eye a moment from the past. In asking God to remember God’s compassion and mercy — and not remember our sins — this Psalm is an audacious prayer indeed: the Psalmist is, in effect, saying, “God, when you think of me, when you call me by name, when I am in your mind and heart, may I be represented only by your love and mercy — and not by my many failings.”

Wow. It’s a prayer that says, in essence, “In your mind and heart, God, let me be shaped by your mercy and compassion, and not by my own unhappy deeds.”

The second part of the reading moves away from directly praying to God and instead makes an affirmation about God, who “guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way.” If the heart of the prayer in this Psalm is an appeal to God’s remembering, the Psalmist affirms that the key to stepping into the “Divine memory” is our own humility — not in the sense of “humiliation,” but in the more holistic sense of self-forgetfulness or earthiness. The Hebrew word here suggests one who is “bowed,” a person who is lowly, poor, and meek. It is precisely in our emptiness, our woundedness, our vulnerability and our lack, that God meets us with guidance and instruction in God’s way. To receive God’s compassion and mercy, we must become an “empty bowl,” ready to have Divine Love poured into us.

This, it seems to me, gives us much insight into the heart of metanoia or repentance.

Meditatio — reflection

Can ask God to remember me in terms of compassion and mercy rather than focusing on my sins? Of course — this is precisely what Jesus offers us as our savior. The key to such an audacious request, of course, is my willingness to step into true humility — into a self-forgetfulness where my sense of my own littleness if offered up into the vastness of God’s love and mercy. I am a small vessel indeed, and God’s grace and mercy more than overflow when given to me.

If metanoia means to adopt a higher or deeper consciousness in response to the love of God, I do this by opening myself up to receive the Divine Mercy and compassion. In receiving this overflow of grace, I literally become someone new. Thus, of course, God “remembers” me not as a sinner but as someone radiant in the splendor of God’s love and care.

Oratio — response

God, make me humble so that I may receive your guidance and your instruction, that I may walk in your ways. Remember me in the light of your grace and love — indeed, make me a new creation, marked and shaped and filled with your grace. Open my heart and my mind that I may truly be the person you created me to be, and guide me to lavishly share your love with others. Amen.

Contemplatio — rest

Please join with me at a time that is appropriate for you, to simply rest in the silent presence of God, knowing that God loves you and me and all creation — whether we can feel it or not.

This is the second of a series of Lenten devotional posts, written in a spirit of Lectio Divina Diligens — lectio divina (sacred, meditative reading) combined with a contemplative, “diligent” approach to scriptural interpretation. Research into the interpretation of scripture is performed using Verbum.

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