Returning now to a survey of kinds of prayer, I am taking a look at “divine reading,” or, if you like the Latin expression, lectio divina.
This is essentially a process of spending time with portions of the Bible. We may find it forbidding to contemplate a journey through the Scriptures. We may suppose that Biblical literature is so vast and varied that we cannot help but become utterly disoriented when we try to explore the literature on our own.
Two columns ago, when I wrote on devotional and verbal prayer, I took special note of the Psalms. These 150 compositions for Temple worship give us a variety of expressions of deep human feeling. The Psalms are in fact a good starting point for anyone who wants to develop an appreciation for Sacred Scripture.
Psalm 88, as I noted then, is considered one of the most dismal of all of the 150. The speaker of the psalm reports being alone and abandoned, crying out: “My one companion is darkness.” Even so, the speaker engages in a controversy with God, arguing about the goodness and eternity of God and “taunting” God by asking, “Will you work your wonders for the dead? Will the shades stand and praise you?”
I find Psalm 127 to be a much-needed reminder to me of my human limits. “In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat, when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber.” I truly honor my relationship with God when I heed the fact that the Creator is the unlimited one, and that I am the limited creature.
We Catholic Christians, in our regular worship, are exposed to the Sacred Scriptures in a most dynamic way, as we hear the Word of God proclaimed, Sunday after Sunday. We might think of each Sunday’s Scriptures as a “window” by which we can behold a great deal of the depth and beauty of the Bible.
This weekend, we hear Jesus being questioned about the essence of the law by which human beings are to live. Jesus takes two statements from different parts of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and brings them together in a dynamic juxtaposition. Love of God (Deuteronomy 6: 5) is joined with love of neighbor as oneself (Leviticus 19: 18).
We must ask ourselves: What does it mean to have a genuine love for ourselves? Self-indulgence and narcissism are caricatures of true self-love. Can we not bring ourselves to imagine a God’s-eye view of ourselves, along the lines of a parent’s regard for a child? Honest self-love allows us to look upon the “neighbor” as another self. We develop empathy toward the neighbor. And then we consider the God who loves both of us. We respond lovingly to the God who gives us the ability to love.
If we spend some time with the Word of God, allowing the meaning of the Word to sink into the depths of our awareness, we will find ourselves at peace in the discovery of the God who simply calls us to be secure in his love.