Think for a moment what you "gave up" last year. Did it seem more like a fulfilling sacrifice or self -punishment? After Lent, did you feel like you gained something spiritually out of it? Many people give up chocolate for Lent, which is why come Easter Sunday, we binge on the Easter candy. How long did those 40 Days of going without chocolate sustain you?
Here's an idea - this Lent instead of giving up chocolate, make your sacrifice something that will sustain you for the rest of your life. How does that sound? What if I told you that's not only POSSIBLE, but can be done in as little as 15 MINUTES A DAY?
Rolling up to Ash Wednesday, we will be kicking off a program called "Pray 40 Days." Think of it as a 40-day "fitness program" for your soul, with the goal of "strengthening" your prayer life, by dong a new spiritual "exercise"each day.
One of the exercises that is offered is called "Lectio Divina." Today I would like to give you a little introduction to it.
Lectio Divina is a sacred reading of the Word. The wonderful thing is everyone can do this. Families can do it. Children can do it. Adults can do it. It is for everyone and can be done in your Bible study group as well.
To begin, take a moment and rest. Just rest your body. Try to let go of all the stress that has been going on in your work, in your week, in your family, in your life. Just rest for a moment, taking a deep breath in through your nose, breathing in the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into you.
Breathe in as deep as you can and hold it for a moment. And release.
Let go of your worries, your anxieties, and your frustrations.
Now close your eyes and do this one more time before continuing.
As you breathe in the Holy Spirit, invite God to come into you as deep as you can and hold it there for a moment, before releasing through your mouth and letting the air out along with your worries, your anxieties, and your preoccupations.
Close your eyes again and do this one more time.
What I want you to do as you read this passage below is try to hold onto one word or one phrase. God speaks to us in the Word of God. As you read, I want you to hold in your heart or mind one word or phrase. Once you hear that word or phrase, stop reading. Repeat that word or phrase in your head a few times before continuing.
The verse is from 1 Corinthians 13
Love is patient, Love is kind.
It is not jealous, It is not pompous,
It is not inflated, It is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails.
Now close your eyes again and briefly recall whatever that word or phrase was so that you can visualize it. Then repeat it over and over in your hearts and in your mind, before you are ready to continue.
What is so amazing about this exercise (especially when done in groups) is that everyone will have a different word or phrase. This is because God speaks to all of us differently, and each word has a different meaning or message just for us.
The Word of God is alive. It speaks to us. As we read and pray with the Word of God, we are transformed by it. He speaks to us right as we are. Whatever we need to hear, He speaks to us.
That is the first part of Lectio Divina -to pray with Scripture just like that, coming up with a word or phrase.
The second part is meditation. I have been praying with this all week, so I am a little bit ahead of you in the game here. I am going to lead you through what my meditation was. The first thing is God is Love. If we know that and if we believe that God is literally Love, then we can actually replace the word "Love" with "God" or "the Father".
So instead of "Love," I am going to visualize "the Father." Say it aloud as you read, as a prayer to God:
The Father is patient, the Father is kind.
The Father is not jealous, the Father is not pompous,
The Father is not inflated, the Father is not rude,
the Father does not seek His own interests,
the Father is not quick tempered, the Father does not brood over injury,
the Father does not rejoice over wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
The Father bears all things, the Father believes all things,
the Father hopes all things, and the Father endures all things.
The Father never fails.
This is God the Father. If you have an image of anything about this, just allow this exercise to help you realize that God IS Love. And if God is Love, than He is all these things.
The last and final part is to contemplate that if you are of God, than you are Love.
Think about it like this, during Mass, we transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, when you receive the Body of Christ, you become Love. If you become Love, than all these things can be said about you.
When Jesus was trying to explain who He was, when people said, "Are You really God the Father," "Are You really God," Jesus’ response was "I am who I am."
Let's go back to our prayer, replacing "Love" with "I am."
I want you to pray again and aloud as you read saying "I am."
I am patient, I am kind.
I am not jealous, I am not pompous,
I am not inflated, I am not rude,
I am not one who seeks my own interests,
I am not quick tempered, I am not one who broods over injury,
I am not one to rejoice over wrongdoing,
I am one who rejoices with the truth.
I am one who bears all things, I am one who believes all things,
I am one who hopes all things, I am one who endures all things.
I am one who never fails.
The powerful thing about this passage is it reveals to us, not only who God is, who the Father is, but also who we are.
You are love. You are all of these things. I know in life sometimes we are told otherwise. Sometimes people say things about us. They will say, "You are impatient" or "You do brood over injury" or "You are never going to make it. You are going to fail." We are told all of these things, but the reality is this is our identity. We are Love, we are Christ.
My hope and prayer for you is that as I introduce you to the program of Pray40Days, you will really discover this personal relationship with God and come to know who the Father is and how loving He is; but also, that you will come to discover who you are before God.
It's easy to participate in the program, if you haven't already you can SIGN UP HERE for free in order to receive more information.
The program will be presented in 4 formats.
-A Web App (Coming Soon!)
-Parish Mission (Limited venues for 2016, check the list here)
-Weekly Spiritual Direction (Click Here for More Instructions)
You can do one or all four. Whatever is best for you. The Parish Mission and Weekly Spiritual Direction are supplemental to the App and/or Book (whichever you use, or you may wish to use them both).
The App: For the tech savvy people, a free web App will be available in the coming days that you can use to do the program from any device with an internet connection. Please check back to www.TheProdigalFather.org for more information as to when that is available.
The Book: A book version is also available. Some parishes will be having a Parish Mission based on the program, so you are encouraged to check the list first to see if your parish is on it. If it is you may want to reach out to the parish office about getting the book. Otherwise you can Order The Pray40Days Book Here. If you start the program late, don't worry just go at your own pace doing one day at a time, and skip ahead to the Sundays. Everyone who orders a book online will receive a free e-book after checkout.