Sunday of the Word of God and Emmaus Moments

The third Sunday of Ordinary Time has been designated by Pope Francis as the Sunday of the Word of God. There is a good summary of the ideas behind it, and suggestions about how to observe it pastorally, from the Liturgy Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales here: Anything that encourages people to read and meditate on scripture is to be welcomed, so perhaps a few words about lectio divina would be in order as a monastic contribution to the day.

The practice of lectio divina, the slow, prayerful reading of scripture, is so characteristic of Benedictines that one could almost say it defines us. The teaching of lectio divina, however, seems to be something of a growth industry among those who specialise in spirituality, and I have to say that some of it seems to me to be dangerously gnostic. I cannot emphasize too strongly that we must read and pray scripture with the Church, that is, with the mind of Christ.

If you are not familiar with lectio divina, here is a very simple guide:

  1. Try to find somewhere quiet, preferably in the morning.
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit to be with you as you read.
  3. Open your Bible and begin to read. I always suggest starting with one of the Mass readings for the day. That way, you will be reading in union with the whole Church.
  4. Read slowly, expectantly.
  5. You may find a word or sentence sings out for you from the page. If it does, savour it. If it doesn’t, be at peace. Something may come to you later.
  6. Thank God for the gift he has given.
  7. Carry the word you have received with you and let it speak to you as you go about your ordinary tasks.

You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about consulting concordances or commentaries. That’s not because I’m against them — far from it! — but because the study of scripture is not quite the same as praying scripture, though the one does lead into the other and vice versa. The problem for many of us is that we have become too accustomed to thinking and have forgotten that wise sentence of the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, ‘He may well be loved, but not thought. By love may He be gotten and holden, but by thought never.’ It is easy to end up doing some interesting research about scripture but forget its purpose, which is to lead us to God. Fortunately, even if we go wrong, so to say, the Holy Spirit can put us right. It is like dealing with distractions in prayer. Don’t worry or fuss, or try to bat them away with huge effort, just return quietly to your purpose.

On this Sunday of the Word of God, therefore, try to set aside a few minutes for reading and praying the scriptures. Let it become habitual, if you can. You may be surprised what great things God can do with something so small and simple. After all, he revealed himself to us as the Word made flesh at Christmas, and he continues to reveal himself daily in the breaking of the word of the scriptures and the holy Eucharist. Emmaus moments are to be treasured.


6 thoughts on “Sunday of the Word of God and Emmaus Moments”

  1. Last Sunday the churches in our locality exchanged preachers. The vicar from one of our local Anglican churches extended his sermon to cover all the readings but read the next big of the gospel so that we saw the context of thd whole piece. He then mentioned the YouTube video of the border Collie pulling out wooden blocks without the lot falling. He said how everyone said ‘come and see’ and this is what the disciples did when they followed Jesus.
    At church, we had a group which looked at, prayed and discussed the readings for three years, before turning to the complete gospel which gave the context. As an ecumenical group we used different bibles and a commentary, but it was often the different bibles that permitted interpretation.
    Last Monday I showed our parish priest the video on YouTube and he then fully appreciated the sermon. Incidentally, our deacon went to preach at the local Congregational church.

  2. Dear Sister Catherine
    Thank you
    I find this helpful. I have attempted this, however, I seem to get in the way and I wonder if It’s me that has picked a word or phrase to suit me.

    • You may be too anxious to ‘do it right’? I suggest just stick with reading the text slowly and patiently and see if anything bubbles up that challenges, comforts or otherwise affects you in some way and leads you into the desire to pray. That’s all God asks of us: the wanting to pray. Prayer is his gift.

  3. Oh goodness me, do I recognise the honeyed trap of bypassing the content and working out whether a) a Letter of St Paul was actually written by St Paul or b) which “John” wrote the 1st letter of John etc etc. 3 Wikipedia links later and the content of the reading / prayer has disappeared in the rear view mirror! Paula Gooder’s books on the various Christian seasons I find helpful when she states in her introductions that (fascinating as she finds them) she will take the texts at face value and avoid the various debates re authorship (interesting and valuable though they may be….in the right place)

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