Monday, March 24, 2014

The Word of God

I sat there in the tiny chapel, about two miles from the city.  It was February 24, a cold, damp day.  As the priest began to read the Gospel, I heard it in a way never before experienced.  The words went directly to my heart.  They rang out clearly and distinctly in the quiet solitude of that little church.  The passage was from Matthew:
"As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  You received without payment; give without payment.  Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.  Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter the house, greet it.  If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town."  (Matthew 10:7-14)
"This is what I want," I said, "this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart."


This is not my story, but the story of St. Francis of Assisi.  It was through the Word of God, that Francis found his vocation. It is helpful to remember that St. Francis had already experienced the message from the San Damiano crucifix.  He had already encountered the leper and kissed him.  He had already stripped himself before the bishop and his father.  Yet, the direction for his life's journey was still unclear.  It was the Word, that brought his experiences together, made sense of them, and showed him his vocation.  And so it will be with us, too.

Scripture is a living book, is Christ himself.  St. John calls him the Word Made Flesh (John 1:14).  Francis understood "God" is Trinity, a communion of persons in love.  Therefore, reading Scripture is entering into the Tent of God's very own intimacy.  Within this tent, we discover that we are created out of love, we exist in love, and we are destined for eternal love.  And if all of creation flows out of love, and unto love, then the only reason for our existence is to love.
Discernment is a time to experience how we accept and express love.  Are we called to receive and express love through religious life as a sister, brother, or priest?  Are we called to receive and express love as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Or are we called to receive and express love through married or single life?
Lectio Divina:
Scripture is the key to discovering our vocation to love God and one another.  By reading and praying with Scripture we come to know and experience God's love for us and how God is calling us to love one another.  One ancient method for reading and praying with Scripture is called, "Lectio Divina."

Lectio divina (divine reading) is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities.  It was a method practiced by monks in their daily encounter with Scripture, both as they prepared for the Eucharist and as they prayed the Liturgy of the Hours.  While they read and prayed with the Scriptures they invited the Word of God to become a transforming lens that brought the events of daily living into focus, so they could live more deeply and find the presence of God more readily.

The method of lectio divina, as described by Pope Benedict XVI, follows five steps: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), contemplatio (contemplation), and actio (action).  Download the worksheet, Lectio Divina:  Meditating with the Word of God for an explanation of the process.  I encourage you to start with the Scripture readings for Sunday's Mass.  Choose either the new testament or Gospel reading.  Visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website to view the readings for the upcoming Sundays.

Final Reflection:

The Gospel, the Word of God, became the core of existence for Francis.  The Gospel directed his form of life, animated his relationships.  The Gospel energized and gave form to his activity and ministry.  The Gospel constituted the very marrow of the life of the brothers.  When Francis' first companion, Bernard, asked to join him, he consulted the Gospel three times to find out what their way of life ought to be.  When they number eleven, Francis prepared a Rule of Life based on Scripture.  When Francis' final hour came, he asked his brothers to read the scripture to him, one last time.  Like a wife who whispers into her dying husband's ear, "I love you."

We the followers of St. Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan Friars of the Province of Saint Barbara, have pledge our life to the Gospel.  We are not the first or the last.  Franciscan Friars, for the past 800 years, have placed their hands in their Provincial Ministers and vowed, "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without anything of one's own, and in chastity."

The Gospel is our way of life. 
Are you being called to the follow the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


The postulants spend a part of each day reading, studying, and listening to
presentation to help them grow in their Human, Christian and Franciscan identity.
Personal Reflection:
According to the National Religious Vocation Conference new members to religious life are most likely to say they were attracted to religious life by a desire for prayer and spiritual growth.  Do you read and pray with Scripture?  If yes, how has it brought you closer to Christ?  If no, why not?  Feel free to share you answers in the comment section below.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
150034th Ave
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422

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