Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
18th Wednesday in Ordinary Time
The main purpose for doing lectio is not to find out what exegetes have to say about scripture. It is to find out what God has to say, and what he has to say can change our life. St Athanasius in his Life of St Anthony tells us that in the time before Anthony became a monk, he went to church thinking about the first Christians who had everything in common, and he heard the Gospel read: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell everything, and follow me”. Athanasius goes on to say: “It was as if by God’s design he had been thinking about these saints, and as if the passage were read on his account. Immediately Anthony went out from the Lord’s house and gave to the townspeople the possessions he inherited from his ancestors”.
This shows clearly that there is a meaning in God’s word which cannot be discovered by reading commentaries. If Anthony had had the written text before his eyes, with variant readings and footnotes and the time to examine them, his conversion might not have taken place. Instead, what he did was listen with the ear of hie heart to what God was saying, and he discovered with joy that God was in fact speaking directly to him.
That can be our experience too, if we also listen carefully to the Lord’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of our heart. They are words from a Father who loves us, and who told us so in the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you”. This is the great truth of our lives, the only true and ultimate reality: God’s great love for us, and hence his mercy toward us.
It is this reality which infuses a secret joy into the hidden life of a monk. Thomas Merton called it “Mercy within mercy within mercy”.