December 2017 Oblate Lectio Divina and Discussion
Topic: Advent and Humility
The value of lectio divina is that how we read and understand Scripture is influenced by what is happening in our life. The richness of these stories can breathe new life into us and bring new thoughts for us to consider again and again.
The second week of Advent: We are to prepare for his coming here and now. We read two Gospels—Luke 1:5-25 and Luck 1: 26-38. In light of these stories of Zechariah and Mary, how do we receive the call with humility, in our decisions, choices, and way of life? What is the role of humility in these two stories?
The fear of God is mentioned in both, “Be not afraid.”
In the first Gospel, “When Zechariah saw him (the angel Gabriel), he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.” Zechariah was a slow to accept this truth for he and his wife, Elizabeth, were quite old. The angel responds, “But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” Zechariah is struck speechless; perhaps this is his opportunity to seek God by listening with the ear of his heart (as Benedict instructs), a time to be humbled.
When the angel Gabriel comes to Mary, she, too, is afraid and “much perplexed by his words”. The angel senses this, saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” Mary also questions the angel how this can be since she is a virgin, but ultimately she responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary, humbled, accepts the truth of her reality.
Both Mary and Zechariah are called to a personal Advent, a time of waiting and wondering. God prepares us by giving an attitude of humility. Mary’s response reaches beyond rational thinking, to faith and trust. She accepts, “May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary, logically, cannot understand how this can be but she responds yes, trusting the angel and the Holy Spirit to help her.
God had a plan for Mary and God has a plan for us. Mary questioned, “How can this be?” but she didn’t challenge the angel. Mary had faith to accept the message from God. We are also called to accept in the childlike faith of Mary.
How we approach the Lord matters. How we live out our faith is important. We are called to accept God’s will in our life as Mary did. And yet….Zechariah does come around. He just needs a little more time of silence and humbling than Mary did to accept God’s truth in his life. But he eventually accepts the birth of his son, John, as a gift from God and he regains his speech.
God can work with us no matter what, no matter how long it takes, no matter how much humbling we need, no matter how afraid we might be. Both Mary and Zechariah accept the Lord’s will in their life, and in their own time. Both are humbled. Both find their way to God, just as each of us journey to God in our own way. We have both Zechariah and Mary within us—sometimes we accept our reality and the will of God in our lives and other times we must go within to a silent humbling, a time of reflection to come to accept how God is working in our life.
The Canticle of Zechariah is said in the morning prayer of the Divine Office.
The Canticle of Mary is part of evening prayer.
Each canticle serves as a bookend of the day for Benedictines. Our inner life requires an Advent practice of silence as we journey through the same story, just as in the Old Testament. Will we fight to have control or will we trust God? Will we be Zechariah or Mary? Forever this has been the story of our relationship with God. Since the beginning of time, we have wanted to have the power and knowledge of God. But the farther we travel on the path of humility, the less we actually know. What we know is that we cannot know and will not know. Finally, our journey brings us to a letting go; we let go of the need to know and we trust the promises of God.
With every decision we make in our life, we have the opportunity to humble ourselves and to trust in God or to worship the idol of our own knowledge and power. Do we accept God’s plan like Elizabeth did (“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit”) or do we insist on our own plan? Elizabeth waits patiently, or not, but either way, she accepted her reality. She was a waiting woman and with humility, she accepts what God is bringing into her life.
So beautifully expressed in Genesis, we are made from the earth. To be humble (humus) is to be down to earth. In the garden, Adam and Eve were asked not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but oh, how they (we) desire to be in control, to have all knowledge, to be like God.
It is through humility that we realize we can do anything in any situation, but not have to do everything in every situation. I am not my own God. I do not live by my own power but by God’s. It is through humility that I give up my own power. This fear of God, that both Mary and Zechariah experienced, reminds us of who we are, that we are not God. This does not mean we need to criticize ourselves; no one is born perfect. Humility requires us to say “What is the will of God for me?”
Spending time in sacred reading, listening with the ear of the heart, makes everything new. Listening with the ear of the heart is the essence of the Rule—“we should strive…to become listening people, listening to the word of God spoken to us throughout Jesus Christ who is still alive in our hearts.” Listen to this new podcast from Fr. Mauritius Wilde.