Reading 1: Acts 4:32-37
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5
Gospel: John 3:7b-15

Have you ever held a conversation that you were so wrapped up in it lasted throughout the night? That moment of disbelief when you realize it’s 6:00 AM, is probably similar to what Nicodemus will soon feel in today’s gospel reading. Jesus and him have been conversing throughout the night and the entirety of chapter 3 in John’s gospel. Nicodemus is nothing short of entranced with what Jesus has to say.

Nicodemus is “a Pharisee…a ruler of the Jews” (Jn 3:1), a member of the Sanhedrin (Jn 7:50), which requires him to be very learned man. After all, the Pharisees were proud scholars and historians, who emphasized the study of law and the importance of debate. As a theology major, I identify with Nicodemus. I want to know what Jesus has to say! And I cannot help but be slightly envious that Nicodemus, not I, has the opportunity to speak with Jesus. The rest of us must pray in order to converse with God. The “P” word…prayer.

During this season of Lent, myself and four men made several resolutions and resolved to hold each other accountable. We held weekly meetings to discuss our progress or hiccups. Each week one or more of us brought forth the same downfall – an inability to set aside 20 minutes a day for silence and prayer. Part of this failure can be attributed to a lack of discipline to designate time during a busy schedule. But, I also found prayer difficult, strange, and unhelpful. As a theology major, I thought this horribly ironic. I spend my time studying God! Even so, I was unable to spend time in His presence. It was only during Holy Week, that I made a fantastic discovery. His name was Guigo.

Guigo was a Carthusian monk living  in the 12th Century France, who elaborated on the rules of St. Benedict. In particular, he expounded upon Lectio Divina, or the practice of reflecting on the ‘Divine Readings’. He lays out the four steps of progression for the soul: lectio, medatatio, oratio, contemplatio. In English these steps translate as reading, meditating, prayer, contemplation. Immediately, I noticed that prayer was the third step. No wonder I could not pray! I was trying to climb a ladder by reaching for the third rung.

As Guigo summarizes: reading is a careful study of [Sacred]  Scripture, with the soul’s [whole] attention. Meditation is the studious action of the mind to investigate hidden truth, led by one’s own reason. Prayer is the heart’s devoted attending to God, so that evil may be removed and good may be obtained. Contemplation is the mind suspended – somehow elevated above itself – in God so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness. In essence:

Reading seeks God
Meditation finds Him
Prayer asks and
Contemplation ‘tastes’.

It was through this practice of Lectio Divina, that I was able to rediscover prayer as a beautiful dialogue with God instead of a tedious and unfruitful pursuit. Besides, if prayer can be defined as a dialogue with God, I made it a one-sided conversation by skipping the first two rungs where He speaks to us, and tried to concentrate exclusively on the third: prayer. And, lastly, I no longer feel envious of Nicodemus for being able to speak with God because I have His Word and can experience it whenever I open my Bible. In this way, I believe Ludwig Wittgenstein was right, “you can’t hear God speak to someone else, you can hear him only when you are being addressed.”

2 thoughts on “The “P” Word…

    1. Right! A book about prayer and contemplation was given to me to read, called “Armchair Mystic”, by Mark Thibodeaux, S.J. So far, it has been very good, and helpful in understanding prayer.

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