My spiritual director recommended I pray lectio divina with Luke's Gospel at the beginning of the year. I told him about my tendency to read scripture and not pray with it, as well as my anxiety about all the ways I could be praying but was failing. I think it was his way of saying, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things, but there is only need of one thing."
Anyways, what a year it's been.
I spent A LOT of time on the first few chapters- Elizabeth stands out to me as the most relatable woman in all of the New Testament. I've loved her exclamation to Mary for many years-- "Blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled." (To which Maria responded with the Magnificat!) But this year I prayed with how she herself was receptive to Our Lord. She was old and barren and longed for a baby for years and years, and when she conceived, she said "So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before men." At that moment, she realized that time has and always will be in God's hands. He had a plan for her, and even though it looked crazy or shameful/disgraceful to the world, for her, it was perfect. And John, the forerunner of the Lord, came into being, in time, by her cooperation with God's will.
In a discipleship group that I lead, we had a discussion last week about Natural Family Planning. I can't imagine it because I have no experience of marriage, but some of the women in that group seem to be rethinking what it means to have God in control of their fertility. Several women were unaware that there ought to be a grave reason to postpone pregnancy (come on, NFP instructors!). The result: they have essentially used NFP as "Catholic Birth Control" for years... some over a decade. The idea of having a baby now, when their children are in high school, is terrifying. One woman in the group mentioned that, a few years ago, she and her husband realized that they might be using NFP in a way that was gravely sinful, and decided to be more intentional about their discernment. Now their teenagers have a 3 year old brother, and a baby saint in Heaven to pray for their family. She said that when they found out they were pregnant this past summer, she was scared. She thought about their retirement savings, their kids who would be in college soon, etc., but a few days after the shock wore off, she was so excited. When they lost the baby, she would have given anything to still be pregnant. I AM IN AWE of her witness and openness to life, and her willingness to give up control of how she thinks her life should go.
One of my friends who has 5 children said that giving God control of her fertility has been one of the hardest parts of the Christian life for her.
These women amaze me in the same way that Saint Elizabeth amazes me. Complete trust in God's providence, his timing, and his will.
Later on in the year, I spent time in the parables, trying to glean some wisdom- none of which is coming to mind at the moment.
A few other highlights:
I love the way Jesus loves 3 people in particular: Peter, John the Beloved, and Dismas, the Good Thief. I think I could spend the rest of my life praying about this and never be finished.
One of my favorite Bible verses is in Luke 19. Jesus is coming into Jerusalem and the people are laying out cloaks for his ass to walk on and saying "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord." The pharisees aren't loving it and tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples. Jesus says "If they keep silent, the rocks will cry out."
I finished Luke at the end of October and I'm now in Acts 4(ish.... I keep going back because I haven't gotten everything I need from Luke 3 yet, I think.) I LOVE how bold Peter is in proclaiming the Gospel. "How can we but speak of what we have seen and heard?" Basically Peter is thinking, if I don't proclaim Jesus, these rocks are going to do it for me!
What have you been praying with this year?
St. Elizabeth, pray for us!