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Lectio Divina - 4th Sunday of Lent


Conversion on the way to Damascus

By: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio 1601

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was orphaned at age 11 and apprenticed with a painter in Milan. At age 21 he moved to Rome, where he received his first public commissions which were so compelling and so innovative that he became a celebrity almost overnight.

 

Caravaggio's reputation soared, influencing generations of artists. His "Conversion on the Way to Damascus" depicts the moment Saul, experiences a divine revelation, becoming the apostle Paul. Stripped of distractions, the scene focuses on Paul's ecstatic moment, symbolised by his dramatic pose and celestial illumination.

 

The presence of Paul's former identity, embodied in his sword and cloak, contrasts with his spiritual rebirth. Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro and tenebrism enhances the emotional intensity of the scene.

Lectio

Ephesians 2:4-10

Jerusalem Bible

 

4 But God, being rich in faithful love, through the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our sins, brought us to life with Christ -- it is through grace that you have been saved – 6 and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus. 7 This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.

 

Meditatio

In his letter, St. Paul calls on all Christians to use their divine gifts and spiritual resources to increase their faith, to perfect their behaviour as those who profess belief in Jesus as their exalted Lord, and to live as true disciples of Jesus Christ, the Risen Saviour.

 

The first part of the letter to the Ephesians (Chapters 1-3) begins with the praise of God the Father who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. The description of the personal blessings of believers is followed by an exposition of their common blessings.

 

The second part (Chapters 4-6) still contain many important teachings; however, practical exhortations form the main subject. Paul speaks first of maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the Assembly, according to the mind of God, then of the different gifts necessary for the edification of the one body of Christ.

 

Ephesians Chapter 2 - Salvation in Christ a Free Gift

 

In a few words (vv.1-3) depict our tragic condition of yesteryear. We walked according to the world, according to its prince, and according to our sinful lusts. But God intervened, his great love rose above such misery.

 

Paul presents God acting from His own nature, towards the object of his grace (us). We were, he said, dead in our trespasses and in our sins; God comes, in his love, to deliver us by his power. He brings us to life, and not only that, he brings us to life together with Christ. Christ was raised from the dead[1], and when it comes to us we are told that all the energy by which Christ came out of death, also works for our coming to life – and not only that, by being brought to life, we are associated with Him. He comes out of death and we come out with Him. God shares this life with us, it is pure grace. By the power of life, in resurrection we are brought to a place of light and favour of God, as a new creation.

 

 

[1] Eph 1:20: …great is the power he has exercised in raising him from the dead and enthroning him at his right hand, in heaven.

 

It is enough to meditate a little on these wonderful things to realise with certainty that none of them was accomplished according to our needs, but according to the thoughts, the heart and the purpose of God. Therefore, when all comes to pass in the ages to come, the wonderful kindness shown to us in Christ Jesus will manifest the immense riches of God’s grace. God is indeed the God of all grace.

 

What He did toward Israel, ultimately blessing them despite all their unfaithfulness, was to the praise of His grace. When we think about what and where we were according to verses 1-3, and we contemplate the hights to which we are exalted according to verses 4 to 6, we see that what He has done towards us shows a wealth of grace that surpasses anything seen in Israel or elsewhere.

 

Paul insists our salvation is by grace, he states it in verse 5. In verse 8 he expands on this important fact and adds that it is also by faith. Grace comes from God; faith comes from us. However, even faith does not come from ourselves. Faith is not of the natural product of the human heart. The weeds that naturally grow in the heart of man are detailed in Romans 3:9-19. Faith is not a weed at all, but a choice flower which, once planted by the Heavenly Father, can never be uprooted. It is the gift of God.

 

And notice that we are created in Christ, as a new creation, we were in Adam, according to the old creation. As a new creation, we walk in good works in the midst of this sinful world. This is God’s work in us, and it cannot be separated from God’s work done for us through the blood and cross of Christ.

 

In the verses that follow (vv.11-22), we are commanded to remember three things: the depth from which we were taken, the hights to which we were brought and the foundation from which this mighty transfer was accomplished: the death of Christ.

 

Oratio

 

Divine Creator, In the stillness of this sacred moment, we open our hearts to your presence, recognising your boundless love and grace that flows through every fibre of our being. As we reflect on these words, we’re reminded of the profound truth of our spiritual journey.

 

Lord, we come before you humbly, acknowledging our past struggles and the depths of our imperfections. You have lifted us from the darkness of our own making, breathing life into our souls and granting us the gift of salvation. You have broken down the barriers that once separated us, uniting us in your love and peace.

 

We stand in awe of your boundless mercy, for it is by your grace alone that we are saved. Help us to fully grasp the magnitude of your sacrifice, and let it transform our hearts and minds. May we walk in the path of righteousness, empowered by the Spirit dwelling within us.

 

Grant us the wisdom to understand the richness of your love, which surpasses all understanding. May we be rooted and grounded in your truth, growing together as one body in Christ. Strengthen our faith, Lord, that we may be beacons of light in a world shrouded in darkness.

 

Guide us in our journey of discipleship, that we may live out your purpose for our lives. Fill us with compassion for our sisters and brothers, that we may extend the same grace and love that you have shown us.

 

Help us to build bridges of reconciliation, tearing down walls of division and embracing the diversity of your creation. Renew our spirits, O Lord, and let your presence dwell within us now and forevermore. Amen.

 

Contempatio

 

1.  "Grace has the ability to transform the darkest of hearts into vessels of light, for where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more." - St. Augustine

 

2.  "We are not called to be islands unto ourselves, but rather, we are called to be united in the mystical body of Christ, where diversity is embraced and unity is achieved through His love." - Pope Francis

 

3. "In Christ, there is no 'us' and 'them', for He has broken down the dividing wall of hostility and made us one family, united in His love."

- St. John Paul II

4.   "The measure of our love for God can be seen in the love we have for our neighbour, for in loving others, we reflect the love of Christ who reconciled us to Himself." - St. Teresa of Calcutta

 

5.   "Let us never underestimate the power of prayer to bring about reconciliation and unity, for when we pray, we invite God to work in and through us, bringing His kingdom to earth." - Pope Benedict XVI

 

6. Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.' – St. Teresa of Avila

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