Rossini: Let meditation transform your mind and heart
In my last column, I wrote about why meditation on Scripture is so important for Catholics: Christian meditation is beloved by the church because it moves us to conversion. How does it do so? And how can we be sure to let the Scriptures transform us?
Meditation on Scripture, particularly the Gospels, brings us into contact with the heart of God. “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God’. ‘In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 104).
Scripture has often been called “God’s love letter to humanity.” When we read the Gospel, it is as if we were there when Jesus walked the earth. Indeed, some methods of meditating on Scripture would have us imagine ourselves in the scene, interacting with Christ and his disciples. Scripture is not just words; it is primarily the Word. “For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body” (CCC, no. 103).
Meditation on Scripture is comparable to the Liturgy of the Word at Mass. We “listen” to God speak through the text, then we compose a personal homily, exhorting ourselves to put into practice what we have read. This process prepares our hearts to be open to God’s grace in the sacraments. We receive a fuller measure of the help God offers us in the Eucharist. Sacramental grace, in turn, enables us to continue growing in prayer.
We can choose to be open to grace or to close our hearts to it. The more time we spend meditating on Scripture, the more opportunities we have to be convicted of sin and encouraged in virtue. After prayer, we are to take this openness to the Holy Spirit into the rest of our day. If we have made resolutions, we need to put them into practice, in order that they may bear fruit. Our openness to God throughout the day, just like our openness to the Eucharist, reinforces the lessons of our meditation.
In contrast, lack of openness to God outside of prayer hinders the Holy Spirit from changing our hearts through prayer. As Catholics, our most basic level of openness to God is found in obedience to the teachings of the church. Rejecting Catholic doctrine is a way of telling the Holy Spirit, “I don’t really want to be changed. I want to decide what is true and good.” Then when we go to prayer, God’s voice seems fainter, less relevant. Our meditation may become more academic and less of an examination of conscience. It may seem empty, boring.
Advancing in intimacy with Christ requires a willingness to put away our own worldview and take up God’s perspective. Openness to the Holy Spirit speaking through the church, in the Scriptures we meditate upon, in the sacraments and in our daily lives all reinforce each other. They become one movement away from selfishness towards God. They become transformative.
Meditation transforms us when it leads us to embrace God in all the ways he reaches out to us. In prayer, let us “hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:28).
Connie Rossini is a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha. She is co-author of “The Contemplative Rosary” released by EWTN Publishing and author of four other books on Catholic spirituality.