Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Sunday Readings




Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cycle C

January 23, 2021

Readings: Nehemiah 8.2-4, 5-6, 8-10; 1st Corinthians 12.12-30; Luke 1.1-4, 4.14-21


A faithful prayer practice under the influence of grace gradually  opens up the deep levels of consciousness in an abiding, loving adoration of God. 

God has created this interior mental capacity in such a way that this reaching into the depths of God is completely concordant with our deepest aspirations. There is nothing, therefore, more human than the act of prayer.

Why then do we fail often in our fidelity to prayer?  Our wounded human condition makes the journey into God almost impossible. We come to prayer with a self-serving orientation that is an obstacle to our centering into God. 

But thanks to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in the compassion of the Triune God, prayer is indeed possible and the abiding divine union is real. 

Divine compassion gives us redemption in Christ Jesus and sends the Holy Spirit who brings us into union with the Father.  The mission of Jesus-Savior is to heal us, body-soul-spirit-person.  The fruit of redemption is the gift of this capacity to live in union with God through prayer with spiritual and transcendent love—the fruit of sanctifying grace.

How do we begin to enter into this contemplative embrace of God in Christ?

We enter into the embrace of God through the Word of God.  Some say the first language of God is silence.  I don’t completely agree with that statement.  The first language of God is the Word!  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

In a sense, however, in our relationship with God, our first language has to be silence only in the sense that we may be able to receive the Word in a necessary silencing of our running imagination and intellectualizing. 

God is Word and our language of response to the Word is silence.  Silence is our discipline of obedience.  Silence is the sine qua non of inclining our ear to hear, and thus to be open and receive the Word from God.  The Word is the eternal Gift from the Father in the love of the Holy Spirit within the unity of the Godhead.  The Word in the Spirit brings us into the bosom of the Father, into the very center of the Godhead, as participants through grace.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  The Word, that is the Son, in the bosom of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God in a triune, substantive relationship, becomes one with us and speaks words that reflect Him, the eternal Word.

After all, God created us with our levels of consciousness and our powers of understanding, memory and will.  It is in these levels of consciousness that we become spiritual and become the person born of love from God. 

God created the capacity of hearing and reading words, of listening to, and re-reading, spoken and written words that convey meaning and refresh the heart.  This process of receiving data eventually forms the content of our consciousness.  It enables us to know and love through words, through hearing voices that convey meaning and reading written words.   It is the purpose of the loving Creator that through reading and hearing the Sacred Scripture in Liturgy and private devotion we thereby receive the Word into the deepest levels of our consciousness?

LECTIO DIVINA!  Lectio divina, the process of reading God’s word, has always been the method of Christian mystics and contemplatives to open up to God and to receive God in intimate levels of union. 

In John’s Gospel when the crisis of faith comes about in chapter six, Peter, the first universal pastor, speaks for the Church, in response to the words of the Incarnate Word who says that some disciples have gone away: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

“The words of eternal life” continue with us in the written words of Sacred Scripture which are handed onto us in the context of the orthodox Tradition of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. 

We read the Scripture, we hear the Scripture, and we eat and digest the Scripture.  The Scripture becomes the vehicle of transformed consciousness.  Through the words, the hearing and the speaking, the syllables and cadences of grammar, we surrender into the deepest levels of consciousness, of love beyond words, in the Holy Spirit’s gift of silence—wordless adoration.  We are reborn in love that gives us a mystical, loving knowledge so that there is no end to the depths of union that the words of Scripture open for us.

The Readings of today’s Liturgy is all about the Word spoken and written in the words of Sacred Scripture. 

In the First Reading from Nehemiah:

Standing at one end of the open that was before the water gate, he read out of the book from daybreak till midday.     And all the people listened attentively to the book of the Law.

The words of Sacred Scripture gather into God an attentive people.  Through the words of the mouth into attentive ears, then into the heart and into very core of being, a people become God’s people in that assembly.  The assembly prefigures the Church. 

Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord, their faces to the ground. 

In the Gospel of this Sunday, the Sacred Scripture comes full circle.  The words of both of Old and New Testaments come from the Word Himself, the Second Person of the Triune God.  The words of Isaiah foretell the coming of the Word made flesh, Jesus. 

The prophet’s words proclaim the work of redemption and re-creation in the Savior-Christ.  Here in this Gospel narrative, Jesus the Word proclaims the words that prophesize Him.  In that place of worship, having finished reading, Jesus says all these words are now fulfilled in Him. 

It has come full circle.  The words of the Word are on the lips of the Word Made Flesh and in His saving life they are fulfilled. 

All in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him.  Then he began by saying to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Second Reading demonstrates that the Word continues in the proclamation of Sacred Scripture in the Church. 

The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, we  were baptized into one body.  All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.

The Second Reading goes on to show that the proclamation of the word of salvation is the ministry of the Church.  The ministry of the Church is to proclaim the Word, the Son, Jesus in His words so that all may have eternal life in Him.

The purpose of these meditations is to help us to live the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in the fullness of Christ’s Church.  Our obedience at the center of our sovereign point of the spirit is one with the obedience at the heart of the Church:  we surrender to the Word both in the mystery of unknowing in silence and in the moments of our Liturgical worship gathered in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist .  It is the same Holy Spirit within us, within the Church (The Second Reading); it is the same surrender of love in the power of the Spirit to say YES in the depths of our hearts and in the assembly of the Church (The First Reading).

Jesus says in John’s Gospel:  “If you live in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  Let us receive that word from the Scriptures in our practice of Lectio Divina both in our silent contemplative life and in that contemplation shared in Liturgy with our brothers and sisters.  Then let us enter into the mystical moment of Eucharistic communion.

--William Fredrickson, (OblSB; D.Min.)



For questions, comments or other communication, please contact:
William Frederickson