In my last post, I dedicated the blog to “Jesus and His Shepherds” presenting them with a “Valentine card” through the internet.
Now it’s our turn to be the receiver!
And Jesus the giver! Why not?
It’s still the month of February dedicated to “lovers” and surely Jesus is the “lover of our souls.” Honestly, who wouldn’t want to receive “letters of love” from Jesus? Well, He did write them by the power of the Holy Spirit and they are contained and bound in a beautiful book entitled, the Bible. Sure these “letters of love” can be heard every Sunday or at weekday Masses. You can even pull up scripture on the internet as fast as your fingertips will fly, but there is something to be said about holding the Bible in your hands and reading from those beautiful gilded pages of love.
In this posting, I would like to share with you two beautiful examples of how Jesus spoke to two souls calling them forth to read His Word.
One is St. Augustine, a Great Doctor of the Catholic Church and the other is Gabrielle Bossis, a French woman who recorded her daily conversations with Jesus in the book, He and I.
Many of us have heard the stories of St. Augustine’s conversion experience and how his dear mother St. Monica prayed for her son vehemently. We may have heard, too, the phrase “Tolle Lege.”
“Tolle Lege” was addressed to St. Augustine calling him forth to “take and read.” Weeping in a flood of tears, St. Augustine had called out to Jesus asking, “How long, Lord; wilt Thou be angry forever? Remember not our former iniquities.”
As quoted below from St. Augustine’s book, Confessions, he shares with us his own personal experience of “Tolle Lege:”
Such things I said, weeping in the most bitter sorrow of my heart. And suddenly I heard a voice from a nearby house, a boy’s voice or a girl’s voice, I do not know: but it was sort of sing-song, repeated again and again, “Take and read, take and read.” I ceased weeping and immediately began to search my mind most carefully as to whether children were accustomed to chant these words in any kind of game, and I could not remember that I had ever heard any such thing.
Damming back the flood of my tears I arose, interpreting the incident as quite certainly a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the passage at which I should open. For it was part of what I had been told about Anthony, that from the Gospel which he happened upon, he had felt that he was being admonished, as though what was being read was being spoken directly to himself: Go, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me. By this experience he had in that instant converted to You.
So I was moved to return to the place where Alypius was sitting, for I had put down the Apostle’s book [the Bible] there when I arose. I snatched it up, opened it and in silence read the passage upon which my eyes first fell.
Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its concupiscences. [Romans 13:13-14]
I had no wish to read further, and no need. For in that instant, with the very ending of the sentence, it was as though a light of utter confidence shone in all my heart, and all the darkness of uncertainty vanished away.
Book Eight – Chap. 12 (28-29)
St. Augustine certainly expresses his emotions as to how he felt once he opened up scripture and heard Jesus speak directly to his soul. His last sentence certainly needs repeating once again here: “I had no wish to read further, and no need. For in that instant, with the very ending of the sentence, it was as though a light of utter confidence shone in all my heart, and all the darkness of uncertainty vanished away. “
Now I can think only of another “love letter” from Hebrews: 4:12 that seems to apply to what we just read about St. Augustine’s experience.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow,
and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Let us now share in another experience of a “love letter“ given to Gabrielle Bossis on May 11, 1948.
Jesus speaks these words to Gabrielle:
Look at Me in My gospels. There you will find My history, My life-story. You follow Me; you see Me comfort, heal, suffer, obey My Father for all of you. There you see Me denying Myself, keeping silence and speaking; seeking solitude, followed by the crowds; teaching, contradicted. Full of courage in defending truth, in rebuking the mighty, in taking the part of the little ones. Filled with compassion for the humble, the repentant, the oppressed. Thinking only of My people, not of Me; for you and against Myself. . .
Oh, little flock of My most faithful friends, come to meet Me every day in a passage of the gospels. Look for My heart there and give Me yours.
Once receiving this instruction from her beloved Jesus, Gabrielle no doubt went to the Gospels to “take and read.” The scripture below is quoted on the first page of her book, He and I and certainly speaks to my own heart of what she experienced in reading “His life-story.”
“Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of Hosts.”
I hope these two sharings of St. Augustine and Gabrielle Bossis have touched your hearts and spoken directly to you as a “letter of love“ from Jesus as well.
We are soon to embark on our journey through Lent. Maybe one of our “signposts“ for that path will be to take up scripture along the way, to take and read. Maybe in a totally different way than we have ever traveled on our Lenten journeys before. To take and read slowly and with attention, to avoid any hurry or to see it as a dead script written long, long ago.
St. John Chrysostom in a Homily on the Gospel of Matthew quotes the following so beautifully:
We are on the point of entering (if God permits it) a city of gold, and more precious than any gold. Let us mark her foundations, and her gates of sapphire and pearl – for we have an excellent guide in Matthew. His is the gate through which we shall now enter, and we need to be very diligent. For if he sees anyone not paying attention, he throws him out of the city.
Yes, for the city is most royal and glorious – not like the cities among us where there’s a marketplace and royal courts, for there everything is the court of the King. So let us open the gates of our mind. Let us open our ears, and – with great trembling – as we are about to set foot on the threshold, let us worship the King who is in it.
I believe the above homily by St. John Chrysostom can be adapted to any of the gospels written by the other evangelists and to think of Luke, Mark and John as “excellent guides” and “gates” that we shall enter through. Yes, let us open our ears and listen for the words, the “lettered love” that Jesus has for each one of us personally.
Let us open the gates of our minds and set foot on the
Threshold of the Court of the King!
Enjoy “Hillsong Worship’s” Video on “Lettered Love”
©2019 Anita Guariglia
Scripture quotes from The Didache Bible
(with commentaries based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Quote from St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew/from a “Year with the Church Fathers” by Mike Aquilina
Gates, Sword and Featured images/pexels.com
Rose and Bible image/Anita Guariglia
Youtube: Hillsong Worship “Lettered Love”