Gospel Contemplation: Follow Me
Gospel Contemplation is a way of praying that St. Ignatius proposes quite frequently in his Spiritual Exercises. You are invited to use your imagination to enter the scene, to take part, to let the scene unfold. As Ignatius suggests, notice the people, listen to them, watch what they do [SE, 106, 107, 108]. Perhaps you may sense an invitation to be one of the individuals in the scene and engage in a conversation with one of them. You can do this on your own, or use the text below as a guide.
If this way of praying is new – simply relax and try to become engaged in the scene. Try not to worry about what you are “supposed to” be doing. If you find yourself distracted during your prayer, very gently bring yourself back to the scripture text or your imaginative contemplation.
If at any point during the guided contemplation your imagination comes to life in such a way that God invites to you stay with a particular moment, follow the invitation that you sense, rather than move on to where the written contemplation is going. In that case you might want to stop reading and continue on your own.
Quiet your body and mind
- Choose a position where you can be relaxed but alert.
- Breathe deeply several times and let your body relax
- Breathe out any worries or stressful thoughts and put them in God’s hands
- Become aware of God’s presence here with you now, looking at you with love.
Ask for a grace
- Ask God for the grace to follow Jesus.
Read the scripture passage
Read the passage slowly, savoring the words and beginning to imagine the scene. Read it twice if that helps you to visualize it.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
The Sea of Galilee, or Lake Tiberias, sits in the northeast of the Holy Land, in the Jordan Rift Valley. It is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. Can you picture it? It doesn’t have to be geographically or historically accurate – just imagine a very large lake. And imagine its shoreline – there are many people there, men, women, and children. Bringing in the catch of the day, mending nets, selling fish, playing, running errands. Can you see them all? What are they like as they go about their day?
What kind of day is it? Notice the sun or the clouds, the breeze or the still air. Place yourself there and feel the humidity coming off the water, see the birds circling overhead, notice the smell of fish in the air, the sound of children’s laughter, voices raised trying to sell fish. Take a moment to really feel yourself there.
See a man, walking along the shoreline. It’s Jesus, who has begun his ministry by picking up John’s refrain, “…the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Picture him in your mind this way, walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, sharing the good news, inviting people to repent and believe.
See him interacting with the people he meets, and their varied reactions to him.
As Jesus approaches Simon and Andrew, where are you? Draw near so that you can hear their conversation.
Listen as Jesus invites them to follow him. Notice how they react -- do they say anything to him? How does their interaction affect you?
Follow along as Jesus encounters James and John. Again, observe the interaction. What happens? How does it affect you?
Does Jesus say anything to you? Or what happens now? Let the moment unfold.
Before you close your prayer, spend a few moments in conversation, either with Jesus, or with Simon, Andrew, James, or John, sharing your thoughts and feelings about what happened and listening to what they have to say in response.
And when you are ready, close with a favorite prayer.
Review of Prayer
St. Ignatius recommends that we review our prayer. A written review has many advantages. It enables us to look back on our prayer experience, and to notice what happened. It allows us to be fully present to our experience of prayer. We do not write while we are praying. The review of prayer enables us not to judge ourselves or look for how well we are doing. It helps us to become more sensitive to how God is speaking to us in the here and now. It is also a precious record of our journey with God, which nourishes wholeness and integration.
Some questions to assist with your review:
What happened in your prayer?
What feelings did you experience?
During the prayer period, when did you feel encouraged?
When did you feel discouraged?
Did you receive the grace you asked for?
What did you receive?