Gospel Contemplation: Jesus’ Authority
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 of amazement at Jesus’ authority to set souls free.
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.
Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
We begin today as Jesus and the first disciples enter the fishing village of Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and go on the sabbath to the synagogue. See this scene in your imagination, as if you are there. Imagine walking through this village, what the buildings might look like, what the streets are made of.
What sounds do you hear?
What smells waft on the air?
As you walk toward the synagogue, are others heading there as well?
What do they look like?
As you enter the synagogue, notice it what it looks like. It’s not important if you don’t know anything about a first century synagogue. Imagine a place of worship, a congregation gathered. Place yourself among them.
What do you see?
What do you hear?
Take a few moments to really feel yourself there.
Jesus is at the front, teaching. What is he teaching?
How do people react to his teaching?
How do you respond to the authority in his voice?
Suddenly, a man stands up, shouting, ““What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Watch as Jesus silences the man and drives the unclean spirit out of him.
Notice how the congregation reacts.
And what about you? How does all this affect you? What about Jesus’ teaching and actions are “new” for you?
Before you close your prayer, spend a few moments in conversation, either with Jesus, or with one of the disciples, or with a member of the congregation, 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?