Gospel Contemplation: Blessed Are You
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 whatever you need most in your life right now.
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.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Imagine that you are in the crowd that surrounds Jesus. Take a few moments to see the scene. What kind of setting is it – a town, a road, a field? What can you see? What do you hear?
You go with the crowd, following Jesus up the mountain. As you go, you begin to take note of who is there – there are people you know and people you don’t. And many of them are people you’ve heard stories about, the saints. Which saints do you notice there walking with you? It doesn’t matter if they are from different time periods or if they are officially canonized or not. You might even speak with one or two of them as you go.
Do the saints that come to mind for you tell you anything about what kind of Christian you aspire to be?
On the mountain, Jesus sits to teach. You draw near and listen as he proclaims characteristics of those who are blessed. What touches you as he speaks?
The values Jesus expresses are contrary to many of our cultural values. Pay attention to the beatitudes that you are drawn to, and also to the ones that seem more challenging to you.
What desires and hopes are stirred in you as you listen to Jesus’ words?
Notice that Jesus speaks in the present tense, as well as about the future. The people he describes are blessed right now. How do you experience God’s blessing, the inbreaking of the reign of God, in your life right now?
Spend some time with Jesus (sit on the ground with him!), talking with him about how his words have affected you. Perhaps you would like to ask him for the grace of one of the beatitudes, of poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercy, a clean heart, peacemaking, persecution for righteousness sake. 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?