Gospel Contemplation: Jesus Cleanses the Temple
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 right now. If you’re not sure what to ask for, you might ask for the grace to really be present to Jesus in this moment.
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.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
Start your contemplation by imagining the scene. Jesus has gone up to the temple in Jerusalem. What does the temple and its surroundings look like? It doesn’t have to be historically accurate, though scholars suggest that the vendors and money-changers would have been in an outer courtyard. So what does it look like, in your imagination?
What are the buildings like?
Are there many people there?
How are they dressed?
What are they doing?
Imagine yourself there.
What kind of day is it?
What do you see?
What do you hear?
What can you smell?
Take a moment to soak in everything.
You are there with Jesus, and you notice that he is becoming perturbed. And suddenly the outburst starts. He is yelling and overturning tables, and he’s got a whip. Witnessing this scene, what do you do? How do you feel as everything unfolds?
How do you respond to Jesus’ anger? Does it frighten you? Or encourage you? Does it connect with any of your own anger at injustice or wrongdoing?
As he calms down, listen as Jesus talks about the destruction of the temple and raising again in three days, predicting his own death and resurrection. As he claims his own authority and justifies his right to act as he did, what does this tell you about who Jesus is?
Jesus walks away from the conversation and comes over to you. Spend a few moments with him. Talk with him about what just happened, and your own reaction to it all. Share with him your own experience of anger. Listen to what he has 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?