Gospel Contemplation: Do Not Be Afraid
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.
Background to the text
Today’s reading comes from part of the instructions and advice that Jesus gives the Twelve apostles before sending them on mission to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6). Jesus has been moved with compassion by the troubled and abandoned crowds and realizes that that he must send laborers to tend to the harvest.
Hear Jesus’ words today spoken to you personally – but not only to you individually. Jesus speaks to the Twelve as a unified group, a community. He sends them out two-by-two, never alone. No one follows Christ in a vacuum – we are called to proclaim the Kingdom of God as a Christian community, as Church. Hear his words to you today in that context – spoken to you-in-community, sending you-in-community to proclaim the Good News.
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 not be afraid to proclaim what you have heard Jesus say.
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.
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
Imagine the scene: Jesus has called the Twelve together to give them their mission, to commission them. You are one of the Twelve – and the others are other followers of Christ in your life. They could be friends, family, fellow parishioners, or people of faith that you admire but haven’t met, living or dead. They are your community, your missionary community. If you can’t think of twelve, or you have a few more, don’t worry about it. The important thing is to imagine a small gathering of people who share your faith in the Lord, gathered to be commissioned by him. Who is there with you? Look around and see each one.
Take a moment to also imagine the setting where Jesus has gathered you. It can be anywhere you like, a real location or imagined, present-day or biblical times. Use your five sense to see and hear and feel and smell and taste this place.
As you hear Jesus encourage and instruct you to openly proclaim the Good News, without fear of anyone or what might be done to you. What part of the Good News – for the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, freedom from oppression, the Lord’s favor (Lk 4:18-19)-- are you most drawn to proclaim as part of the Christian community?
Alternatively, what part of Jesus’ message do you fear sharing publicly?
Do you know why you are drawn to the parts you are drawn to, and fearful of the parts you are fearful of? Ask Jesus to show you.
Jesus assures you that you are valuable in God’s sight, worth much more than the sparrows, who God also sees and values. What do you feel when you hear this, in the context of Jesus’ admonition to fear no one?
How does it feel to hear this, along with the other members of the Christian community, sent as missionary disciples?
As Jesus pauses in his instructions for a few moments, approach him to share with him what you have felt and experienced. Talk with him as with a friend, sharing and listening. 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?