Gospel Contemplation: Jesus Appears to the Disciples
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 desire most right now. If you’re not sure what to ask for, you might ask for the grace of faith in resurrection.
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 two disciples told what had happened on the road, and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’
How are you beginning to imagine this scene? Can you see the room where the disciples are when the two who had gone to Emmaus return, breathless, with their story of recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread? What is it like – large or small? Open or closed? How are the disciples gathered? Find yourself there among them, noticing all that you see, hear, feel, and touch – and listening to the two who have returned from Emmaus.
How does their story affect you?
While you are listening, you realize that someone new is in the room too. This person appears to be Jesus and he says, “Peace be with you.” How do you receive this greeting of peace?
He asks why you are frightened, why do doubts arise? Reflect for a moment on your own answers to these questions.
Jesus continues, showing you his hands and feet, eating fish, and then explaining how his own life, death, and resurrection are the fulfilment of God’s promises to his people.
Is there anything that holds you back from accepting his actions and words, his offer of joy in the resurrection?
As he finishes speaking, telling you that you are a witness to the fulfilment of God’s promise – how do you respond to Jesus? With words, a gesture, some action?
Now spend a few moments with Jesus or with one of the other disciples. Talk about what you have imagined, felt, and thought about in this prayer, and listen to the 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?
Music for Manatees by Kevin MacLeod