Gospel Contemplation: Jesus Heals A Leper
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 of Jesus’ healing.
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.
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
The scripture passage gives us no context for this passage, other that in the preceding passage Jesus was going into synagogues throughout Galilee, preaching and driving out demons. It’s unlikely that someone with a skin disease would have been allowed to enter a synagogue – so, where do you imagine this scene might take place?
Is it indoors or outdoors?
What does the place look like?
Are there lots of people, or is it deserted?
What can you see? What can you hear? What scents are in the air?
Where is Jesus and where are you? You might decide to be the person with leprosy, or to be a disciple of Jesus.
Either way, take a moment to really feel yourself there.
The person with leprosy approaches Jesus. Anyone with a skin condition like this would have been outcast in society at the time. What might it be like to be this person?
What in your own life leaves you feeling outcast?
“If you choose, you can make me clean.” What an expression of faith! Can you express such a thing to Jesus?
Jesus is moved. He stretches forth his hand to heal. What is it like for you to see this, to experience this? Notice your thoughts and your feelings.
After the healing, what do you do? How do you respond to Jesus? Who do you want to share this good news with?
Let your prayer continue with your imagination. Before you close your prayer, spend a few moments in conversation, either with Jesus, or the person with leprosy or with one of the disciples, 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?