Gospel Contemplation: With Jesus in the Wilderness
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’ help in dealing with temptation.
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.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
When you imagine Jesus while listening to the Gospel, what does he look like?
What is his height in relation to yours?
What colors predominate in his skin, his hair, his eyes?
Notice what he is wearing – could be more ancient-style clothing or even something contemporary.
Take a moment to really see him in your imagination, in as much detail as is helpful for you.
Jesus has been compelled by the Spirit into the wilderness and has asked you to accompany him there. See yourself with Jesus, somewhere in the wilderness.
Where are you?
What kind of wilderness is it?
What are your surroundings like; what can you see, hear, smell?
What are the two of you doing?
Take a moment to really be there in the wilderness with Jesus. Notice how being there with him affects you.
In the wilderness, Jesus is tempted by Satan. The other gospels tell us this temptation had to do with relying on himself rather than on God.
In the wilderness, do you also experience temptation, this one or something else?
How does Jesus offer to help you with this?
Jesus says to you, “‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’” How do you respond to Jesus?
Jesus invites you to remain in the wilderness with him for the next 40 days. There will be temptation and difficulty, but also moments of grace when you are waited upon by angels.
How do you respond to his invitation?
Let your prayer continue with your imagination. Before you close your prayer, spend a few moments talking with Jesus, sharing your thoughts and feelings about what happened and listening 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?