Gospel Contemplation: Just Generosity
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 openness to accept God's generosity.
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 told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
If you were a day laborer, what work would you do? Would you work in the fields, in construction, sewing, temp office work, landscaping, driver, waiter? If you are not currently in that situation, imagine that you are (or remember when you were).
What is it like for you to hope every day for a job, to make some money to support yourself and perhaps your family?
Imagine going to the place where you wait for work – a parking lot, a temp agency office, or maybe just sitting by your phone waiting for an employer to call.
Imagine a day when you are up early and ready to go, and it’s your lucky day – an employer calls, she needs someone with your skill set, and you’re off to work at 9am. Throughout the day more workers come in to help complete the work by 5 pm. It’s a long day, and you are tired at the end. You all line up to get your checks. The first ones in line are the folks who arrived later in the day, and they start celebrating because their checks are larger than usual – in fact they reflect a full day’s work. You wonder what this means for your paycheck. After you are handed your check, you take a peek inside the envelope, and it looks like you got the normal amount for 8 hours as well.
How do you respond? Is it easy or difficult to accept the employer’s generosity?
Now imagine a different day, waiting all day for an employer to call. You’ve given up – no one will need anyone this late in the day. And then, an employer calls. He needs help just to finish out the day. What is it like to get that call and go to do the work? The day ends, not too long after you arrive. And much to your surprise, the employer pays you for a full eight hours, even though you worked only one.
How do you respond? Is it easy or difficult to accept his generosity?
Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like the employer who is surprisingly generous – and like the workers who do not earn God’s generosity but receive it freely.
Pay attention to what feelings Jesus’s parable and your imaginative exercise prompt in you. What does it mean, that you feel the way you do?
Talk with Jesus about all of this, sharing your thoughts and feelings with him. And listen to what he has to say in response, remembering that he wants to be generous with you. 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?