Gospel Contemplation: Parable of the Sower
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
In the preceding chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus encounters both acceptance and resistance to his message. Many are healed and crowds follow him. At the same time, he encounters unrepentant towns and scribes and pharisees who reject his message and at times openly oppose him. In chapter 13, Matthew presents a series to parables exploring this mixed reception.
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 whatever it is you need right now. If you can't think of anything, you might ask for the grace to accept and respond to God's word.
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.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
It is a hot summer day and the heat of the house where he is staying is too much for Jesus. He leaves the house to go and sit by the sea of Galilee, where there is a breeze. You find him sitting there. Imagine this moment in all its details. The sea, glinting with the sun. The breeze off the water. The sand, warm under your feet. The birds calling. Fishermen nearby tending their boats.
What is Jesus like as he sits by the sea?
How do you feel as you approach him?
How does he greet you?
Spend a few moments with Jesus, sitting by the sea.
Slowly, a crowd draws around as people begin to recognize Jesus and point him out to others. He is moved to speak to them, and finds a boat to take him out a little ways. Do you go with him in the boat or stay on the shore with the crowd?
As you listen to his parable about the sower sowing seed on various types of land, what images come to your mind and heart? How do you feel?
In what way has the seed, the word of God, fallen on your path, your rocky ground, your thorns, your rich soil? What images or memories come to your mind and heart?
What desires are stirred in you as Jesus speaks?
What might it mean for you that the sower continues to sow on all of these types of ground?
Imagine that Jesus has returned to the shore, and once again you are sitting with him, just the two of you by the sea.
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?