Ignatian Contemplation: The Scribes and the Widow
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 whatever you desire most in this prayer time. If you are not sure what to ask for, you might ask for the grace to know Jesus more intimately, to love him more intensely, and to follow him more closely.
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.
As he taught, Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’
Jesus shows us two different images today. Can you see the first one, the scribes in their special attire -- greeted with respect, given the best seats?
Take a few moments to picture them -- either the scribes of the past or religious (or other) leaders today. In what contexts do you see them -- in their profession, in their social lives, at prayer?
What do they look like? Pay attention to how they act -- how they interact others, what they are like when they are alone.
What about these leaders do you identify with?
Can you picture yourself spending time with them?
What about them makes you uncomfortable, if anything?
Let those images fade away, and find yourself sitting with Jesus in the Temple. Take a moment to use your senses of sight, hearing, touch, and feeling to imagine yourself there.
Watch as people come forward to give to the treasury. Generous wealthy people give large sums; perhaps people of more moderate means are contributing as well.
And the widow who approaches with her two coins. What is she like? How does she interact with others? Do you interact with her, or hang back?
What about this widow do you identify with? Can you picture yourself spending time with her?
What about her makes you uncomfortable, if anything?
Bring everything you’ve experienced and reflected on to a conversation with Jesus. Share with him what is in your heart, as with a friend, and listen to his 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?
The Family by Chad Crouch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 Unported License