Gospel Contemplation: What Are You Looking For?
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 to know and express to God what you are looking for.
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.
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.
This Gospel passage starts with John the Baptist standing with two of his disciples. The context from the text previous to this one says that this took place where John was baptizing. Can you see them in your imagination, standing near the river?
Can you see the river, hear it flowing by?
Take some time to take in the surroundings, the countryside, the birds, the sunshine or clouds, the heat of the day.
John stands by the river with two disciples. Perhaps you are one of them. The other might be Andrew, as the text says, or it might be one of your friends. Why are you standing together – what are you doing?
You notice that John’s cousin Jesus, who John baptized the other day, is coming toward you. Notice everything you can about him – what he’s wearing, how tall he is, the expression on his face. It doesn’t need to be historically accurate at all. What does he look like as he approaches you?
You hear John say, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” What do you make of this? What thoughts and feelings arise in you?
You and the other disciple go after Jesus. He turns and asks you, “what are you looking for?” How do you respond to this question? What do you say to Jesus? Let the conversation unfold naturally.
Are you curious about Jesus and where he is from, what he is doing? He responds to your curiosity, spoken or not, by saying, “Come, and you will see.” Go with him. Where does he take you? Spend some time with him there. What do you do?
As your time together comes to a close, Jesus says something to you, affirming who you are and your mission, like he affirmed Peter as the rock. What does he say to you?
Before you close your prayer, spend a few moments in conversation, either continuing with Jesus or talking with the other disciple, 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?