Gospel Meditation: The Words of Eternal Life
I offer a guided Ignatian meditation on today's Gospel. This is an invitation to let the scripture enter into your heart and mind and speak personally to you. Ignatius said that meditation specifically engages our memory, thoughts, and will. We hear the word of God, and we ponder it, noticing any words, images, or ideas that speak to our hearts. And we speak to God about all of this.
If this way of praying is new – simply relax and try to become engaged in the text. 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.
If at any point during the guided meditation the scripture 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 meditation is going. In that case you might want to stop reading and continue on your own.
Background to the Text
The beginning of this week’s gospel passage have Jesus’ own disciples complaining that a particular teaching is difficult. The teaching the passage refers to is Jesus’ words about the bread of life, which we heard earlier this month, and especially the words just before this week’s reading. Last week, we did not hear those words because we celebrated the Assumption instead. The words that Jesus spoke included, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
This is the teaching the disciples find difficult this week.
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 to know Jesus more intimately, to love him more intensely, and to follow him more closely.
Read the scripture passage
Read the passage slowly twice, savoring the words. The first time, just listen to get a sense of it, to hear what is being said. The second time, notice any word or phrase, image, or idea that speaks to your heart or “shimmers” for you. Stay with that word, image, or idea and ponder its meaning. Notice how it makes you feel. Savor the experience.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’
As you listened to this passage, is there a word or phrase that called your attention in some way? Or an idea or image that surfaced through the passage? Stay with that word, phrase, idea or image for the next few minutes of silence. Ponder its meaning, savor it, and notice what feelings come up.
Jesus tells the disciples that their natural way of knowing and moving through the world -- through their “flesh” -- is useless. That the “spirit” gives life through Jesus’ own words, including his assurance that he himself is sustenance for his followers. How does this teaching sit with you -- in your heart and in your mind?
Simon Peter and the twelve choose to stay with Jesus. But Jesus has already told them that it is the Father who has chosen them first. What is it like for you to know that God has chosen you?
Now bring everything you’ve meditated on to a conversation with Jesus. Share what you’ve pondered and felt, as you would when talking with a friend – and listen for a response.
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?