One way to engage in the season of lent is to immerse ourselves in the gospel stories. During lent we journey with Jesus to the cross and prepare our hearts for Easter. We do this by reading and reminiscing the stories of Jesus as he interacted with people, engaged in teachings and discussions, and performed miracles.
My most powerful experiences with the gospel narratives have happened more recently in my life through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius taught a method of meditating on the scriptures through the tool of imagination. Although the basic steps of this prayer practice are simple, I was rather skeptical and nervous to try reading the scriptures with my imagination. The idea was strange and different from my usual way of studying the scriptures. But I have been surprised several times in this practice by encountering God in very powerful and supernatural ways. So, I invite you in this season to join me in reading the gospels in a new way.
The following steps are inspired by Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises but simplified and interpreted in modern language.
- Choose and read through a story in the gospels. A list of passages for this week is provided below.
- Next, close the book and close your eyes. Now imagine that you were there as a bystander in the story you just read.
- Imagine the setting around you. Go through your senses one by one imagining what you’re experiencing around you. What do you 1. see, 2. hear, 3. smell, 4. touch and maybe even 5. taste?
- Now imagine the story happening from beginning to end with you still there. As the story plays out in your imagination continue to observe all around you. What do you see, hear, smell, touch, taste? Imagine what Jesus is saying and doing. Imagine how the people around you are responding to Jesus.
- What is your internal response to being there and seeing the events unfold before you? Let that response lead you into deeper prayer.
Readings for the First Week of Lent:
- Day 1: John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12)
- Day 2: The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17)
- Day 3: The Temptations of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13)
- Day 4: Calling the Disciples (Luke 5:1-11; Luke 5:27-31; Luke 6:12-16)
Repeat Days 1-4 as necessary or choose other gospel stories at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.