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  • James Kennedy, SJ

John 21:1-19: Ignatian Contemplation



Praying with your imagination is a great way to let God speak to you. As you pray, pay attention to your feelings and emotions, such as fear, happiness, joy, hope, peace, faith, love. Read through it, and use the steps as you try this prayer the first time. If you feel like changing something, or doing it your own way that feels better, go for it. Don’t worry about “doing it right.” Follow whatever leads you closer to God, and to his healing, mercy, love, faith, and hope.


Today, we invite you to pray with the Gospel of John through an Ignatian contemplation. In chapter 21 of John’s Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and has breakfast with them on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. After sharing a meal with his disciples, Jesus, in his last post-Resurrection experience in the Gospel of John, talks with Peter and asks Peter if he loves him. Peter, fresh from denying Jesus three times, confesses his love for Jesus three times.

This story is a great passage with which to perform an Ignatian contemplation: the Risen Jesus feeds his disciples, Peter feels great guilt over his denial, and Jesus and Peter are reconciled. Like most passages from John’s Gospel, the scene has great detail and much emotional depth.


Settle into whatever position you intend to pray, whether that is sitting in a comfortable chair, kneeling, lying down, or walking. Then, take a moment to relax, paying careful attention to your breathing and posture.


Begin your prayer by asking God for the grace that you seek: search your heart and speak to God about what you want most.


Then, read through John 21:1-19 once, paying close attention to the details. Once you have read through the passage, immerse yourself fully into the story, as if you were really there:

  • This passage takes place on the far shores of the Sea of Galilee, away from bustling crowds and towns. What do you see around you? How many people are there? What are they doing? What do they look like?

  • Many stories in the Gospels take place on the shores of the sea of Galilee. What does it feel like to stand there on the shores of the sea? Is it warm or chilly? Is the air still or breezy?

  • Ignatian contemplations are meant to engage all your senses, including smell and even taste. As you enter the scene, what scents fill your nose? Do you smell the water, the sea breeze? Or do you smell the meal that Jesus has prepared for his friends and followers?

  • Lastly, we are meant to hear the word of God in an Ignatian contemplation. As the scene unfolds before you, what do you hear? What are people talking about?

Read the passage one more time. Put yourself completely in the scene. Who are you? Are you in the boat coming to the shore? Swimming in the water? Are you sitting on the shore with Jesus? Don’t worry about trying to do the “right thing”, just let yourself imagine.


You see Jesus. How does he seem? Imagine his face, taking time to see his expression in full. What is he doing? What food has he prepared for you and the others? What do you hear him say as you come to the shore? Pay attention to your feelings in your heart.


As you eat the meal, you see Jesus and Peter sitting together. How does Peter seem as he sits with Jesus again? Nervous and agitated? Content and relieved? Demurred and anxious? Again, what do you feel in your heart?


How does Jesus seem to you? Pay close attention to his face. How does he act? What does he say to Peter? Again, what do you feel in your heart?


You hear Jesus ask Peter if Peter loves him. Each time, you hear Peter say yes. What does Jesus say to Peter each time? What does Jesus ask Peter to do? How does Peter react and respond? With joy and energy? With concern or dismay? How do you react to this dialogue? Pay attention to your feelings in your heart.


Then Jesus turns to you. He asks you the question: do you love me? What do you want to say to Jesus in response? Speak those words aloud, as many times as you need to. What does Jeus say to you in response? What does Jesus ask of you? As you listen, pay attention to your feelings in your heart.


Finally, take some time to talk to Jesus. Tell Him what you want, what you are grateful for, how you are feeling. And let Him speak to you in your imagination.


End with a short prayer, and thank God for His gifts.


Questions to Consider when you finish your prayer:

  1. What moment stood out to me most as I contemplated the scene?

  2. What did I feel during my prayer?

  3. What did God say to you? What did you say to God?

  4. What do I take away from this experience of prayer?

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