Imagining the Gospel Scene: Planting the Seeds that Will Bear Fruit

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“Imagining the Gospel Scene” is a series from the Jesuit Media Lab. On occasional Sundays throughout this liturgical year, creators in the JML community will respond to the day’s Gospel passage through the practice of Ignatian contemplation, or what is sometimes called “imaginative prayer.”

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola invites participants to place ourselves in Gospel scenes using the imagination, relying on our senses to develop a distinctive, personal perspective on a given story — and thereby getting to know Christ better. After praying with the Gospel using their imaginations, our contributors will create a piece of art flowing from their experience — a painting, poem, short story, song, photograph or work in another medium.

Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 17, 2024: John 2:20-33

By Becky McIntyre

Artist Statement

This is a tough scene. I know for me, any time I have to deal with a conflict or prepare for something difficult, my insides are clenched. I feel heavy. My stomach is tight. The task plagues my mind. And here Jesus is, preparing for his own death, much harder than any task I’ve had to prepare for in my life.

I imagine he feels all the emotions that come along with that in his body too — the anguish, the pain, the sadness, the doubt, the fear — at different points, and he acknowledges that he is troubled. And yet, when I have to do hard things, the only thing that actually eases the stress is doing the thing. No matter how much I want to avoid it, getting it done and accepting it always feels better. Here, Jesus also seems at peace. Ready to do what needs to be done. Letting go of his own attachments. Ignatian indifference. Leaning into the call. He states that the voice isn’t to console him, but rather to console those around him listening.

A friend shared with me the other day that prayer is anything we invite God into with us. And I am a doer. I like to pray with my hands in the soil and holding a paintbrush — a very incarnate spirituality, which is also very Ignatian. I love to be doing things with my community around me. I like to imagine Jesus praying in that way too. Doing the things he shares in his parables, not only to drive the point home, but because he is also human and does human things.

He is always surrounded by a crowd, and maybe he likes to do things with them around him too. So in this moment when everyone wants to talk to him, and he’s preparing for this heavy event looming ahead that will change everything, maybe he needs a moment with his hands in the soil to remind himself that new life will come, his footsteps in the dirt a physical marker for those following him, inviting others to dig in the earth with him.

He has accepted what needs to be done, and these are his last moments to do what he enjoys, to be tender, and to have some peace. These are his last moments to live by example, to humble himself as teacher while still sharing his wisdom, and prepare his followers for what is coming next for them and how to be in the world. 

Becky McIntyre is a printmaker, muralist and community artist in Philadelphia. Her work, often collective in nature, is deeply inspired by the Spirit and brings awareness to sociopolitical issues, the transformative and healing nature of art, and activating and inspiring new ways of being. A graduate of Saint Joseph’s University, Becky is involved as an artist in the Catholic Worker movement as well as the Synodality in Catholic Higher Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia project. She is currently doing an artist residency at St. Raphaela Center in Haverford, Pennsylvania, with the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart.

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