Ignatian meditation is the most used method for Scripture meditation around the world. It was developed in the 16th Century by Ignatius of Loyola and used in his famous Spiritual Exercises, which Kristi and I completed on a thirty-day Sabbatical in 2015 under the spiritual direction of Tom Ashbrook, founder of Imago Christi.
At the heart of The Spiritual Exercises is Ignatius’ imaginative and sensory approach to meditating on Gospel passages. This approach brought healing and dramatic life change to him.
The Spaniard was a solider in battle with the French and his leg was hit by a cannonball! When he was convalescing in bed for months of recovery he wanted to read popular fantasy novels about romance and chivalry that he enjoyed, but none were available. Instead he was given a book on the life of Christ that featured Gospel stories. Meditating on these with his imagination brought him great comfort — and salvation from sin and healing of his body! He went on to found the Jesuit order of monks and teach all kinds of people how to personally engage with Christ by visualizing themselves Gospel stories.
Ignatius put his meditations on the stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection into The Spiritual Exercises. These Scripture meditations are featured below in easy to use one-page PDF handouts.
The Features of Our Ignatian Meditation Guides
Soul Shepherding has over fifty free Ignatian Meditation Guides to direct you or your small group step-by-step in using Ignatius’ delightful and fruitful way of meditating on a Gospel passage. Each guide has a title/theme for spiritual formation in Christ, a brief introduction to the Bible passage, and the steps we use for Ignatian meditation and contemplation on Scripture.
To begin you’ll “ask for the grace” from God as Ignatius teaches. Then you’ll use your imagination to enter into a Gospel story, sensing and feeling what’s going on. Instead of analyzing the passage or seeking insights (save that for Bible study at a different time), you’ll seek to experience being a character in the story. Then two focus questions will help you engage in Ignatius’ “colloquy,” a short, personal conversation with the Lord that you can journal.
You’ll be amazed at how the Holy Spirit brings you wonderful new insights when you resist pursuing left-brain insight generation and instead rely on the Spirit to help you use right-brain imagination to experience being in the Gospel story and then to pray about what God stirs in you. Most of all, you’ll experience greater intimacy with the Lord Jesus!
Scripture Passages For Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises (Links Go to Free PDF Handouts)
Like Soul Shepherding’s popular “Lectio Divina Guides” and “Experiences“, these Ignatian Meditation Guides are great for personal devotions or small groups. And they’re the perfect companion for completing The Spiritual Exercises, whether you do them in a 30-day intensive retreat or over a longer period of time as part of an Ignatian “19th Annotation” class or group.
These Gospel passages are the same ones recommended by Ignatius in The Spiritual Exercises in his chapter on “The Mysteries of the Life of Christ Our Lord.” (Sometimes I use a different Gospel account of the same story, e.g., Ignatius uses Matthew’s version and I select Mark’s.) They are kept in his order, grouped according to the four weeks (themes) in his program, and follow his distinctive methodology for Scripture meditation.
For each one page PDF Ignatian Meditation Guide below the Bible texts are included and use The Message version.
Confessing Our Need For Christ (Week 1: Beginning The Spiritual Exercises.)*
1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Spiritual Training.” Completing The Spiritual Exercises is like training to run a great race.
Mark 10:35-52: “What Do You Want Jesus to Do For You?” Cultivating desire for Jesus enables us to experience God’s loving presence.
Luke 1:67-79: “Zechariah’s Canticle.” When we wait on God his blessing will come and we’ll sing with great joy!
Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask of Your Loving Father God.” The bounty of the heavens opens to us when we simply ask of our loving Father.
Luke 19:1-10: “Zacchaeus Becomes Jesus’ Disciple.” Trusting in the grace of Christ as Zacchaeus did, we are freed from our sin and shame.
Mark 10:17-27: “The Rich Young Ruler Turns Back.” Jesus looks at us in love — are we willing to let go of the world to embrace him?
Luke 10:38-42: “Mary and Martha.” With Mary we can choose the one essential thing by sitting at Jesus feet to listen to him! (Ignatius recommended this Bible text for Week 2, but it fits well with his focus in the first week.)
Acts 16:6-15: “Paul Discerns the Spirit’s Leading.” Paul shows us how to follow the Spirit of Jesus step-by-step.
John 8:1-11: “Jesus Does Not Condemn You!” No matter what our shortcomings or sins, God extends his mercy and grace to us through Christ.
John 1:29-42: “The Lamb of God Forgives Our Sins.” “Come and see” the Lord and Savior with his first disciples.
Luke 16:19-31: “Heaven or Hell? It’s Our Choice.” In eternity Jesus wants us to join him in heaven with Lazarus and Father Abraham.
Following Jesus in God’s Kingdom (Week 2: Jesus’ Infancy and Hidden Life. These are great as Advent Meditations.)
Luke 1:26-38: “The Annunciation.” When we receive God’s word as Mary did Christ is born in us.
Luke 1:39-56: “Mary’s Magnificat.” Mary shows us that in stress if we’ll trust a friend and sing of God’s mercy we’ll be wonderfully blessed.
Luke 2:1-7: “The Birth of Christ.” Joining Mary and Joseph’s hard journey to Bethlehem, we find surprising surprising hospitality as Jesus is born amongst the animals.
Luke 2:8-20: “Shepherds Visit the Newborn Savior.” Beholding Christ with Mary, we too can be more than amazed — we can treasure and ponder our Savior!
Luke 2:21-38: “The Presentation of the Infant Jesus.” We’re invited to worship God with the holy family.
Matthew 2:1-12: “Three Kings Worship the Christ Child.” Follow the miracle star with the wise men to adore Jesus as King, Priest, and Savior.
Matthew 2:13-23: “The Holy Family Flees to Egypt.” Joseph is the loving, wise, and strong protector that Mary and the child Jesus need — we all need a Joseph to help us trust God.
Luke 2:41-52: “Jesus’ Visit to the Temple at Age Twelve.” Consider Jesus at his rite of passage into spiritual adulthood — with Mary hold him dearly and deeply in your heart.
Matthew 3:13-17: “The Baptism of Christ Opens the Heavens.” Standing with Jesus in baptism we enter into the Trinitarian society of the Kingdom of the Heavens.
Matthew 4:1-11: “Jesus Overcomes Satan’s Temptations.” Jesus shows us how to resist the devil’s deceits and choose to worship God alone.
John 2:1-11: “Jesus Turns Water Into Wine.” Jesus’ first public miracle brings us joy and gets us dancing!
Mark 1:14-20: “Jesus Calls His Disciples.” By the lakeside Jesus calls us with the fisherman: “Come! Follow me.”
Matthew 8:5-13: “A Roman Centurion Takes Jesus at His Word.” The power of God’s kingdom works by words of confidence in God.
Matthew 8:23-27: “Jesus Calms the Storm.” The Lord shows us his power and teaches us how to be at peace in storms.
Matthew 14:13-21: “Jesus Feeds Five Thousand.” Compassion moves Jesus to feed the hungry, even when it means interrupting his personal retreat. He himself is the Bread of Life that all people hunger for!
Matthew 14:22-33: “Jesus Walks on Water Saying, “Fear Not!” In your storm see Jesus walking on the water to you.
Luke 7:36-50: “A Town Harlot Inspires Our Devotion to Jesus.” If we realize that we’re forgiven of much sin then we’ll offer much love to Jesus and God.
Luke 10:1-9, 16: “Jesus Sends His Disciples Out on Mission.” Here are Jesus instructions for our mission and how we can share in his exuberant joy!
Matthew 17:1-9: “The Transfiguration of Christ.” Seeing the glory of the Son of God helps us to listen to him carefully and to follow him faithfully.
John 11:17-44: “Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead.” Jesus proves his power over death and that anyone who believes in him will never die.
John 12:1-11: “Mary of Bethany Anoints Jesus.” Mary shows us that devotion to Jesus Christ is affectionate and generous.
John 12:12-19: “Celebrating King Jesus!” On Palm Sunday the crowds praise Jesus as their Messiah and King.
With Jesus at the Cross (Week 3: The Passion of Christ. These are great as Lent meditations.)
(See also Unforsaken: With Jesus on the Stations of the Cross, a booklet of Gospel meditations and prayers with pictures by Bill Gaultiere.)
John 13:1-17: “Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet.” Jesus shows us that true teachers and leaders are loving servants.
Matthew 26:20-30: “The Lord’s Supper.” Jesus ministers his body and blood to the Twelve, including Judas, and to each of us.
Mark 14:17-26: “In the Shadow of the Cross Jesus Trusts Abba.” With the help of Christ even in fearful and painful situations we can trust God as our Abba.
Mark 14:17-31, 66-72: “Peter Denies Knowing Jesus.” Despite Jesus’ explicit warning and teaching, Peter denies his Lord.
Mark 14:53-65: “Condemned by the Religious Leaders, Jesus is Nondefensive.” Jesus shows us how to be patient and kind when mistreated.
Mark 15:1-15: “Condemned by Pilate, Jesus is Silent.” Jesus accepts being wrongly condemned to death — he’s ready to go to the cross to die for our sins.
Mark 15:16-24: “Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross.” With Simon of Cyrene and his two sons we can share Jesus’ crosswalk.
John 19:25-30: “On the Cross Jesus Cares For His Mother and John.” As Jesus is being crucified he cares for his mother and disciple.
Mark 15:33-39: “Jesus is Crucified and Forsaken.” Mark shows Jesus on the cross, suffering alone and crying out to a God who seems to have abandoned him.
Luke 23:49-49: “Jesus is Crucified and Unforsaken.” Luke shows Jesus on the cross, trusting in his loving Father and welcoming the repentant thief to join him in Paradise.
John 19:38-42: “Mourning at Jesus’ Tomb.” Two Pharisees come out of hiding to boldly care for Jesus’ body and give him a proper burial.
With the Risen Christ (Week 4: The Joy of a Risen Life!)
Mark 16:1-11: “He is Risen! Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene.” The first Evangelist of Jesus’ resurrection is a woman he delivered of seven demons.
John 20:1-9: “Peter and John Run to Jesus’ Empty Tomb.” Faith in God enables us to pivot from grief and fear to great joy!
Luke 24:13-35: “Meeting the Risen Christ.” Like the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, when we walk with risen Christ our hearts burn with his love.
John 20:19-31: “Jesus Appears to his Disciples and Thomas.” Jesus proves his bodily resurrection, but says, blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.
John 21:1-14: “A Miracle Breakfast on the Beach.” The risen Christ serves up a miraculous fish breakfast for his disciples.
John 21:15-25: “Jesus Restores Peter.” The Lord reconciles Peter with three chances to say “I love you!”
Matthew 28:16-20: “Jesus’ Great Commission.” We’re called to apprentice people to Jesus, baptize them in his Trinitarian reality, and teach them how to implement his teachings in daily life.
Acts 1:1-12: “The Ascension of Christ.” For forty days after his resurrection Jesus trained his disciples to trust his spiritual presence and voice then he ascended into heaven.
* For the first week Ignatius doesn’t assign Gospel passages because he uses preparatory meditations and prayers of “examen” to foster awareness of our need for God’s mercy and love through Christ. Accordingly, I’ve selected Scriptures that fit the themes in the opening of The Spiritual Exercises.