Living as Contemplative Leaders in Action: Following Jesus, Our Model

October 18, 2021

Doing it Ourselves.

Nowadays everyone knows the acronym DIY. Need an effective window cleaner? DIY. Challenged by a stubborn stain? DIY. Don’t know how to prepare spaghetti squash? DIY. Can’t figure out how to change the battery in the key fob? DIY. Need a Halloween costume? DIY. There are literally hundreds of solutions to each of these small (and not so small) problems.

Sometimes we succeed when we do it ourselves. At other times we feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped. We say no to DIY. We call an expert or we venture out to buy the ready-made option. 

Sadly, there aren’t any five-minute YouTube videos for the big challenges that we face in life. Need a career change? Challenged by family disharmony? Don’t know why life feels empty? Angry? Unforgiving?

Asking the expert.

Why not ask the expert?  Why not go to Jesus instead of clinging to a DIY mentality? How can we engage in prayer so that we have an encounter with Jesus, bringing our questions and challenges to him? David Fleming, SJ explains that contemplative prayer is the key, “following Jesus is the business of our lives. To follow him we must know him, and we get to know him through our imagination.” In my own life, I find imaginative prayer is a powerful tool to help me get to know Jesus and to know how to follow him and to lead like him.

The first step of contemplative prayer is to turn to Scripture. Let’s use Luke 7:36-50 as an example. We see a weary woman enter a Pharisee’s home, uninvited. The Pharisee and his guests stare at her, their mouths gaping. How dare she! And then, without hesitation, she walks right up to Jesus, kneels at his feet, and crying, begins to wash his feet with her tears.

All eyes are on her. The Pharisee and his guests sit in shocked silence, but the Pharisee’s thoughts are made known…“If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is…that she is a sinner.”

Then Jesus begins with a rhetorical question:

“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.”…[Jesus] said to her, “Your sins are forgiven..Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

We smell the costly oil that anoints Jesus’s feet. We hold our breath, afraid for the woman because we feel the tension in the room. We imagine the softness of her hair as she dries Jesus’s feet. We hear Jesus boldly proclaim “your sins are forgiven.” We breathe a sigh of relief as we hear Jesus say to the woman, “Your faith has saved you.” We ask ourselves, what would Jesus say to me?  

Knowing Jesus. 

Imaginative prayer is one way that we come to know Jesus. The words Jesus uses are for our ears. Jesus’s gentle, non-judgmental ways are for us too. We know Jesus. His love is constant and consistent. He is for us. We are for him. 

Following Jesus.

We are called to go out and spread the Gospel. Knowing Jesus strengthens us for our role to lead as Jesus led.

Like Jesus’s apostles, we are all uniquely gifted. Each of us is called to use his or her God-given talents to proclaim the Kingdom. We rely on Jesus for direction. We ask for the grace to hear Jesus so that we might be ready and willing to follow him.

The following questions can help us to know where Jesus calls us. 

Pray, reflect, and journal:

  1. What are my gifts?
  2. Where am I needed?
  3. Who needs me?
  4. When should I begin?

Finally, we need to remember that it is not how much we do. It is how we do it. Returning to our story of the woman who bathed Jesus’s feet, we see that she brought her gifts to Jesus. She saw a need and she immersed herself in the task of caring for Jesus. The woman in the story illustrates the value of using our gifts, however small, to follow Jesus. She is a shining example for us. As St. Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.”



Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on

Faye Coorpender is a Spiritual Director at the St. Joseph Spirituality Center in Baton Rouge, LA. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Florida, and a certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. She is a retired high school teacher of English Literature and Theology, and has worked for many years in youth ministry, RCIA, and Faith Formation. Faye says that the personal fulfillment that she received in ongoing Spiritual Direction inspired her to become a spiritual director and she considers the privilege of accompanying others on their spiritual journeys to be one of the greatest blessings in her life. Faye and her husband, Bill, have three adult children and six grandchildren.

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