Thursday, March 28, 2013

In the Garden of Gethsemane

“My soul is sorrowful unto death; stay you here and watch with Me.”
   ~Matthew 26: 38

Human nature shrinks from suffering and dreads it, but not one of the sons of men was ever so sensitive as Our Lord, Jesus Christ, or had sufferings to endure in any way comparable to His. St. Ignatius teaches us in contemplation to study not only the outward person, but also the inward thoughts; we are allowed to try in our poor way to find out, if we can, what were the chief objects that are presented to Our Lord’s soul which awakened His fear, sadness, and heaviness of heart.

Spiritual writers answer: (1) Fear is awakened by His oncoming Passion; (2) Oppression and most weary tediousness is awakened by the sight of all the opposition He shall encounter from men and devils in His work of redeeming those He loves so much; (3) Sorrow unto death is caused by the sign of sin: sin past, sin present, and sin to come; the offense, the displeasure, the dishonor, the ingratitude, the malice, the treason and treachery all heaped upon Him by sin.

During the Agony in the Garden, Our Lord anticipated all the coming agony of His Passion. He allowed His human soul to feel in all its intensity each detail of the unspeakable suffering that was now close at hand. All His life, the Passion was distinctly present to Him but, in the Garden, it was allowed to take possession of His soul. Now the fear was mortal.

When darkness invades our own souls, we should remember that none is like the deep, black darkness that spread over the Sacred Soul of Jesus. Where should we have gone in our hours of sorrow and agony and weakness had there been no Gethsemane? How generous is Christ’s love for us!

“All that I can do I will do for them” was His motto through life. When the hour had come, He did not what benefited Him but what would help us most: To be like us in all things, except sin, He would meet suffering and death. To be like us in all things, this was His rule from first to last: that having shown Himself like us, He might win us to be like Him, ready to say in the hour of trial, “Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me; but yet not My will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22: 42)

“My soul is sorrowful unto death,” Our Lord so piteously mourned. And what was the relief? It was prayer, just as He had admonished the Apostles: “Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Our Lord knew that in all desolation and distress, the best and only plan is to throw ourselves upon the almighty and all-tender Mercy of God. There is no imperfection in asking to be delivered from something we can hardly endure, otherwise Christ would not have asked to be delivered from His Chalice of Suffering. Here is the impeccable, all-holy human will swaying in the tempest, but still ever clinging to the Divine.

In our darkest hours, we, too, can repeat those words with Jesus, for He taught us by His word and His example. Yet we must remember the act of resignation which leaves everything in the hands of God: “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”

The Passion of Christ teaches us what real love means. Once more, we are taught the lesson that “Love is proven by deeds.”

The secret of Our Lord’s desire to suffer was His Love…but it was not the suffering itself for which Christ longed. No, it was the result of that suffering - for that joy that was set before Him – for which He endured the Cross.

Like Him, when we suffer, we suffer for a reason but, unlike Him, we may not know why. Still, like the Angel who comforted Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, He comforts us: “So also you now indeed have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you.” (John 16: 22)



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