The agony in the garden

From the beginning Christian piety, especially during the Lenten devotion of the Way of the Cross, has focused on the individual moments of the Passion, realizing that here is found the culmination of the revelation of God's love and the source of our salvation. The Rosary selects certain moments from the Passion, inviting the faithful to contemplate them in their hearts and to relive them. (John Paul II, "Rosarium Virginis Mariae", 22)

From the Gospel of St. Matthew:

Then Jesus came with them to a country place called Gethsemani, and he said to his disciples, "Sit down here, while I go over yonder and pray." And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and he began to be saddened and exceedingly troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is sad, even unto death. Wait here and watch with me." And going forward a little, he fell prostrate and prayed, saying, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; yet not as I will, but as thou willest."

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "Could you not, then, watch one hour with me? Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again a second time he went away and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink it, thy will be done." And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them he went back again, and prayed a third time, saying the same words over. Then he came to his disciples, and said to them, "Sleep on now, and take your rest! Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand." (Matthew 26:36-46)

From St. Josemaría Escrivá:

Pray, lest you enter into temptation. —And Peter fell asleep. —And the other apostles. —And you, little friend, fell asleep..., and I too was another sleepy-headed Peter.

Jesus, alone and sad, suffers and soaks the earth with His blood.

Kneeling on the hard ground, He perseveres in prayer... He weeps for you... and for me: the weight of the sins of men overwhelms Him.

Pater, si vis, transfer calicem istum a me. —Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from me... Yet not my will, sed tua fiat, but Thine be done (Luke 22:42).

An Angel from Heaven comforts Him. —Jesus is in agony. —He continues prolixius, praying more intensely... —He approaches us, who are asleep: Arise, pray —He says again—, lest you enter into temptation (Luke 22:46).

Judas the traitor: a kiss. —Peter's sword gleams in the night. —Jesus speaks: Are you come, as to a robber, to apprehend Me? (Mark 14:48)

We are cowards: we follow Him from afar, but awake and praying. —Prayer... Prayer... (Holy Rosary, Finding of Jesus)

Jesus prays in the garden. Pater mi (Matt 26:39), Abba Pater! (Mark 14:36). God is my Father, even though he may send me suffering. He loves me tenderly, even while wounding me. Jesus suffers, to fulfil the Will of the Father... And I, who also wish to fulfil the most holy Will of God, following in the footsteps of the Master, can I complain if I too meet suffering as my travelling companion?

It will be a sure sign of my sonship, because God is treating me as he treated his own Divine Son. Then I, just as He did, will be able to groan and weep alone in my Gethsemani; but, as I lie prostrate on the ground, acknowledging my nothingness, there will rise up to the Lord a cry from the depths of my soul: Pater mi, Abba, Pater,... fiat! (The Way of the Cross, Station #1, Point for Meditation #1)

The Lord will grant you the ability to discover many other aspects of the faithful response to grace of the blessed Virgin. And to know these facets of her life is to want to imitate them: her purity, her humility, her fortitude, her generosity, her fidelity... But now I want to speak to you of an aspect that in a way encompasses all the others because it is a condition for spiritual growth. I'm speaking of her life of prayer.

To take advantage of the grace which our mother offers us today and to second at any time the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, the shepherd of our souls, we ought to be seriously committed to dealing with God. We cannot take refuge in the anonymous crowd. If interior life doesn't involve personal encounter with God, it doesn't exist — it's as simple as that. There are few things more at odds with Christianity than superficiality. To settle down to routine in our christian life is to dismiss the possibility of becoming a contemplative soul. God seeks us out, one by one. And we ought to answer him, one by one: "Here I am, Lord, because you have called me."

We all know that prayer is to talk with God. But someone may ask, "What should I talk about?" What else could you talk about but his interests and the things that fill your day? About the birth of Jesus, his years among us, his hidden life, his preaching, his miracles, his redemptive passion and death, his resurrection. And in the presence of the Triune God, invoking Mary as our mediatrix and beseeching St Joseph, our father and lord, to be our advocate, we will speak of our everyday work, of our family, of our friendships, of our big plans and little shortcomings.

The theme of my prayer is the theme of my life. That's the way I speak to God. As I consider my situation, there comes to mind a specific and firm resolution to change, to improve, to be more docile to the love of God. It should be a sincere and concrete resolution. And we cannot forget to ask the Holy Spirit, with as much urgency as confidence, not to abandon us, because "you, Lord, are my strength."

We are ordinary Christians. We work at the most varied professions. All our activity takes place amid everyday circumstances. Everything follows a customary rhythm in our lives. The days seem the same, even monotonous. But don't forget that our condition which is apparently so common has a divine value. God is interested in everything we do, because Christ wishes to become incarnate in our things, to vivify from within even our most insignificant actions.

This thought is a clear, objective, supernatural reality. It is not a pious consideration to comfort those of us who will never get our names inscribed in the annals of history. Christ is interested in the work we do — whether once or thousands of times — in the office, in the factory, in the shop, in the classroom, in the fields, in the exercise of any manual or intellectual occupation. He is likewise interested in the hidden sacrifices we make to keep our bad humour or temper to ourselves.

Review in your prayer these thoughts. Take occasion of them to tell Jesus that you adore him. And thus you have a formula to become contemplatives in the middle of the world, amid the noises of the street, at all times and in all places. This is the first lesson we should learn in the school of intimacy with Christ. And in this school, Mary is the best teacher, because the Virgin always kept this attitude of faith, of supernatural vision, regardless of what happened around her: "And his mother kept all these words in her heart."

Let us ask the blessed Virgin to make us contemplatives, to teach us to recognize the constant calls from God at the door of our heart. Let us ask her now: Our mother, you brought to earth Jesus, who reveals the love of our Father God. Help us to recognize him in the midst of the cares of each day. Stir up our mind and will so that we may listen to the voice of God, to the calls of grace. (Christ is Passing By, 174)

Receive messages by e-mail