Grace: To ask for sorrow with Christ in sorrow, anguish with Christ in anguish, and interior grief because of the great sufferings Christ endures for me.
Text: Matthew 26:36-46
Reflection: Stay awake with Jesus.
“My heart is nearly broken with sorrow” (Matt. 26:38). Jesus is experiencing deep inner turmoil as His hour approaches. From a human standpoint Jesus’ ministry appears to end in failure. The Jewish leaders reject Him as the Messiah, the disciples seem clueless and the masses will consent to His crucifixion. Despite this, Jesus seeks to fulfill the Father’s Will. Jesus’ interior suffering was also reflected in His physical suffering.
“And his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Lk. 22:44).
Worst of all, Jesus appears alone. His trusted disciples, Peter, James and John, are falling asleep as Jesus is tearfully praying before the Father. Jesus chose to guard His disciples from the pain in His heart because He loved them and He knew they would not be able to bear it.
We are at a crucial point in the Spiritual Exercises. It would be easy to “nod off.” The enemy of our human nature is aware of how much spiritual profit one can experience during the Third Week. Therefore, he will seek to deter us from experiencing an intimate knowledge of Jesus amidst His agony.
In this scene, Jesus is not calling us to take His pain away nor to lighten His burden, but to simply stay awake with Him. In our active culture, this may be difficult for us to do. We want to fix things and make things better. But in this scene, Jesus has accepted His fate. He will suffer and die. All we can do is what Jesus desires for us – to simply be with Him.
If you have ever visited someone in the hospital who was suffering greatly and/or near death, the desire is the same. The hospitalized person wants to know that he/she is not alone. This person wants to feel the presence of another. Jesus is seeking the same from us. He does not need our words but seeks our presence. To show compassion is to “suffer with.” We can allow Jesus’ suffering to enter into our interiority so that we can become one in mind and heart with our Lord.
Additionally in this scene, I believe Jesus wishes to reveal to us His Sacred Heart in a deeper way. Jesus’ Heart is powered by such a rich love that permits Him to undergo such dreadful interior suffering. Jesus allows us to enter into His vulnerability and weakness, enabling us to experience authentic intimate knowledge of Him. If you feel drawn here, one may find tremendous fruit in simply contemplating the Sacred Heart during Jesus’ Agony in the Garden.
Finally, let us keep in mind that Jesus chooses to endure this suffering on our behalf. Jesus’ love for each one of us permitted Him to say yes to the Father’s Will and to fulfill it, despite the agony He experienced along the way. In gratitude for Jesus’ love for each one of us, let us stay awake with Jesus.
Questions: Placing yourself in the scene at the Garden of Gethsemane, what do you experience as you see, hear and feel Jesus in agony? What is Jesus saying to the Father and to you during this scene? What is your response to Jesus’ choice to fulfill the Father’s Will and to endure great suffering for you?
If you feel moved, spend some time speaking to Jesus or Mary about what you have experienced.