Monday, May 10, 2010

Jesus asks me, His Friend, for one hour of Loving Support in the Garden of His Agony. Yet . . . I keep falling asleep!

During the last night of Jesus' life His heart was greatly troubled. He was feeling desperate, filled with anguish, when He arrived with His disciples at the Garden of Gethsemane. "And He began to feel terror and anguish. He said to them "My soul is sorrowful to the point of death! Wait here and stay awake with Me". He fell to His knees, just a few feet away from them, and prayed with a heart overwhelmed with sorrow and fear. His anguish was so great that 'He prayed even more earnestly and His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood'. He turned to them after praying and found them . . . sleeping. He said, "Are you asleep?! Had you not the strength to stay awake with me for one hour?!" Jesus never asked His friends to do much for Him while in this world.  One of the few things He asked - and it wasn't asking much - was this - that they STAY AWAKE with Him.  Regretably, His friends couldn't do this smallist of things for Him.

How alone, unloved, He must have felt that night! They slept as His heart was torn with the greatest agony! They had promised, all of them, to stay with Him 'to the death' . . . but could not provide the moral support, a word of encouragement, or even their mental presence to support Him when He most needed them (even after telling them how much He needed them) while He cried out for His life to God! He asked for 'one hour' but got . . . nothing.

Jesus, all His life, thought about what His last hours of life would be like. He knew the 'plan' required Him to suffer and die in the most degrading and painful way. He knew that He would be falsely accused, unjustly condemned, abused, mocked, beaten, spit upon, whipped and tortured in other ways and finally executed by crucifixion - a tortuous way of dieing. He knew men - evil sinful men - would do this and so planned to 'set His face like flint' to endure the abuse. However, how could He prepare Himself for how His 'friends' would fail Him?!

Soon thereafter Judas arrived - a very dear 'friend' - coming to betray Him. Jesus said when He saw Him, "My friend, why have you come?" Judas, earnestly called Him "Teacher!" and then kissed Him - an apparent sign of . . . love but actually an act of betrayal. Jesus was incredulous as He looked deep into Judas' eyes and said, "Do you betray the son of man with a kiss?!" He wasn't angry but heartbreakingly disappointed. What pain is greater than betrayed love?!

All of His disciples ran at this point and Jesus was left alone with His enemies.  They proceeded to drag Him to prison, beating, kicking and spitting on Him along the way. Peter followed Jesus to the prison.  It was cold and to warm himself he joined the high priests guards and servants - the enemies of Jesus - around the fire. Peter was questioned and accused of being a disciple of Jesus and, after  the third accusation, the Gospel tells us he began to curse with desperation - at everyone, including Jesus.  He suddenly realized the cock was crowing and it was at that very moment that Jesus was being dragged across the courtyard. The Gospel tells us that Jesus looked straight at Peter. At that same instant Peter, still cursing the name of Jesus, turned and saw Jesus - their eyes locked. Peter's eyes filled with bitter tears of regret and Jesus' eyes showed He was wounded to the core of His being at what Peter had just done. What pain is greater than that caused by a betrayal of trust, of love?!

Jesus, how did You endure all of these betrayals?! How did You keep loving Peter and Judas, and how do You keep loving us? How did You maintain Your focus on suffering and dying for us?!

St. Paul said about Jesus' loving sacrifice of Himself, "Some might take a chance and risk death for a good man but He proved the depths of His love for us by dieing for us when we were still sinners". Jesus loved us and willingly gave His life for us even though we prove ourselves unworthy - everyday - of any of the good He shows us.

Jesus had said, 'deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me'. Where do we follow Him? Jesus carried His cross up Calvary. If we follow Him that is where we will end up. But of course, all of this - the sufferings in the Garden, the passion and agony of the cross - happened thousands of years ago. Jesus was speaking figuratively right? He couldn't have REALLY meant that we would be with Him on Calvary! The Gospel makes it clear that this is exactly what he meant. This is what St. Francis of Assisi understood and that is why he literally became crucified - while meditating on the crucified Lord - when he received the Stigmata!

St. Paul said to some early Christians, "You have seen Christ crucified".  However, they lived years after Jesus was crucified. What did Paul mean? He also said to other Christians, "I would know nothing amongst you but Christ and Him crucified". Know, in the Greek, can be translated 'experienced'. How can Paul (or any of us) experience 'Christ crucified' now?

We can do this by meditating, like Francis, on the Passion stories found in the Gospels. We can transport ourselves spiritually, through prayer, to the last hours of Jesus' life and be with Him, offering loving support. The Gospels were designed by God, to transport us spiritually - outside of space and time - to the actual time Jesus was suffering.

Jesus is still waiting for His 'friends' to stay awake with Him in His hours of greatest human need - a need that He took on Himself for love of us. Jesus is still in Gethsemane, still in the prison, still being tortured and humiliated and still hanging on the cross - looking for a friend, for us. We can draw close to Him when we gaze upon Him on the crucifix while He suffers. We are close to Him, supporting Him, when we are aware of His humble sacrifice of Himself in the Eucharist. We can walk with Him in the Way of the Cross - loving Him and feeling His pain - sharing His pain.

Jesus, You tell me You are my friend and then prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. You tell me what a true friend is like and then You showed me by Your sacrifice of Yourself for me, a wretched sinner. I am stunned by Your love and dedication to me. I am unworthy - prove this everyday - however, what I do doesn't change the fact that You love Me and want to bless me. I beg You Lord, to give me the strength to keep vigil - to kneel at Your side, walk with you in the way of the Cross, keep watch at the foot of the cross - better, hang at Your side on my own cross - and be a true and good friend - be like You. I love You Jesus, want You and want to be with You always - no matter where that is, no matter how painful and sad. I love and trust You Jesus to show me the way to be a true friend of Yours. You deserve nothing less for You truly are most wonderful! Amen.

Check out my sister Blog 'St. Francis Speaks . . .'


  1. A beautiful reflection...thanks. k

  2. Thank you brother. It is wonderful how committed Jesus is to us and this should give us hope. We fail but He doesn't stop believing in us. With His help we can do the right thing. It should be noted that, besides Judas, tradition has it that the 11 stood their ground in faith and ultimately . . . sealed their commitment to Christ with the sacrifice of their lives - proving themselves to truly be friends of Christ. Their failure, but ultimate success, should give us confidence that, with His help, we can be as true. God bless you brother!