Friday, 19 February 2010

And so we pray…

 The Mount of Olives. The church at the foot of the hill indicates Gethsemane.

This first Friday in Lent is a day when Christians are free to enrich their spiritual journey by making the commemoration of the agony of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.
This agony and pain translated into sweat of blood happens in a garden, in darkness, in a context of prayer and of betrayal.
Jesus has just celebrated the Eucharist in the Upper Room on Mount Zion. He and the eleven walk down the hill and cross the valley of Josaphat to go to one of their haunts on the Mount of Olives.
In fact, Jesus and his disciples used to meet on top of the mount where he taught them how to pray. Not far from there, just a few yards, is the place of the Ascension. The marks of Jesus are all over this hill which he sanctified with his walks, prayers and tears. After Mass, or better still flowing from Mass Jesus and his own walk down the hill singing the psalms. They arrive in the garden of olive trees. Life was created by God in a garden; re-creation is about to happen and therefore the new Adam needs to be in a garden, the source of healing oil. It is dark and late, for the Jews it is already the sixth day, the day when God made man in his own image. The God made man bows down in prayer in the dust of that garden, forming and shaping the new creation and sanctifying it with the breath of his prayer and the sweat and blood from his body.
The garden is in darkness, it is almost the heart of the night. This is the hour, the hour when the gates of hell are wide open and all the demons let out against the Son of the Most High. The darkness enfolding the Lord is deeper then the one enfolding the garden. This is the moment of more temptations, reasonable whispers in the ear of the Lord: “What a shame, you are so young, why die now? Is not staying here committing suicide? Look, be reasonable, think of mother and friends. Why not slip quietly between these trees, they will not find you, lay low for a while up North and then start again, the crowd loves you, look how they honoured you last Sunday. This is not an escape, it is reason Jesus, slip away gently and teach this lot for another three years or better still for another thirty years, as you know there are several t’s to cross and i’s to dot with this lot.” What anguish these temptations, they are so deep and large that quoting verses of scripture at them won’t do. They need more; they need total trust in Father, just as your mother taught you. And so you gather all your might and say to the Father: “Thy will be done!” The darkness remains, but is transformed, it is not the darkness of night any more; it has become the deep darkness that we see just before dawn. That prayer said Easter is secured, the fate of the nearby tomb is sealed, you now have surrendered your will to the Father and your body, already freely given for many a few hours ago, is given to the hands of the wicked, the children of darkness, the misguided.
The garden, the anguish and darkness are transformed as they are all steeped in prayer, the perfect prayer of Jesus submitting to the Father. The prayer that started in the Upper Room continues in this garden and will be fulfilled early on Sunday. And yet the background music is betrayal and denial. Why do we get it so wrong again? One would have taught that we learnt the lesson in the Garden of Eden, why repeat the mistakes here? Is it because we cannot cope with such love? Most loving Lord, let us sit at your feet in the garden of Gethsemane and keep awake to learn from you and follow you.
In this spirit, let us approach our special day of prayer on Monday, that we shall not run away but stand with Jesus, firm in the faith, in love even for those, especially for those who do not want to understand. After darkness comes light; it is through the cross alone that love’s redeeming work is done!

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