The Agony in the Garden

“Stay awake and pray”, Jesus tells his disciples as he enters the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday night before he died. He teaches all of us there that prayer brings you through times of testing and temptation.

Facing the weakness of the flesh, death by crucifixion, Jesus doesn’t wave it away in stoic resignation or look to himself. “Not my will, but your will be done,” he says. Facing the consequences of his mission, the limits of human power, the “form of a slave,” he depends on his Father for the strength he needs.

In the garden Jesus teaches his disciples how to face trials that come. He kneels on the ground and humbly looks beyond himself to his Father, “Abba”, who hears him. He falls to the ground, trusting his Father’s strength and not his own. Troubled and distressed, for an hour’s time he pleads for help. 

“He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke says. Then, an angel comes to strengthen him. The cup of suffering isn’t taken away; he will drink from it, but it will not crush him. God will raise him up.

He teaches us pray as he did and promises to support us in our trials.

A Franciscan church in the midst of an olive garden stands today on the Mount of Olives where tradition says Jesus prayed. Pilgrims come to pray for themselves and for all facing trial and temptation.

The church is dark as that night was and Jesus kneels on a rock. There’s a rock exposed before the altar of the church. “The Lord is my rock,” we read in the psalm for today. Yes, God is our rock.

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