We all experience “Gethsemanes” in our own lives; times of difficulty, deep sorrow, loss, distress, fear and anguish.
(And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.) When he rose from prayer -and returned to his disciples- he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” (Luke 22: 39-42)
This Sunday we enter into Holy Week. Christians will gather in sanctuaries throughout the world and wave Palm branches in imitation of those who lined the streets at Jesus´ triumphal entry. We will follow the path of His struggle, the way of His rejection and we will be invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love.
During this week we are invited to enter into His pattern of surrendered love; to walk this way with Jesus, who, in His Sacred humanity, teaches us the path to our own transformation. The agony in that garden called Gethsemane shows us a very human Jesus.
Yes, He was Divine and, because of that, He alone could do for us what we could not do for ourselves, restoring through His passion and death the broken relationship between God and the people whom He fashioned for love and communion. With His outstretched arms, He bridged the gap between heaven and earth. In His triumph over death he defeated the last enemy and began the new creation.
In His Sacred humanity this man Jesus shows each of us how to live differently. We are invited to greet and embrace even that which we do not want as the very means of transformation. We have been given the grace to accept difficulties, which, when embraced in love, can actually become a path to our redemption.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 14:15)
The Christian tradition insists that even undeserved and unmerited suffering, when joined in love to the sufferings of Jesus Christ, can produce extraordinary fruit within us and around us. This is the mystery of suffering in the Christian life.
Saint Jose Maria Escriva once wrote “The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we can conquer eternity.”
How do we treat those circumstances that cause us to struggle? How do we deal with what we find unpleasant? Do we practice an “adult” form of avoidance and run, acting as if it will all just go away like when children cover their eyes? Or do we believe that even unpleasant things and “difficult” people can actually be gifts from the hands of a loving God who invites us to walk in the way of His Son?
How do we deal with unresolved conflicts or troubling relationships? Do we work toward resolution, making “love our aim” (1 Cor. 14:7), or do we avoid them, thinking they will just go away if we “pretend” they don´t exist?
Now is the time, during this week we call “Holy”, to join the revolution of which this great saint writes. After all, why do we call this week “Holy”? I suggest two among many reasons.
First, the story of this week is the story of an all Holy God who showed the depth of His love through the complete emptying of Himself, in and through the Passion of His Son. Second, it is holy because we are invited into that life and way of holiness that Jesus demonstrated during all of the events that we will soon commemorate.
In the Old Testament the word often translated as “holy” literally meant- to be set aside, consecrated, for God. In Jesus Christ it now means even more. We who are baptized into Him are invited to live our lives now, in Him. To love as He loves; to pray as He prays, to walk as He walks, to suffer as He suffers; to confront evil the way He does.
All of us inevitably experience “Gethsemanes” in our own lives, times of difficulty, deep sorrow, loss, distress, fear and anguish. Friends may have betrayed us, or those whom we love may have rejected us. Maybe things about our lives are being exposed, brought into the light, and it is “uncomfortable”.
It is often those times and circumstances that become the very path to holiness if we learn to love as He loves. Our Christian vocation is to live as He lives, to love as He loves and to thereby become “holy” as He is holy. We are invited to embrace the way of surrendered love.
“Take this cup”. It is a very human request. What is the cup we are being asked to drink? Let us decide today to make the choice and drink, saying as we do “not my will but yours be done” When we live and love this way, the very people and circumstances that once seemed to be so difficult can become the path to freedom and we learn to walk the way of forgiving love with Him as His redemptive mission continues through time.
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