The Agony in the Garden
The First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary
Our Lord Jesus loves us so much, He made detailed preparations for our well-being, right up to the end of His life. He wanted to have a last supper with His disciples. He had instructions for them. He wanted to be sure they understood their role in Salvation History, and how they were to conduct themselves. He wanted to leave them and His Church ammunition for the days ahead.
He washed their feet. Peter protested. Jesus told him, "Unless I wash your feet, you cannot share in My heritage." (John 13:8)
Then Jesus explained why He had washed their feet.
"What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do. I solemnly assure you, no slave is greater than his master; no messenger outranks the one who sent him. Once you know all these things, blest will you be if you put them into practice." (John 13:15-17)
In case they had joined Him because of the glory, was Jesus reminding them that the glory is always bought by pain, persecution, and anguish? We recall His answer when the mother of James and John asked if her sons would be seated in Heaven, one at His right and one at His left: He asked James and John if they were ready to drink from the cup from which He would drink. Little did they know the cup Jesus was talking about, when they said yes! Jesus took that yes and later sent His Holy Spirit down to give them the strength to fulfill that promise.
Was He trying to teach them, with this act of washing their feet: that if they wanted the rewards, they had to be ready to pay the price? Could they imitate Him in big and little things? Could they learn how to be humble from Him?
He gave them the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He fulfilled the promise He made, "I will be with you always, until the end of the world." (Matt 28:20) They didn't understand it at the time, but after the Holy Spirit entered into them, they realized the Gift He was leaving them.
One of our early Church Fathers said that the Church would not have lasted one hundred years without the Eucharist. Jesus had overheard them squabbling over who would be first. He had seen how they had wanted to stay on Mount Tabor after witnessing His glorious Transfiguration. He knew that His three trusted Apostles would not have the strength to stay awake one hour with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. How would these eleven be able to live and die for His Church? (He knew the twelfth would betray Him.) He knew those He had chosen were not the wisest, bravest, strongest of men. How would they and His Church survive? He would give them, and the Bishops and priests who would follow, the grace and power to overcome all adversaries, even unto death for the Faith. He left Himself: His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist.
He tried to prepare them for the rough days ahead.
Although His strong focus this evening, was that of putting all things in order for His disciples, and His Church, the upcoming events kept breaking through His consciousness. He couldn't help but think about them. Jesus knew they had not fully realized why He had come to earth. He knew the pain and disappointment, the fear they would experience when they saw the Son of God die on the Cross. His thoughts were of them when He said, "What I say is not said of all, for I know the kind of men I choose." [He was trying to reassure and affirm those who were not betraying Him.] "My purpose here is the fulfillment of Scripture. He who partook of bread with Me has raised his heel against Me." Then He said, "One of you will betray Me." (Matt 26:23) He watched as all questioned each other, and then asked Him: "Is it I, Lord?" (Matt 26:22) Finally, when Judas asked the question, Jesus pinned him down, "It is you who have said it." Then He gave Judas his instructions, "Be quick about what you are to do." (Matt 26:25) after which Judas left.
Jesus gave them a last teaching. He predicted they would all leave Him. When Peter exclaimed he would never leave Him, Jesus predicted that before the cock crowed twice, Peter would deny Him three times. But it was said with love! Jesus knew their weaknesses. [There is a tradition that Peter cried so much because he had denied his Lord three times that there were ruts coming down his face from the tears.] Jesus knew, it would take the power of the Holy Spirit to give the Apostles the courage they needed, to carry out the mandate He had given them. He prayed over them. Then they left for the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus sang! This is the only time in Scripture we hear of Jesus singing. (Matt 26:30 )[St. Augustine tells us that when we sing (well) we pray twice.] Jesus knew, He and they would have to have strength to live through the days ahead. Previously, He had brought Peter, James and John to the top of a mountain, Mount Tabor and strengthened them by showing them His transfigured Self. They had been so overjoyed, they wanted to stay up there forever. What they did not know; this was to lead to another high place - Calvary.
All of them sang as they left the Upper Room; and they continued singing as they walked past Caiphas' palace, where Jesus would return that very night under much different circumstances. They crossed over the Kidron Valley on to the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. This was a favorite place of Jesus. It was near Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. This area was where Jesus stayed whenever He came into Jerusalem. He never stayed in the city, but outside, on this side. It was on the Mount of Olives that he wept over Jerusalem and predicted its destruction, which took place some thirty seven years after His death and Resurrection. It was here that He said:
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, `Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (Matt 23:37)
Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him into the Garden. He asked them to stand guard and pray. Then Jesus went off by Himself, to pray at the rock. Jesus knew why He had been sent to the earth. This was the beginning of the end of His Mission, the salvation of men and their sins. We believe that Jesus was able to see, in that short time, all the sins that had ever been committed by man and would be committed until the end of time. He grieved over the blatant betrayal against His Father by man, down through the centuries.
We know He must have seen the brutal outrage against humanity, committed by Mao Tse-Tung, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler in this twentieth century. He must have cried as He witnessed the carnage, the mass genocide of close to forty million of His children by these monsters. How this must have pierced His Side, and strangled His heart. He also had to see the more than thirty million victims of abortion at the hands of their own mothers, the new monsters, in our country alone. And this is not counting the staggering number of victims, in other so-called civilized countries throughout the world, who are falling for Satan's plan for annihilation of the world. Jesus had to realize that the worst atrocities against humanity were to be committed after His great sacrifice, and the triumph of the Cross. Is this when He began to bleed? Did knowledge of all the sins of the world, before and after Him, cause such pressure on His Head and Heart, that blood began pouring out of Him?
He went back to the chosen three. They were fast asleep. He called to them to wake up. Did they have any idea of what He was about to endure for them? Could they not stay awake with Him for one hour? He went back to the rock. Because of the agony Jesus suffered, this rock would later be called The Rock of Agony. He prayed hard.
His humanity had to have surfaced. He must have looked at these three, who had fallen asleep, and thought: They were the best of the lot, and they couldn't be depended on. To quote Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, "these were the ones He trusted to stay awake." Was the time right? Was it too soon? Had He prepared them sufficiently? Would they be strong enough to carry on the work? After all, it had only been three years. These eleven were not the brightest, or best educated. They were simple men, for the most part fishermen. Jesus spoke frankly to the Father. He said, "Father, if it be Your will, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
Jesus went back to the three apostles. They were asleep, again. He woke them. He chided them: "Why are you sleeping? Wake up, and pray that you may not be subjected to the trial." (Matt 26:40-41) But it was too late, now. He could hear commotion not far off. It was Judas and the soldiers from the chief priests, approaching. According to plan, Judas embraced Jesus. He looked at Judas with such love. He knew He was about to be betrayed; but it didn't stop Him from loving His betrayer. Judas averted Jesus' eyes. Jesus smiled sadly at His fallen apostle. "Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:48)
At this point, a riot broke out. The soldiers went for Jesus; the apostles tried to stop them. Peter, still not quite awake, pulled out a sword, and began flailing it through the air. It landed on one of the priest's servants, and severed his ear. There was a hush. Jesus grabbed Peter's hand, and stopped him. "Enough!" Then He touched the man's ear and healed him.
Jesus looked to those who were in charge, the priests, the chiefs of the temple guard, and the elders. He was hurt. What had He ever done to them, or to us?
"Am I a criminal," he asked, "that you come out after Me armed with clubs and swords? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you never raised a hand against me." (Matt 22:52-53) He could see He was getting nowhere. But He had to give it one last try. He had to let them know what was happening. He said: "But this is your hour - the triumph of darkness." (Matt 22:53)
I've often wondered about that last statement of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Who was it directed to? Was He speaking to the chief priests and temple guards, or was Satan lurking in the shadows that night? Had Satan's demons taken over the hearts of those who now wanted to see Jesus dead? Had they filled the priests' hearts with hate for Jesus, using them to do their evil work? We know that Lucifer is the prince of the world, the prince of darkness. Was Jesus speaking directly to him?
Things haven't changed much since the time of Jesus. Satan is still spewing out his hate and venom upon the world, using man to do his dirty work. And we have allowed ourselves to be suckered in so easily. Satan knows what buttons to push, to make us react just the way he would have us. And over the past two thousand years, we have systematically been destroying ourselves. Paul gave us an insight into the battle that has been raging down through the centuries. "Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens." (Eph 6:11-13)
You cannot stand on the spot where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and not reflect on what Jesus might have been thinking and feeling. Straight ahead, directly across from where Jesus was praying and suffering, were the golden gates. It was through these gates that they had led Jesus triumphantly, the Sunday before (Palm Sunday). They had waved palms and laid them at His feet. Now, they wanted to kill Him. Was this part of Your pain, Jesus? Did You cry out: "What did I do to you? I only wanted to love you, to heal you, to forgive you?" Jesus, did You say, once again: "Well, I Love you, I heal you, I forgive you, even as you plan My death on the Cross."? Forgive us, dear Lord.
This is the perfect time to put on the armor of God. We are possibly in the most crucial period of our Church, our country, and our world. Only the anticipation of the triumph of the Cross can bring us through the forth-coming Passion of Our Lord. As we approach the 21st century, if we do not realize that this is his (the devil's) hour, we are living in a fool's paradise. We have only to read the papers, watch secular television to know that the battle is on! As you view the scandalous behavior which is now purported to be the norm, as all our traditions are being desecrated and we watch dissension ripping families apart, Jesus' prophecy seems to be coming to pass before our very eyes:
"And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon....Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from Heaven.
"But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of My Name....You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of My Name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win your lives." (Luke 21:9-19)
Our Lady (of Fatima) appeared to three children at the beginning of the twentieth century and she gave one of them, Lucia, the third secret which she told her to give to no one but the Pope. Since then, Pope after Pope has read the Third Secret and not made it public. Now, as the twentieth century is closing, the Lord has sent us a powerful Pope to lead his people to the Triumph of the Cross. Our dear Pope John Paul II is reaching out to his children, bringing them the Truth. Is the Third Secret the apostasy that threatens our Church from within and without? Is this what our dear Lord saw in the Garden of Gethsemane as He sweat Blood and Tears on the Rock of Agony? An Angel came to console the Lord. Are Angels coming to us to bring His Word to us? Be not afraid, we are with you, fighting by your side. The Cross will triumph!
How do we protect ourselves and our families against the powers of hell? We must become prayer warriors. Go to Daily Mass, not only during Lent, but the rest of your life. Your life and the lives of your loved ones depend on it. Pray, pray often. Receive the Sacraments. They are weapons of strength for us. Fasting and abstinence are means to strengthen our souls, and give prayer cover to the Angels to protect us from the evil one. Our Lord has given us these gifts to help us ward off the prince of this world.
Through these gifts, we can change the world, not by legislation, or by force, but by emptying our hearts, and allowing Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit. We must allow the Lord to break our hearts of stone, and make them into new creations of His Love. And when this happens, change will come about in us, and through us, the world.
We have a great opportunity to take some of the pressure off Jesus' Head in the Garden of Gethsemane. Let's give up sinning! If each of us commits one less sin, or gives up sinning altogether, at least some of that pain will be alleviated. If we give up sins, His suffering will be less. And we'll really feel pretty good about ourselves. Try it! Do it!