Today as I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, I thought of Jesus’ agony in the garden and how the fruit of that mystery is true contrition of sins. Did you know that each mystery of the rosary has a corresponding fruit? The fruit of meditating on the agony in the garden is true contrition for sin. We all need that, don’t we?
Do you recall the wooded park on the corner of Tyler and Emerson in Sechelt? Sometimes when I imagine Jesus suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, that’s the location I think of. I see him by one of those boulders pouring out his anguish to the Father. Before he even kneels, as he’s plodding to the place where he’ll pray, the weight of the world’s sins throughout the ages begins to press upon him.
Just a short time earlier, Peter had argued with him, claiming he’d never deny him. Jesus invited Peter, James and John to pray with him and to pray for themselves to be strong in the temptation they were about to experience. “Your spirit is willing, but your flesh will be weak,” he’d told them so they’d be more inclined to pray. And indeed, their flesh was weak. Sated by the Passover meal and the fellowship they’d enjoyed with their fellow disciples, they wasted no time getting comfortable and having a snooze while Jesus began his intense agony in the garden. Alone. His best friends left him to suffer alone. He even went to wake them and ask for their help. But their sleepiness prevailed. We can be so fickle. When our bellies are full and our emotional needs met, it’s easy to imagine we’ll not waiver, that our faith will be strong come what may.
Dejected and alone, Jesus returns to the boulder and falls to his knees as the weight of horrific sin begins to ravish his body. The sinless God-man sees the sins of the world playing in his mind like a movie reel. Evil scene after evil scene is before him. Perfect love is subjected to perfect hate. No sort of sin is withheld from his awareness.
He sees a father molesting his little girl and her humiliation, her bitter loss of innocence, her fear, and the unravelling of all the safety and security she’d ever known. Our loving Lord who said, “Let the little children come to me,” and who picked up the children and blessed them now sees the shame and betrayal in the little girl’s eyes as she forces them closed in vain hope of erasing the memory of what just happened. He wants to hold her, console her, heal her. Mysteriously, he is fully experiencing both the father and the helpless daughter’s emotions. Jesus passionately hates what the dad has done, but he sees the father when he was a little boy, himself a victim of shattered innocence. He is fully experiencing the effects of sin in both lives. “Both lives,” that’s laughable. It’s not like it’s just two lives. It’s millions of dads and millions of children. Pain, pain, and more pain.
The effects of sin! He sees the horror. Sin doesn’t end; it keeps revisiting the generations. My God, the anguish our Lord must have experienced as he saw humanity’s condition. He sobs for the pain he sees. “Father, let this cup pass from me,” he cries as he sees these pained people reject his love and invitation to life. Seeing billions of people reject his sacrifice and love, choosing hell over him, is the cup of agony he was drinking.
Jesus looked to our time in history and saw unborn babies in what should be the coziest, safest place in the universe, their mothers’ wombs, and heard their silent screams as they struggled to escape the abortionists’ evil instruments of mutilation. Millions of babies slaughtered. Can you imagine the crushing in his chest as he saw these vivid realities?
A few weeks ago, I drove through Vancouver’s east side for the first time. I’d heard of East Hastings, but I was shocked, nonetheless. A weathered young woman walked in front of traffic, oblivious to danger, clearly drugged. Dozens and dozens were sleeping on the sidewalk. Prostitutes, looking far from beautiful and fresh, were trying to make a living. People were asking for money and some mentally ill were yelling at no one. I could not shake the images of what I’d seen for a couple days. It occurred to me how much worse it is in other parts of the world. The homeless of Canada might at least find a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and, if they are sick, they can still access healthcare.
Jesus saw and loved these people that night in Gethsemane. He saw the whole of the human condition with agonizing clarity. Is it any wonder he sweat blood?
As you contemplate Jesus’ crushing emotional and spiritual pain in the garden, think about the greatest sorrows you’ve heard or read about and those you’ve experienced, plus those you’ve inflicted on others. Remember always, Jesus agonized over them all.
May we both become more and more sensitive to the sin in our lives.
**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian." In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts.