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The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Matthew (26: 36-46); Luke (22: 39-46) Everyone, it is said, has their Gethsemane moment. The First Sorrowful Mystery then is a place of profound encounter.

In the Garden we see the Son of Man praying in solitude, his disciples a little way off. As Jesus contemplates his passion, which is to begin that very evening, his heart recoils from what is to be a cruel and ignominious death, he asks of the Father “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).

The natural, and in some sense praiseworthy, approach to this mystery is to try and associate ourselves as much as possible with Christ’s agony by placing ourselves in his shoes. We associate some mental anguish over some trial we have had, or are having, with Christ’s agony. However, Our Lord never considered acting against the Father’s will, he never thought that he might just run away or that he might call upon a legion of angels to deliver him (cf. Matt. 26:53). Our Lord was like the brave soldier who feared the battle but never contemplated desertion.

'Could you not watch with me for one hour?'

But for us, though we might often utter ‘Father, remove this cup from me…’ we always keep open the option of desertion. Most of us are more like the disciples in this mystery; we attempt to accompany the Lord’s agony but in fact we fall asleep. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

So, as we begin the sorrowful mysteries we might ask, not so much for the strength to endure great spiritual ordeals, but rather, more modestly, we ask for the grace to be able to at least stay awake in the spiritual struggle that we might learn to complete our prayer and say ‘not my will but thine be done.’


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