Saturday, June 25, 2011
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:39-51
The life of faith is often filled with great joy. And likewise can be filled with great sorrow. I know many people who have great burdens to bear - illness of a loved one or themselves, betrayal by former colleagues, loss of employment, death of a dear friend or family member - and it can seem as if God has abandoned them. Our hearts ache with the desire to be faithful and our eyes run with tears in the pain which seems never to go away. And yet, even in our darkest days, we can take heart, since Jesus too knew this burden, asked for the cup to be passed, and found himself with the help of angels to strengthen him, even when his dearest friends fell asleep.
This passion story from the Gospel reveals both the best and the worst of humanity, and our foolish desire to make violence the answer to the pain and abuse we have received. Undesired as the arrest was, and undeserved as was the betrayal, Jesus had move from fear to conviction for the sake of us all. He swam in deep rivers of sorrow and found strength in God's love that would see him through.
Today, we all face burdens and challenges. I ask God to strengthen us all to face the tasks ahead with joy and faith, putting violence, anger and retribution aside, knowing God's activity is always to transform our sorrow into joy and our burdens into lessons of strength and renewal.