Thursday, March 20, 2008

In the Garden with Jesus

I have a friend that is going through a very difficult time right now and I feel like there is nothing I can do to help her... and really there isn't... except for prayer. As I was reading this article I kept thinking of the agony that my friend is feeling and, even though I already knew that suffering has a real reason and purpose, this article helped me to realize how united she is with Jesus in her suffering right now. My friend doesn't have strong feelings about religion, but I pray that she can feel and understand the love and strength that Jesus is sharing with her now and always.
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
March 19, 2008

The biblical portrayal of Jesus suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane shows Jesus in one of his most human moments. He knows the horrors that await Him and He is scared beyond belief. He has just shared the Passover meal with His friends. He has instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist. He has established the priesthood to carry out His work after He is gone. He has sent the one who was to betray Him away to fulfill his task. His earthly work is almost done.

And now He sits alone in prayer. The disciples He asked to accompany Him have fallen asleep, their bellies full and their bodies tired (would we have done any better?). It is just Jesus and His Father in heaven, and Jesus is begging His Father to let him off the hook. He is ready to do His Father's will, but He really wishes that there was some other way.

We all have our own Gethsemanes in life, times when the future looms heavily before us. We all have those times when our friends have deserted us, or at least it feels that way, and we are alone in our suffering. We search for comfort and there is none. We look for some way to avoid the pain and there is no alternative plan. When we are in our hour of need, it is good to remember Jesus in His. Jesus knows what it is to be alone and hurting. He knows what it is like to face a painful future. He knows what it is to be scared. He knows what it is to beg our Heavenly Father and be told, "No, I'm sorry. This is the way it has to be." We have a God Who knows what it is to suffer.

Jesus' suffering had a purpose - the redemption of the world. He died so that we might live. The mental anguish of His night of agony and the physical pain of His torture and crucifixion were necessary to triumph over death. It set the stage for the beauty and power of the Resurrection.

Our suffering has purpose as well. Often, we can't understand the reasons for it, and like Jesus, wish it could be some other way. God doesn't want us to suffer, but sometimes He allows it in order to achieve some greater purpose. We need to go through our own Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday trials in order to experience the glory of our own Resurrection triumphs.

It is interesting to note that when Jesus appeared to His friends after His Resurrection they did not recognize Him at first. He was different somehow. This holds true for us as well. When we have gone through some great trial in our lives and we come out on the other side, we too have been changed and transformed. We are not what we once were.

In life, we all have our own agonies in the garden. Like Jesus, we are scared and feel alone. Will we also follow Jesus' example of trusting in God's will even when the cost is so high? Will we accept the suffering as a means of bringing us to our own Resurrection moment of transformation and glory?

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has a Master of Arts degree in Applied Theology from Elms College, and is editor of She is also the author of Letters to Mary from a Young Mother (2004).