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Pastor's Corner: The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as expressed in our lives

 

August 23, 2019



I am not sure if you have noticed, but sometimes life is really hard. Often our personal choices — good or bad — lead us to a place of discomfort, emotional and physical struggle and sense of loss. Sometimes it seems life just hands out misery to us. For no particular reason!

If you sense a bit of frustration in that last sentence, you are correct.

Having said that, I believe that every time we experience pain, suffering and loss it is an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God.

Our Scripture readings for this Sunday, Aug. 25, include an excerpt from the letter to the Hebrews that seems to address the issue of human suffering.

“God treats you as sons. For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7b, 11

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a difficult time visualizing God saying, “Yep, today it is time to discipline Tim.” But I do believe that there is a built-in process in life — put there by God — that is designed to create a desire in us to turn to God in times of need, distress or sense of helplessness. I believe there is much scriptural evidence of this but I would like to focus on Jesus’ Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I am sure that you all remember Jesus’ time in the Garden so I am not going to take the time to walk through the entire story. I am also sure that you remember the intense time of prayer that Jesus experienced there. He knew what was coming and He really didn’t want to participate in it. What He really did want was God’s will to be done and He took time to take His concern to God so that God could strengthen Him; to help Him deal with the coming pain and suffering.

One might say that Jesus could do this because He is the Son of God. My response to that is that He was also fully human like all of us. So how do we humans respond to pain, suffering and loss in our lives?

The following exert from the writing and preaching of Martin Luther King is an example of how feeling lost in a garden of pain can be an opportunity for growth in faith.

“One night toward the end of January, I settled into bed late, after a strenuous day. Coretta had already fallen asleep and just as I was about to doze off the telephone rang. An angry voice said, ‘Listen, nigger, we’ve taken all we want from you, before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.’ I hang up, but I couldn’t sleep. It seemed that all of my fears had come down on me at once. I had reached a saturation point. I got out of bed and began to walk the floor. Finally I went to the kitchen and heated a pot of coffee. I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward.

“In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory:

“I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”

“At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced him before.”

I am sure that we all remember that Martin Luther King was killed shortly after this. I am sure that we all also remember that Jesus also suffered death after His time feeling lost in the garden. From their Agony in their Garden they received strength to empower a people to work to build the Kingdom of God.

As it says in the Hebrews quote above, pain, suffering and loss are an opportunity for training. Training in how we may more fully trust God and not our own abilities when we are suffering. This training can and will lead to righteousness if we turn to God and seek his strength.

My point is this; God walks with us in all the events of our lives to strengthen us and empower us with the gift of the Holy Spirit not just to endure the pain, suffering and loss but to grow in faith, hope and love through the struggles. To become more completely a Child of the Living God.

May God bless you in all you do.

——

Deacon Tim Maroney

St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church

 

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