Today is Holy Thursday. This evening, we will celebrate the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, participating in Jesus’ washing of the feet of his disciples and his sharing his last meal with his friends. But what follows after that meal is also an important part of the story.
Following his last meal with his friends, Jesus went to the garden to pray to his Father about what he knew he was about to undergo.
We cannot really understand this episode (the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary) unless we completely embrace one of the fundamental tenets of our faith – that Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. Although this is something we profess every time we recite the Creed, I think we sometimes have a tendency to overemphasize the divine at the expense of the human.
But unless we understand that Jesus was as human as you or I, we cannot appreciate what real suffering Jesus underwent in the garden. Matthew says, Jesus began to feel sorrow and distress; Jesus says his “soul is sorrowful even to death.” This is not pretend suffering, this is not God manifesting suffering to make a point. This is the fully human Jesus truly experiencing an almost unbearable level of suffering.
And this fully human Jesus faces fear and dread of the suffering he knows he is about to undergo. Jesus has just finished his last meal with his closest friends. He has known since turning his head toward Jerusalem that this is it, so to speak. He may not know the details, but he has a clear enough idea what is going to happen; he knows he is about to be arrested and executed.
Not surprisingly, Jesus says to His father – is this really necessary? Must I suffer so much? Is it possible for this cup to pass? Jesus doesn’t want to undergo the suffering.
But this is someone who has lived his life saying Yes to God. Who has prayed and walked with God day after day. And Jesus’ lifetime of “yes’s” to God, leads to his big yes here – Your will, not mine, be done.
The question for us, is can we do the same? As you sit in the garden this evening with Jesus and his disciples, ask yourself: What cup do I ask God to let pass from me? And then ask yourself: Am I willing to instead ask God for the strength to bear the cup?