Transforming Temptation

On this Holy Thursday, we celebrate Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. But the final toast at dinner was not the end of the evening. Rather, Jesus goes from dinner with his friends to what we term his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

Ronald Rolheiser once wrote this about that episode:

Jesus walked into the Garden of Gethsemane as one tempted, just as we are, towards bitterness, fear, resentment, and self-protection. He was haunted by all the same proclivities that beset us. But, in Gethsemane, he transformed rather than transmitted those temptations. He didn’t simply give back in kind, letting the energy simply flow through him. He purified the energy and took the tension and sin out of it by absorbing them. It cost him his blood, his life, and his reputation. He had to sweat blood, but he emerged from the Garden the truly generative lover who, at the price of giving away everything, gives back peace for tension and forgiveness for sin, absorbing in his own person the tension and sin so as to take them out of the community. The giving over of that kind of blood really does wash away sin.  And, in doing this, Jesus doesn’t want admirers, but followers. The Garden of Gethsemane invites us, everyone of us, to step in, and to step up. It invites us to sweat a lover’s blood so as to help absorb, purify, and transform tension and sin rather than simply transmit them.”

As we contemplate Jesus’ experience in the garden, we might ask ourselfes:

What lessons do we learn from this episode of Jesus’ life?  What does Jesus behavior teach us about how to respond to the dark gardens in our lives?  Am I as willing to undergo suffering as was Jesus?

When have I been like the disciples, unable to stay awake with Jesus?  Can it be said of me that though the spirit is willing the flesh is weak?


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