Friday, 30 March 2012

Following Jesus through the stations of the cross

Over Holy Week, we are going to post short reflections on each of the biblical Stations of the Cross, with prayers that you might like to use. Do join us on this journey.

1st Station: Jesus in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’

Mark’s account of the garden prayers is the more shocking, because it comes immediately after Peter’s protestation that he will never forsake Jesus: he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And then he falls asleep. Peter, the master of the grand gesture, who so often, like me, seems to miss the small detail of discipleship: just sit here while I pray, says Jesus. Remain here. Not too tall a talk. Keep awake.

The small things in our following Jesus are the most symptomatic of the health of our spiritual life, and the details determine the trajectory of our journey of faith. It’s worth the mathematically-minded among you remembering that one degree of movement to the left or right takes us hundreds of miles off course. No wonder Jesus spoke about a narrow path leading to eternal life, lest we lose our way.

Now let’s look briefly at the components of Jesus’ prayer at the beginning of the crisis of his last days:

1.      He names God intimately, confidently, as one in relationship with him. We too can speak the language of Jesus in prayer.
2.      He tells the truth about God: for you all things are possible. This is what praise is: not flattery, not exaggeration. Just the simple truth, and it’s a perfect model for our praise.
3.      He makes a request, and then – almost as quickly – withdraws it. Well, not quite. He is honest with God, doesn’t beat about the bushes: remove this cup. At the same time, however, he speaks with courtesy to the one who know best, and whose will must be done for the sake of the world’s salvation.

And here too we learn from Jesus, to be bold, to be honest, but to be willing for it all to happen another way. Just stay awake long enough to pray this prayer, with its three simple components: My God, you are great. Help me, and help me your way...

Lord Jesus, you entered the garden of fear, and faced the agony of your impending death:
be with those who share that agony nd face death unwillingly this day.
You shared our fear and knew the weakness of our humanity:
give strength and hope to the dispirited and despairing.
To you, Jesus, who sweated blood, be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.

Prayer (c) Archbishops' Council 2012 from Times and Seasons page 239 

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