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The Agony in the Garden
A Lenten Meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries
The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden
The thought of our sins and His coming suffering causes the agonizing Savior to sweat blood. (Luke 22:39-44)
Imagine a time in your life when you did something you regret. Not just a mistake or some unintentional accident. No, remember an instance when you made a wrong decision. It could be a time when you were hasty to judge someone, or when you responded in anger undeserved, or when you gave in to lust or doubt or pride. Call that time to mind; remember where you were, who you were with. Try to remember how you felt.
How many times has this happened and you regretted it not only after, but before and even while doing it? How many times did it seem as if you were telling yourself, "you know better than this; just don't do it!"? But you did it anyways, and then the guilt washed over you and you had to make amends.
All of us go through these difficult situations, these challenges to our conscience, on a daily basis. And very often, when we're about to do something wrong, when we're in the grip of temptation, we feel not only the pressure, the agony of our own body and soul urging us to do what we know to be wrong - we also feel alone. We feel utterly isolated from the world, from ourselves, and even from God. How could God possibly be with us when we are so engulfed by sin? How could He know what it's like?
For we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 DRA)
In fact, God knows exactly what we're going through. When Our Lord was tempted in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested and Crucified, He endured precisely what we endure every time we are tempted. He felt the pressure, the drive to sin as we do. Even though he lacked the desire to sin, He still felt it just as we do, as well as the seductions of the Devil, as we often do when we are tempted.
Truly, He felt it even more, since as God, He felt not only His temptations at that moment, but all temptation through time, just as he felt the weight of all sin and death on the Cross. He felt the full weight of evil in one moment. Imagine that: feeling every temptation and every touch of evil that all people have felt throughout history in one single moment. It would overwhelm us; indeed, we fall at much less. Yet, Christ did not sin, and so even before His Crucifixion, His victory was won. He assumed our sin in the fullness of his humanity and overcame it, something we do not and ultimately cannot do, and so He defeated it utterly and finally for us all.
This is the Gospel, the great hope of Christianity which for two thousand years has given to all Christians unmitigated joy and hope and a desire to share it with all the world. It is what has given Christians the strength to endure the greatest trials and even martyrdom for Christ, and what has inspired the greatest accomplishments of art, philosophy, theology and science in history. And, even today, it is what calls us all to a life not of bondage and slavery, but of hope, joy, love and life to the fullest, both now and for eternity.