The night Our Lord entered into His Passion, the night His hour had come, He had a request for His disciples: "Stay you here and watch with me" (Mat 26:38b DRB). Three times He went off a little ways to pray by Himself, and each time, He returned to find His disciples asleep. In the hour when He needed them the most, they abandoned Him. When they should have been praying for the strength to resist temptation, the Apostles succumbed to their fatigue and grief – for they knew what was about to happen – and fell asleep. They could not even remain awake with Him for one hour.
As God, Jesus knew that the Father was with Him always, and indeed, He manifested this by sending an angel to comfort and strengthen His Son. In His agony in the garden, Jesus felt the weight of all the sins of the world on His shoulders. Being perfectly sinless Himself, Christ felt the sorrow for sin that man should feel, but in his fallen state does not. He felt this for the millions of sins committed in time, from the first sin in the Garden of Eden to the very last sin that will be committed before His Second Coming. Additionally, Christ also suffered by knowing what He was about to endure in His Passion. The weight of it all was so overwhelming that He sweat drops of His Precious Blood. Yet still, His disciples slept on.
"The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mat 26:41b). The disciples were filled with zeal and loyalty toward Jesus earlier that evening. Peter declared that he would be willing to die with Jesus rather than deny Him, and all the other disciples concurred. Yet when the hour came, they were not prepared. They slept rather than prayed, and when Judas led the chief priests and soldiers to Jesus to betray Him, they allowed themselves to be overcome by fear and scattered like sheep among wolves. St. Peter thrice denied that he knew Christ; the other disciples all fled in terror. Only St. John stood alongside Mary at the foot of the Cross; all the others had long since fled, broken in their moment of trial. They became too caught up in their human weakness, not relying on God to give them the courage and strength to remain faithful to Jesus. At the moment when they needed God the most, they abandoned Him.
If we examine our lives, we can see the countless times that we, too, have abandoned Our Lord. How many times have we relied on our own strength, believing it to be stronger than God's? How many times have we abandoned prayer in periods of struggle or difficulty, returning to it only out of fear or because we need something from God? How many times have we allowed our human weakness to keep us from spending time with Our Lord, as the Apostles did that night in Gethsemane? How many times… and yet we continue to do so. When things get difficult, we still abandon Him, even though we know we need Him.
Our faith is as easily extinguished as a candle sometimes; we too easily give into our human frailty and fear. In these last days of Holy Week, let us strive to set aside our weakness, relying not on our own strength, but on God, without Whom we can do nothing. Let us ask for the grace and strength to remain ever faithful to Him, even in times of trial and fear. Let us stay with Him through the long days of His Passion, walking alongside Him on the path to Calvary, guided by the Church’s Triduum liturgies, so that we may be the first to rejoice with Mary at His Resurrection.