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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Keeping Watch


Our Lord asks, "Can't you keep watch with me for even one hour?"

A couple years ago, in reading Salvifici doloros and Dives in miseriacordia in my John Paul II class, I was brought to my knees in contemplation of the fact that the mercy of God elicits mercy in ourselves. We cannot behold the suffering visage of Christ without ignoring the fact that His condition elicits mercy. 

We cannot offer mercy without becoming entangled within the suffering itself.  

I've written of this a few times, with no comment, for apparently the image that means the most to me leaves others indifferent, and there's nothing wrong with that.  But know that this is an image that I am going to come back to again and again, because theologically, it's important for us all to understand, and it is a point of conversion.  I didn't invent it;  I'm only experiencing the truth of it, and understanding it because of the writings of our dear Pope John Paul II.  

The Passion of Our Lord

When I ponder offering mercy to Our Lord in His Passion, I envision reaching out to the crown of thorns, seeing how they dig and tear into the tender flesh of His head, how heavily the wounds bleed, how hard the enormous thorns pull at His hair which further pulls them into His scalp.  His torturers had POUNDED those thorns beyond His flesh and into his skull.

What terrible agony, what piercing pain, and how the blood must have covered Him, blinding him as it cascaded into His eyes!  

Yet, in that awful suffering, He spoke not a word of rebuke. It was all suffered in perfect silence. 

In the Garden of Gethsemane, in His worst Agony, Jesus knew what was to come, and sweated blood, an actual biological condition.  He felt every blow. He was primed for every scourge. He knew every inch of suffering that awaited, and then befell him.  He knew the sort of suffering and death that was His to bear, for He had first sentenced us to it and then underwent this punishment Himself for we could not have withstood it.  

His moment of abandonment on the Cross, when He surrendered to all, and willfully gave up His spirit...this is the moment to which we all seek to ascend.  Not in morbidity, but in triumph. Not at our own hands, but at the hands of God who knows the proper moment, who calls us to abandonment. 

Knowing this, seeing this, how can we NOT seek to offer mercy?  How can we NOT desire to follow Him to the culmination of His Passion?  

Yet, if we seek to relieve Him, what happens?  In the Garden, if we reach out, does not the blood that He sweats also cover us?  If we seek to offer mercy when He is scourged, how can we unless we stand between the executioners and Our Lord, and allow ourselves to be beaten as well?  Can we offer Him mercy in that moment without taking on that same scourge as that which tears His own flesh from His bones?  

If we seek to relieve Him of the pain from His crown of thorns, is it possible to remove it without being punctured by those same bloody flesh-ripping points?  

Isn't it likely, that if we reach out to Our Lord in mercy, it means we MUST allow ourselves to be entangled within His own suffering, which He undertook for us?  

If we want to offer mercy as we follow Jesus to Calvary, does it not mean that we'll fall a few times?  And just as He was not alone when He fell, if we are in His steps, doesn't it stand to reason another might be conscripted to attend to us?  Perhaps we are the ones sent, but maybe we also need assistance to continue on the way. 

Finally, if we desire to offer mercy to Christ as He is nailed to the cross, perhaps we are not all called to suffer such a death, but are we not called to be PRESENT?  To remain with Him, identified with Him, villified with Him, spat upon with Him, and completely dismissed...with HIM?  

When Jesus asked His disciples to keep watch with Him, He was asking for mercy, but only a little.  In his humility, He did not ask for more, for He knew that real love REQUIRES far more than simply keeping watch.  

Yet, keeping watch is a step, and one that means a great deal. We see in scripture the consolation of the angel in His agony, and some Saints have suggested that the angel represents those souls who desire to be present with Christ, offering Him strength for what He is to do.  Simple human presence, empathy, sympathy.  Caring. 

I got a new perspective on this recently. 

For so long now, I've been so lost in wandering.  Seeing a star but not knowing how to get there to bask in the light.  Last weekend I felt totally abandoned, so lost I thought I could not find my way out.  I was headed to join Judas in the field of blood.  

Upon sharing my defeat with my spiritual director, suddenly I realized the value of having someone else present in the midst of a trial. I realized the other side of suffering alone, and then having someone there who is willing to take on some of that suffering.  To know that each and every scourge to come belongs to me alone, but someone else would be there who knows what it is about and won't leave me to bear it alone. 

Someone who can help me be Peter and not Judas, Mary and not Martha.  

Jeus asks us to keep watch with Him; He asks for our presence, He asks us in the utmost simplicity the easiest thing we have to offer:   ourselves, our presence.  

And if we offer that, He draws us to Him, inviting our mercy. It is that very mercy that draws us further into the depths of Salvation. 

Are any of us keeping watch with Christ tonight, or are we fleeing to the field of blood to be lost forever?

Jesus asks us to keep watch with Him.  He knows, and we know, that ultimately, this is not what He asks.  Keeping watch is the first step, and if we truly love Him, we won't just keep watch, but enter into the full experience of His Passion and death, ultimately reaching for the Resurrection. 

I am so grateful to finally understand the gift of not being alone in the Garden; I'll never read the Passion accounts in the same way again.  I'll never ponder the Agony in the Garden in the same way again, for I think I have finally experienced the simple consolation asked by Our Lord to His Apostles. 

Thank you, Jesus. Give me the grace to follow You through the Cross into the Resurrection. 


2 comments:

Maureen said...

That was a beautiful post.

And I'm glad you're feeling better.

Christine said...

That was exactly what our priest said at the Holy Thursday vigil, that we are with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane