March 29, 2018
Here we are on Holy Thursday…of Holy Week….a very sacred time for our Church. In fact, these are the beginning hours of the most sacred time for our Church. On this Thursday…of this Holy Week….however, rather than savoring the wonder and the mystery of the great gift we were given during the Lord’s final Passover meal, my mind is taking me to what comes next. “The Agony in the Garden.”
I am having the most intense experience of those hours, Jesus spent in the deepest of prayer, while Peter, James and John slept, than ever before in my life.
And I think that is the case, because last week, here in the Diocese of Saginaw, we lived through a very un-holy week. This past Thursday, without a doubt, will always be remembered here in our Diocese as un-holy Thursday. And tragically, there is no need for me to give a further explanation of why I say that. The media, here at home, and in fact all over the country, described the events that cause me to think of last week, especially last Thursday, as un-holy.
That’s what has taken my attention away from the profoundly urgent teaching, and the priceless gift that Jesus gave us during His final meal, to Gethsemane. The elements of that story are all to be found in our lived experience of this past week. Alleged betrayal, doubt and denial, rejection, abandonment, loss of credibility, are all part of Jesus’s time in the Garden. And these things were used in the headlines last week, to describe us: The Church of Saginaw. So, I hurried out of the Upper Room, to “what came next” in hope of finding some meaning or purpose in all of this darkness and suffering.
For these past days, I’ve been in the Garden with Jesus. Unlike the three who accompanied Him, I tried to my best to stay awake and keep watch and pray. And my agonized prayer was for all of us. My prayer has been that these extremely trying times would not cause our faith to under go the test. I’ve been praying that God would help us to rise above all the darkness that’s swirling around us, and restore a sense of holiness to this Holy Week. I was praying for The Peace of Christ. The Peace of Christ that enabled Jesus of Nazareth to rise up from the ground, and move forward with His mission…The Salvation of humanity.
I found it. I found that Peace, here this evening. I have recovered that priceless sense of the sacred, from you. You, faithful disciples who have come here to keep watch and pray have made this Thursday evening Holy as you do as The Lord has commanded…gather at this Table to share in His Body and Blood.
It’s good that we are here. But I do not at all regret my time in the Garden. There I saw Jesus lying on the ground in such an overwhelming state of emotional, and spiritual distress that He was literally sweating blood. He appeared to be broken.
One spiritual writer describes it this way: Jesus lets His strength trickle out in weakness, His courage drown in fear and His love sink into the darkness of Godforsakenness. His cry for help drowned in silence.
Still, somehow, out from that “silence” strength washed over Him. He was able to stand and move on with His work…the work of suffering and dying, so that we might live. What we learn from being in the Garden and watching human weakness transformed by Divine strength is simply this. There is no darkness in which God does not live.
This is most definitely a lesson of Holy Thursday, as important as the call to serve one another that The Lord taught by washing the Apostle’s feet. Through His Agony in the Garden, Jesus has proven once and for all, that even at times when it might seem to us that the Father is silent…has abandoned us…eventually, God’s love and mercy will pour over us to give us strength. Then, with confidence, we can rise up from whatever it is that has driven us into the ground in agony, and move us with what it is we need to do. There is no darkness in which God does not live.
Having ventured into the Garden to reflect on “what comes next” we look back to “what came before.” The Life Giving Bread and the Saving Cup…The Eucharist is what made Holy Thursday Holy. The Eucharist is what makes us Holy. The Eucharist is what makes us the Body of Christ and we will prevail against anything that attempts to rob us of our holiness.
(Quotations are from theologian Fr. Karl Rahner and used by Fr. James J. Bacik in his book Humble Confidence.)