This rosary meditation reflects on the First Sorrowful Mystery — The Agony in the Garden. Before Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified, He prayed in a garden for strength. First, He prayed that God would let this horrible ordeal pass over Him. He later found his apostles asleep after he asked them to pray with Him. Finally, Jesus said that He would do God’s will despite any fears He had.
This mystery revolves around prayer as well as the lack of it. First we see Jesus facing His certain death. But what does He do in that situation? Does He run and hide? Does He ask the apostles to fight and protect Him? Does he complain endlessly and ask, “why me?” No, instead He prays and prays earnestly. Jesus prays so hard that He starts sweating blood. That make me wonder, have I every prayed so hard for anything in my life? When I face large challenges, do I first turn to prayer and ask God for strength and guidance or do I try to figure out some way to avoid them? Or do I just throw out a quick “God, help me!” without much effort or faith that God will actually do anything.
This rosary mystery really forces us to focus on the quality of our prayers. Ask yourself, do you earnestly lay your soul before God in prayer or do you just go through the words and motions? I know from my experience that when I pray I am often thinking of other things. I’m thinking about work, a television show or movie, finances, something someone said, or politics. When we pray are we like Jesus laying ourselves out before God or are we like the apostles — physically there but spiritually asleep?
We also see the dichotomy of Jesus being both fully human and fully God. He shows us very human emotions such as the fear of being tortured and killed and disappointment upon discovering His apostles sleeping instead of praying. He pleads with God that this terrible fate not befall Him. Fear and desperation are not exactly traits we associate with God but ones we use to describe ourselves. And there lies the reason why we see Jesus in this very human state. If we saw the fully divine Jesus go to His death, fully at peace because He knew about His ultimate resurrection and redemption, we would not be able to relate to Him much less imitate Him. Seeing Jesus scared reminds us that being scared is a normal human response when facing monumental obstacles and challenges in our lives. However, Jesus shows us that we cannot let those emotions impede us from doing God’s will. We truly follow in Jesus’ footsteps when we imitate His ways despite our human fears and doubts that make us want to do otherwise.
Jesus’ experience in the garden mirrors the apostles’ experience in the Third Glorious Mystery – The Decent of the Holy Spirit. The apostles were scared of the fate that might befall them but God gave them strength and guidance through the Holy Spirit. Their worldly circumstances did not change and they still faced some rather monumental challenges. Similarly, God did not change the world so that Jesus could escape crucifixion. God knew, as Jesus did, that ultimate salvation could only be found at the cross. We should remember that the reason God does not remove obstacles and challenges in our lives is so that we can grow closer to Him and become better people by enduring those challenges. In other words, God shows His might, not by removing obstacles, but by giving us the strength to overcome them.
What can we do to put this mystery into practice? For starters, let us try to pray earnestly with our whole heart, mind, and soul. Our relationship with God is something too important for Him to occupy our thoughts alongside the latest episode of “American Idol”, a funny joke, or where the stock market is currently trading. Wherever we are in our prayer life I know we can all probably step up our intensity. That might mean trying to concentrate harder when praying the rosary, taking time out to say grace before a meal, or really focusing on prayers during Mass. Perhaps we can take the time to go to Adoration and really focus and building a stronger relationship with God. We should also pray for those who are feeling scared and trapped by life’s obstacles. Whether they know it or not, they follow in Jesus’ footsteps and God will give them strength and guidance just as He gave those gifts to Jesus in that lonely garden.