Wednesday, October 17, 2007

1st Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden (John)

It is quiet now, but it is not an easy stillness. A few minutes ago I sat against the trunk of an old olive tree, alternately dozing and listening to the sound of the cicadas, the owls and the breeze as it rustled the leaves above my head.

A few minutes ago? A lifetime ago!

Jesus had asked us to stay awake when we came to the garden. He wanted to go deeper amongst the olive trees in order to pray. I tried to stay awake. We all did. The trouble was that a large Passover meal, wine and the quiet stillness of the moonlit night was not conducive to wakefulness. We all slept.

It was Jesus who roused us, telling us that we could now sleep. That contradiction did not strike me at the time because there were strange and unfamiliar noises: a horse’s bit chinking, feet tramping through long-dead leaves, furtive whispers.

Suddenly a group of armed men burst into the clearing, Judas in their midst. That was a shock. I had not expected to see him. All of us had thought he had left the supper room in order to give some alms to the poor. How could we possibly know that he had left us in order to meet with Temple guards? Why had he met with them? What was happening?

With a sense of horror, transfixed and unable to move, I watched Judas break free of the crowd and approach Jesus. At first, he was tentative and almost shy. He suddenly accelerated his pace and strode towards Jesus as though there was something he wanted to say or do that he needed to finish as quickly and decisively as possible. Nothing led me to expect Judas to kiss Jesus in greeting.

I was positioned directly across from Jesus so I could not avoid seeing the look of hurt in his eyes. “Judas, you would betray your master with a kiss?”

Judas had the grace to recoil in shock as though he had suddenly realised the enormity of his actions. He stood by, appalled, as the soldiers and Temple guard marched forward, grasping Jesus by the arms and tying his hands behind his back.

Peter was wide awake. Ineffectual as on so many occasions, he took out his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Of what use was that? Yet even then, Jesus was true to himself, stooping to pick up the bloody ear and fix it back in place on its owner’s head.

Jesus performed a miracle for one of his captors! Is there anything about him that is not utter goodness?

How could Judas betray someone so loved by us all? Where did he find the courage, if that word could be so used, to seek out the High Priest and offer to hand over his friend? Was his greed so much more than his friendship, or was there an underlying motive that none of us can see?

The mob led Jesus away, taking him to Caiaphas. I must go to find Mary. How do I break the news to her? How does anybody tell a mother that an innocent child is probably starting out on a path to a travesty of a trial in which the first victim is truth and the second, justice? How will she face this agony that I must inflict? How can I soften the blow? I cannot think of a single word that will not inflict indescribable pain on someone who has done nothing to deserve it.

Eternal Lord, be with me. Be with Mary. Be with Jesus. Calvary is geographically so near. Now it is also close in time.

God bless,
Sr. Janet