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Gethsemane Revisited

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By Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC (Mar 12, 2007)
"O Jesus, You alone know what I suffer, but I will keep silent and will not say anything about it to any creature, because I know that no one will comfort me. You are everything to me, O God, and Your holy will is my nourishment. I am living now on what I will live on in eternity."
— From the Diary of St. Faustina, 667

My meditation last week focused on how our Lord suffered alone after the apostles had fallen asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Their inability to remain awake reminds me of the number of times in the Diary that St. Faustina, like Jesus, reached out for support from others who could not help her. For example:

Once again, a terrible darkness envelops my soul. It seems to me that I am falling prey to illusions. When I went to confession to obtain some light and peace, I did not find these at all. The confessor left me with even more doubts that I had before (Diary, 211).



Like Jesus, she asked for understanding another time:

When I went to confession again, I got the answer, "I do not understand you Sister. It would be better if you did not come to me for confession" (Diary, 212).



What can help us when we approach our spiritual directors, our confessors, our therapists, doctors, spouses, or our best friends and they don't give us the satisfaction we seek? Are we simply to give up, to walk away in frustration?

Jesus Himself gave St. Faustina this answer:

"....I will not give you the grace to reveal yourself to someone else, and even if you did bare yourself, I will not give that priest the grace needed to understand you. At this time, it is my desire that you put up with yourself patiently" (Diary, 1163).



This confessor wasn't supposed to come up with a comforting response — lest she focus on him and not on the Lord to resolve certain issues. Eventually Jesus explained to St. Faustina that He had another confessor to whom she could share her concerns.

From my own experiences, I have come to believe that in many instances others can't respond, and perhaps shouldn't, because our Lord wants us to come to Him for answers. This is not to imply that others cannot give us help when needed, or that they lack training in their professional roles. Quite the contrary! Many I have gone to for help have been of great assistance.

Nevertheless, there are those special moments when our Lord would rather have us lean on and learn from Him. It would be a gross violation on my part to interfere with what our Lord is trying to teach someone. It would be to their greater advantage to seek His will through their own prayer. This has proven true in my own experience and for any number of other individuals as well.

I often dwell on a question in regard to our Lord not having anyone to console Him at Gethsemane. What if our Lord did have some person relieve His great sorrow and anguish? Would the angel then not come and minister to Him? (see Lk 22:43). Would He have delayed surrendering His will totally to His Father? So, the question I have to ask myself is: Am I allowing friends or my activities, hobbies, concerns, even fear and distrust, to delay or diminish my complete and unconditional surrender to God? Am I demanding that others stay awake so that my needs may be quieted?

After He left the apostles the third time, Jesus began to feel a terrible fear and anguish so deep that it filled Him with great sadness. He said: "My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. It is a sorrow that is killing me." The evangelists refer to His sorrow, distress and anguish (see Mk 13:33) meaning the dread of pain that one anticipates prior to suffering. These feelings stayed with Jesus like two heavy weights, pressed down on His heart until He was "in agony" (see Lk 22:44).

Mystics believe that one of the reasons Jesus Christ wanted to suffer pain in His body and soul was to show us that He was a real human being, with our very same nature; that He felt torture and insult the same as we do; that He was not aloof to our physical and mental torments. This can help comfort many who feel the force of their emotions dominating them.

These souls need not be discouraged or feel they have lost God's grace. These feelings are not sins, but manifestations of the natural weakness of us humans. The Lord chose to take on himself this mental weakness, making Himself the same as us — except for sin — so that we could become the same as Him in fortitude and in obedience to the will of God. Greater fortitude results not from a greater effort, but from the suffering entailed in that greater effort.

What can we do when our sufferings demand answers and none are forthcoming? We can follow the example of Jesus: "And being in agony He prayed more earnestly" (Lk 22:44). He didn't give up, moan or point a finger of blame on anyone. He simply prayed more earnestly. He wasn't going to allow anything to interfere with His ultimate desire to fulfill the will of His Father.

Through the Gethsemane experience, Jesus is conveying to us that He can relate to our trials. We see that only He can provide answers to our persistent questions and doubts. There are times when each of us feels alone with these thoughts and find ourselves in our own Garden of Gethsemane.

A friend heard me dwell on my past so many times and finally challenged me by saying: "Brother, it sounds like you're still stuck in the Garden." I realized how true this was. Nothing helped me get out of that dilemma other than reflecting on His Passion. Jesus told St. Faustina, "It is in My Passion that you must seek light and strength" (Diary, 654). Then I realized that our Lord permits the furrows in our lives, and only He in His love and wisdom is able to fill that feeling of emptiness.

When our Lord decides to fill that void, He seems, first of all, to give us a hunger to know Him better. This is often followed by a greater desire to receive Him daily in the Holy Eucharist. When this is impossible, we can make a spiritual communion and read His inspired word. The Eastern Catholic Church looks upon the Scriptures as a sacrament, because it is that external sign that brings grace.

Among the other ways that our Lord fills the gap for us is through giving us a longing for an even deeper prayer life. He invites us to be alone with Him. He very gently extends an invitation to remain in complete silence and absorb all the love He is aching to pour out. Our soul becomes irresistible to God when we can forget our self for a time and simply wait upon Him.

With St. Faustina we pray:

O Jesus, eternal Truth, strengthen my feeble forces; You can do all things, Lord. I know that without You all my efforts are in vain. O Jesus, do not hide from me, for I cannot live without You. Listen to the cry of my soul. Your mercy has not been exhausted, Lord, so have pity on my misery. Your mercy surpasses the understanding of all Angels and people put together; and so, although it seems to me that You do not hear me, I put my trust in the ocean of Your mercy, and I know that my hope will not be deceived (Diary, 69)

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Brother Leonard Konopka, MIC, is on the staff of the Marian Seminary in Washington, D.C. He also provides spiritual direction, retreats, and seminars. Brother Leonard has a leaflet available that has a series of meditations on the five wounds of our Lord. The meditations are intended for use while praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order Contemplate My Wounds. He also has a CD available with the meditations on the five wounds, interspersed with the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order A Musical Interlude.

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Roseanne - Mar 28, 2007

It was incredible to read about how Sr. Faustina felt so alone, for she did not understand herself nor did others understand her. This is exactly what I have been feeling. I know that our Lord lead me to read this today. The darkness and emptiness she felt is what I have felt, and yet the blessing that comes from it is a deeper understanding on the reliance of our Lord. God did not talk to me the way he talked to Sr. Faustina, but I felt he really did talk to me today when reading this passage. I really feel as if I have an answer to my prayer,"What would you want of me, Lord? How do you want me to serve you?"

Cyndi - Apr 25, 2007

Jesus is irresistable . . .

steph - Feb 15, 2008

when I read about st. Faustina feeling this way in her diary I was amazed. I feel this way it seems like all the time and I pray that I will gain the trust she had in Jesus. St. Faustina pray for me a sinner. amen