Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 22, 2004
Angels appear when we are finally felled
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
"I have nothing left. I've come to the point where I can't face it alone."
- Martin Luther King
"At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced him before."
The parallel to Jesus in Gethsemane is so obvious that it's superfluous to elaborate on it. God sends angels to strengthen us precisely when God finds us lying prostrate, sweating the blood of duty. Moreover that particular kind of sweat does something else for us as well.
In the Gethsemane accounts we're told that, right after being strengthened by an angel, Jesus gets up off the ground and walks with courage to face the ordeal that awaits him. His agony and the strengthening he receives within it, readied him for the pain that lay ahead.
Indeed, at the time of Jesus, the word "agony" had a double sense: Beyond its more obvious meaning, it also referred to a particular readying that an athlete would do just before entering the arena or stadium. An athlete would ready himself (in those days the athlete normally was a he) for the contest by working up a certain sweat (agony) with the idea that this exercise and the lather it produced would concentrate and ready both his energies and muscles for the rigours that lay ahead.
No athlete wants to enter the contest unprepared. The Gospel writers want us to have this same image of Jesus as he leaves the Garden of Gethsemane: His agony has brought about a certain emotional, physical and spiritual lather so that he is now readied, a focused athlete, properly prepared to enter the battle. Moreover, because of his strengthening brings a certain divine energy, he is indeed more ready than any athlete.
When our own strength gives out, when the pain of duty seems too much, we're finally at that place where angels can minister to us and we've finally worked up the spiritual lather that has readied our souls and bodies for the Good Fridays that await us all.
Certain things, Trevor Herriot suggests, can only happen in gardens and deserts: "How long, covered in the sackcloth of grass, thorn and sky, before our desires and illusions fall to intimations of communion; before edges dissolve and we comprehend the mystic's dream of union beyond all boundaries and distinctions?"
Fourth in a seven-part series
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.