Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 2004
In a dark time we also have prayer
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
"A common soldier dies without fear, Jesus died afraid."
- Iris Murdoch
Jesus' opening words in his prayer in Gethsemane say roughly the same thing - and prayer in a dark time invites us to make this kind of plea.
"All things are possible for you." Despite his aloneness, his betrayal, the hatred and madness around him, and the fact that darkness, not light, appears to be triumphing, Jesus prays in trust, trusting that the centre still holds, trusting that, despite every indication to the contrary, God is still solidly Lord of this universe.
In essence, his prayer is saying: "Father, I believe you are still master of this world, still more powerful than all of these forces, and your truth and light are still worth giving everything for, despite the fact that right now everything seems to belie that."
Jesus trusts God not just when truth seems to be prevailing, but also, and especially, when falsehood seems to be triumphing.
"Let this cup pass." In Gethsemane, Jesus lifts mind and heart to God. He doesn't tell God what he thinks God wants to hear; nor does he tell God where he, Jesus, would like to be at in terms of maturity. No, he tells God where in fact he really is at, cringing, frightened and reluctant before bitter duty.
There's no denial or pretence in his prayer. His humanity expresses itself with childlike clarity.
Iris Murdoch once wrote: "A common soldier dies without fear, Jesus died afraid." His Gethsemane prayer reflects that.
"Yet not my will, but yours be done." Despite everything in him that cringes before the implications of saying yes, Jesus still consents to give God the space within which to be God. His prayer gives God a blank cheque to fulfill his purposes, even if, for a time, that purpose is grossly misunderstood.
"He returned and prayed even more earnestly." Scripture promises that faith and prayer will move mountains, but it doesn't promise that they will move them immediately.
Sometimes for prayer to be effective, it has to be prayed many times - over and over. Jesus does this in Gethsemane. Only after repeated efforts does an angel finally come and strengthen him.
St. Monica prayed for her wayward son, Augustine, for many years. Eventually he converted and became one of the great saints in history. Gethsemane teaches us this lesson - prayer needs to be repeated.
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