By Sarah Cornwell
Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, 26:36-46
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
As a young child, I remember finding the apostles’ behavior in the Garden of Gethsemane extremely frustrating. Jesus is about to be betrayed by Judas. He will be arrested, put on trial, stripped and flogged, and then crucified. And the disciples can’t at least stay awake for a little bit of time while Jesus prays?
As an adult I have become much better acquainted with human weakness. I understand the apostles’ behavior a lot more. On Sundays, I hear the word of the Lord, I pray, I feel invigorated to go out and leave behind my petty ways, to live a life of humble and joyful service. It’s now Monday and I fear I have already fallen asleep on the job several times by lunch — or sooner.
No longer a child, I also get a little frustrated with Jesus. It’s a weary world in which we live. Sometimes it feels like we are in the midst of a long, hard night. Our eyes are heavy, are limbs ache, the stoutness of our hearts is failing us. And then, just as Jesus is imploring us to stay awake with him, he leaves.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is just to wait, to wait on the Lord. When Judas shows up, the apostles are alert, but when they are just waiting for the Lord, the weariness of their journey with Jesus overcomes them. It can overcome us all. And so Jesus returns to us again and again — especially in the Eucharist — and implores us to remember him, to keep awake.
Waiting on the Lord is not easy. It might be the hardest thing we are called to do in this life, but together, we must continue to try until Jesus returns for the final time and says, “Get up, let us be going.”
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, an an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have five children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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