“Gethsemane”

Gethsemane

Palm Sunday

Written by Brittany Holberg, as part of a series of Lenten reflections, “The Mustard Seed”. Click HERE to view the full booklet of her writings.

"Gethsemane" 1

Gethsemane was a garden of olive groves just outside of Jerusalem. It was far enough removed that Jesus could be alone in His grief and agony of those final hours before His time came, yet He took 3 men with him– Peter, James, and John. Before He went deeper into the garden, He said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” As much as all 3 men trusted and believed in Him, they still could not see clearly the meaning of it all. What they could see was the anguish in the eyes of their Lord.

“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” Never had they heard Jesus speak this way. They watched as He walked away and no doubt saw Him fall to the ground. I have so often sat and wondered if they could hear Him as He cried out to His father. As Jesus pleaded with Him to take this cup from Him and with the same breath spoke of His desire to do His father’s will. This was Jesus in the flesh. In those moments, He felt the weight of all humanity crushing His soul to the point of death. Unlike most, who do not know their time or how it will come, He did. It had been foretold that His very own people would reject Him and crucify Him. Not strangers from a distant land, His own would do this to him.

Using every ounce of strength He possessed, Jesus pushed Himself up from the ground and made His way back to where He had left His disciples.

“Simon Peter, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me for even one hour?”

The most crucial hours of our Savior’s life, and they slept. They could not stay up with Him for even one hour? When I ponder this in my heart, I cannot help but wonder if Peter remembered these words as well. When he broke down and wept after denying him, did he also remember Jesus’ words in the garden? Did the anguish in our Savior’s voice echo within Peter’s soul?

Then the difficult questions come. How many times have I fallen asleep when He has asked me to keep watch? My life is filled with them. Moments when He was trying to speak to me, asking me to keep watch, and I gave into my flesh. I was not able to hear the anguish in His voice. Anguish over the battle I was losing by allowing my flesh to weaken me. Like Peter, I too have denied Him. Not in the same context, but in ways just as profound. I have denied all He endured for me by not doing what He has spoken into my heart to do in a moment, or turned away from one of His children in need.

Many years ago, I spent the last weeks, then hours, of my dear friend’s life with her. It was 4am when they came to get her, and as she walked past my door our eyes met. In that very moment I saw Jesus staring back at me. I know what the world condemned her to die for, but I saw the eyes of my Savior staring back at me. I saw peace that surpassed anything I had ever witnessed or known.

None of that would have been possible for her, or anyone, had He not suffered and died for us. He knew that as He wept and cried out to His father. He knew what was to come. He is talking to us as well in the garden of Gethsemane, among the olive groves. He is asking us to keep watch and pray so that we do not give in to the temptations of this world. So that we do not deny Him when we see Him in the eyes of another.

Like Peter, I too have felt much regret and shame in my life. I have wept in my brokenness. My only comfort comes from the One who was willing to endure it all. Of course we know how it all ends, but just for a moment, stay in this place in Gethsemane. Hear the anguished cries of our Lord. Hear His words spoken to Peter, James, and John then and to us today. Sit with Him in His final hours. Keep watch and pray.

Brittany Holberg is an Oblate of the Sisters of the Morning Star. She is a resident on Texas Women’s Death Row.

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