Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani. And he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray.
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad.
Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch with me.
And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt.
And he cometh to his disciples and findeth them asleep. And he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?
Watch ye: and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I had been reading the Passion according to St. Matthew, and as I pondered over the sad words, my whole soul went forth in reproaches against the apostles, Peter, James and John; the three beloved of Christ, upon whom He had lavished blessings innumerable, and whom He had loved with a love surpassing any to be found from the foundation to the consummation of the world.
Oh! how I wished that I had been there, to comfort the Man-God in His misery and sorrow I How sweet would it have been to wait, and watch, and pray, with One who was about to lay down His adorable life for the sins of the world. I thought of Him, as, returning in search of human sympathy to the place where He had left the three — He found them sleeping!
Oh! The unutterable agony of that moment! The utter friendlessness of Christ, alone in the gloom and stillness of that awful night! Nature herself was awed; and the stars trembled beneath their covering of inky clouds. But man alone heeded not. In the distance gleamed the lights in the homes of Jerusalem, but in Gethsemane all was dark.
The bush of death was upon the place, and only once was the silence broken, when the sighing wind bore aloft the immortal plea: ”My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass away. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” And the softly flowing Cedron caught the echo of the prayer, and swept it down the stream of life to the unborn generations of the children of men. Still the three slept!
I feared; and asked myself, how could this have been? Oh, the frailty of the flesh! the base ingratitude—to desert their Creator—to leave Him comfortless in. His affliction—to sleep while He was in agony! Surely I would not have been as these three; of me would it have been written, ‘one was faithful;’
Even while I sat in meditation, sleep overcame me, as it had done unto those whom I had been condemning. The Testament fell unheeded from my hands; and I dreamt. I was in a church, before the high altar of which burnt a brilliant light, the symbol of that Light, the Light of the world, shut within the tabernacle. But where were the worshippers? the watchers? The church was empty! With a start I awoke, the lesson of my vision branded upon my heart.
Never until now had I realized the meaning of those words of Christ: “Watch ye, and pray.” At last I saw their true significance. Not for the three alone had He intended the divine command; not for those few hours of that night long past; but for all upon whom the light of Christianity would shine: and for as long as there was a Christian soul upon this earth.
Was not Christ here in our world, upon our altars, waiting, longing, entreating for acts of love? And I blushed with shame as I thought of the many times I had passed His church without a thought or care for the patient God within. Christians! Catholics! We need not long to have been in Gethsemani to show our love, nor on Golgotha to show our faith. ‘Tis the present which requires our courage. Our everyday life is full of crosses and trials. May we bear them bravely and visit our Lord in the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist. We will never blame Peter, James and John for what we have often done, but what with God’s help, we will do no more.
The Rosary Magazine, Volume 26