By Ron Pereira
This past Palm Sunday, while walking in the back of my parish’s narthex with my 2-year-old baby girl (who still quite doesn’t understand the whole “church voice” concept), I did my best to listen attentively to the Passion narrative.
And, while the entire narrative is obviously powerful, there was one particular part that truly spoke to me.
Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” –Luke 22:39-40
While it wasn’t read this past Sunday, here’s St. Matthew’s account of the same scene.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” -Matt 26:36-38
Jesus then goes off to pray on his own. St. Matthew continues the story:
When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”–Matt 26:40-41
The story continues with Jesus going off to pray two more times only to find his three disciples dead asleep:
Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.” –Matt 26:45-46
Become Part of the Story
I was taught a powerful scripture study technique many years ago… and this technique is to imagine that you’re actually part of the story.
So, in this case, I imagined I was one of the apostles that was just asked by the King of Kings himself to stay awake. To not sleep.
What would I have done? Would I have fallen asleep? Or would I have done my best to stay awake and in prayer for our Lord?
Easy to Criticize
Sure, it’s easy to criticize these three disciples for their “failure” since we’ve never let our Lord down (sarcasm).
In fact, it’s also easy to criticize Judas, the betrayer, for his heinous and weak actions since, you know, we’ve never committed mortal sin before.
So, as I continue to reflect on this one small section of the Passion Narrative I can’t help but realize how similar I am to the three disciples who fell asleep.
And, sadly, I’ve also had my fair share of Judas moments when I’ve turned my back on our Lord and committed grave, mortal sin, with full knowledge and consent.
But, thanks be to God, what I’ve continued to do, unlike Judas, is return to our Lord with full contrition and sorrow seeking His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which He gave to His church with these powerful words:
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. –John 20:23
So, as Holy Week continues, my personal theme is to “stay awake” with our Lord this week and every week after.
I’m committed to doing my best at everything in front of me… most especially all the spiritual aspects of our rich Catholic faith.
But, I’m also doing my best to “stay awake” in all of the other responsibilities our Lord has put in front of me.
This includes being the best husband and father I can be (put the stupid cell phone away Ron) while also doing my best at my work… including the work Mike and I do here on Intentional Encounter.
And, obviously, I’ve been trying, and will continue to try, to do my best when it comes to eating clean and working out. In fact, this morning, as my arms shook during the final round of my workout… I did my very best to unite that minor suffering to the cross for some dear friends of mine who are battling serious health issues.
You see, to me, staying awake is quite simple. It means finding ways to glorify God no matter what we’re doing or how we’re feeling.
I even recently challenged my children to be strong and holy when they participate in sports. In other words, they can glorify God by leveraging the gifts He’s bestowed on them by playing with intensity and maximum effort.
And you and I can also glorify God as we respond to the various life situations we find ourselves in. All we need to do is stay awake.
Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!