This weekend we hear (or would be hearing) the Passion reading from the first of the Gospels. The scene is set for the Agony in the Garden.
Jesus himself urges us to imitate the Divine. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How can we hope to achieve a fraction of that? So many saints have taught the imitation of Christ, usually by example. Sometimes even in print. Then we have the popular acronym, WWJD.
For a troubled person who is seriously ill, I don’t think the advice “be more like Jesus” is likely to take root. At the very least, we can observe him, such as on the Mount of Olives the night before he died:
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.”
He advanced a little
and fell prostrate in prayer, saying,
“My Father, if it is possible,
let this cup pass from me;
yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
Are we alarmed to eavesdrop on Jesus’ sorrow? Certainly, a sick person, someone ill to the point of death, can ask, “take away the suffering.” Jesus will be with us.
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.”
Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again,
if it is not possible
that this cup pass without my drinking it,
your will be done!”
Notice one thing: Jesus turns over his desire to the will of the Father. Granted, God does not actively will a person to suffer and die. We are told this is a consequence of free will and the sin that followed it.
Then he returned once more and found them asleep,
for they could not keep their eyes open.
He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time,
saying the same thing again.
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.”
We can remember, he was like us in all things but sin. We cannot avoid sin, but we can take heart that what we suffer, he has suffered. Just as we die, he also has gone down into death. His willingness to do this, in accord with the Divine Plan, means that we will receive the same ultimate fate: rising into glory as sisters and brothers of our one Lord.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.