The agony in the garden, what an interesting choice for the sick and the dying. Jesus, having completed his farewell discourse, makes a move to do what he frequently does–pray:
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.”
It’s a curious phrasing: in being tested, we could be strengthened for trials present and future. However, Jesus is concerned for his disciples, even as he goes off to pray.
After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them
and kneeling, he prayed,
saying, “Father, if you are willing,
take this cup away from me;
still, not my will but yours be done.”
One of the Bible’s most famous quotes: not my will but yours. Easy to say, but so difficult when we are facing that crucial test: how do we continue in sickness, and what if it leads to my death?
And to strengthen him
an angel from heaven appeared to him.
He was in such agony
and he prayed so fervently that his sweat
became like drops of blood falling on the ground.
The image of Jesus sweating blood is so moving, a physical sign of the “agony” ahead of him in the Passion. Meanwhile, the disciples are so sad, they have fallen asleep:
When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples,
he found them sleeping from grief.
He said to them, “Why are you sleeping?
Get up and pray
that you may not undergo the test.”
Even for healthy people, prayer can be difficult. A sick person, fading from incurable disease may find it even more difficult to focus on a prayer life. Do we encourage people to remain firm in their faith practices? I suppose a pastoral minister is the best judge for the use of this reading.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.