Tag Archives: Lent

The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden

Mount Olives 3


“Then going out Jesus 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.”

The Passionists remember The Prayer of Our Lord in the Garden in their liturgical calendar on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time for prayer. At this time, St. Paul of the Cross and other Passionist missionaries prepared for their ministry in the lenten season. Leaving  their “retreats” they went out to awaken “those who sit in darkness…through the trumpet of God’s word.”

That can’t be done without prayer.

On the Mount of Olives Jesus prayed in the Garden before his arrest and crucifixion, while his disciples slept a short distance away. The executioners had not yet come, no scourging, no thorns, no nails had touched him, but here in the dark, Jesus faced death..

He saw before him the awful death by crucifixion, which a criminal faced. The Romans used that kind of death to frighten and keep order. They crucified their victims openly outside the city gate, a place chosen for all to see.

Jesus faced death in other forms too. There was the question the prophets faced: “Have I toiled in vain?” The sleeping disciples nearby, the towns that forgot his healing and teaching, the powerful enemies who rejected him. “Have I toiled in vain? Have I failed, have I accomplished anything ?”

Jesus does not pray in many words. He prays to God who cares for him–“Father, let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done.” He gives himself into God’’s hands.

His fears are real, so real that “his sweat becomes like blood falling to the ground.” St. Vincent Strambi says Jesus’ bloody sweat is “the voice of his heart, proclaiming his great love and sorrow.”

“An angel came to strengthen him.” God hears and cares for and strengthens those who pray. “Pray, persevere in prayer.”

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

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Want to know more about the Passion of Jesus, a mystery that tells us about the mysteries of our own lives? Follow the commentaries of Donald Senior, CP. 

Want to know more about the Stations of the Cross? Look into the history of this devotion and some examples of it.

Following Jesus Christ in Lent

Lent 1

Lent is coming. Let’s join those disciples in our picture above following Jesus. One way to follow him is by reflecting on the lenten scriptural readings recommended for the Sundays and weekdays till Easter. They’re the basic book for lenten reading.

On the 1st Sunday of Lent, this coming Sunday, Mark’s gospel takes us to the Jordan River where Jesus is led into a deserted place by the Spirit and tempted for 40 days after his baptism. Our journey  begins  in a desert. Readings from Mark’s Gospel lead us through the Sundays of Lent this year.

The weekday gospels for the first three weeks of lent are mostly from Matthew, the early church’s favorite gospel for catechesis during Lent. They bring us to Galilee where Jesus began his ministry. Most are from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus speaks “the words of eternal life.”  (Matthew 5-7) Be faithful to prayer and you will grow in wisdom, Jesus says.  ( Tuesday and Thursday, 1st week of Lent)  Love your neighbor, even your enemies and “the least,” whom we easily overlook. ( Monday, Friday, Saturday, 1st week of Lent)

Peter’s confession at Caesaria Phillipi is the highpoint of the first part of Matthew’s gospel. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter says to Jesus. “You have the words of everlasting life.” Lent invites us to join him in that same confession.

But can we possibly love and believe that way, so lofty and challenging? We’re rather weak disciples. The reading for Saturday after Ash Wednesday reminds us, though, that Jesus doesn’t call perfect disciples. He called  Matthew the tax collector and people like him–not very good keepers of the law. Outsiders and sinners like them welcome us to the lenten season. (Luke 5, 27-32)

Matthew’s gospel takes us up the Mount of the Beatitudes. Like most sacred writers, Matthew likes mountains. You see ahead  more clearly from them. On the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we go up to the Mount of the Transfiguration to glimpse the  glory found ahead.

By the 4th week of Lent,  we arrive  in the Holy City, Jerusalem, to the temple mount and  then the Mount of Calvary. Starting with the 4th week most of the weekday lenten gospels will be from the Gospel of John. I’ll say something about them before we get there.

You can follow the lenten readings online here.

A Book for Lent

St. Paul Cross

Lent begins next Wednesday, February 14th. Some years ago a publisher asked me to write a book entitled A Lenten Journey with Jesus Christ and St. Paul of the Cross, to be part of a series of reflections on the daily lenten gospels that included thoughts of saints of different religious orders.

I was initially skeptical about the project. From early on I’ve seen lent as a time to give up something and take up some devotional practice like the Stations of the Cross. Yes, Lent was a journey with Jesus, and I appreciate the daily scriptures that take us through the season with him, but where does a saint come in, even a saint important to me, like St. Paul of the Cross, the 18th century founder of my community the Passionists ?

Working on the book made me see lent differently. First, for St. Paul of the Cross lent was a time to leave the quiet mountain at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea where he lived and prayed and go to work in the Tuscan Maremma, then a swampy, malaria infested region of Italy, overrun with robbers and desperately poor. All through lent, carrying a cross and a bible Paul went from village to village preaching God’s love to people whose lives were often on edge with fear and lost hope.

Lent isn’t a time for turning inward, away from world you live in, Paul reminds me. Lent is a time to go out to the wounded world before you.

Secondly, Paul engaged his world, the world of the Tuscan Maremma, in the light of the gospel, especially the Passion of Jesus Christ. For him that mystery was not limited to a time long ago, when Jesus suffered on a Cross; it was there in the people before him. From village to village, he held up a Cross to anyone who would hear as a mirror of their reality and a pledge of the great mercy of God. Jesus died and rose again.

The Passionists celebrate two feasts immediately before Ash Wednesday to prepare for Lent. This Friday we celebrate the Solemn Commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ. On the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday we celebrate the Prayer of Jesus in the Garden. Both feasts come from our missionary founder.

I can see him packing his bags for his lenten journey down the quiet mountain for the villages and towns of the Tuscan Maremma. He must remind himself what he will see. He must pray so he doesn’t forget.

“May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts.”

Ash Wednesday, I will be preaching at the Cenacle Retreat House, Ronkonhoma, NY

March 2-4, I will be also be preaching a weekend retreat at the Cenacle.