“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.”