Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Meditation on the mysteries often reveals more what we have going on in our own lives than we’d care to admit.
The Sorrowful mysteries always anchor me in memories. My dad’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, my son’s need for open heart surgery, all the “no’s” I can remember, echo in the five mysteries that deal with the hardest parts of life; loneliness, pains inflicted by others and ignored by others, words and thoughts, said and unsaid which we wish we could take back or forget, and the burdens we never wanted that take everything—and finally, those journeys in life when we come to the foot of the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane, Christ revealed to all of us, He understood and understands our loneliness, our vulnerability to suffering and pain and our ache for more than ourselves, which we don’t always recognize. Christ wept blood knowing some of us would nurse our sins and try to fill the hole in our hearts with them. Weeping and alone: For me, that’s the key to understanding something of the reality of the Agony in the Garden.
My first real encounter with the first Sorrowful Mystery came with the pending birth of my fifth child during Holy Week, 2002. I’d torn my cervix and found myself on limited bedrest at the hospital. While getting cleaned up for the evening, I heard the speaker on the hospital floor call for a Code Pink, which meant a mother and as-of-yet-unborn child needed emergency treatment. Walking by the nurses’ station back to my room, I heard the staff try desperately to contact her husband, her mother, anyone.
I never saw the woman or her child or knew their fate, but I knew this to be her agony in the garden, and prayed they’d find her family quickly and that all would be, if not well, better. Shortly afterward, I learned the doctors planned to have me endure a surgery I didn’t want and frantically tried to contact my OB-GYN, my husband and my mom. However, given the time of day, I struggled to reach anyone. Mother Theresa said, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for… the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love.”
The moment I heard a voice of someone who knew me, my fear of facing a problem alone vanished, because I wasn’t alone. I needed to hear my husband over the phone listen to my worries, I needed to hold his hand and talk about what the doctors wanted to do. The agony wasn’t merely the surgery, but the being alone and facing a trial. Once we talked, while the trial remained, it felt less insurmountable.
Our first parents knew the agony in the garden through their sin. Adam and Even felt that God-shaped cave of a hole in the heart. Christ endured this suffering and passion so we’d know, He knows how much we ache. Christ wanted the comfort of his friends. “Then Jesus came with them to a plot of land called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And he began to feel sadness and anguish. Then he said to them, 'My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and stay awake with me.’”
For each of us, the agony in the garden is that time when we recognize that we need to hold God’s hand. We need to reach out and ask for God’s comfort, for the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, strengthening us for whatever trial we endure. Our need for the presence of another as comfort remains true whether the sufferings are big or small.
When my youngest son falls off his bike and skins his knee, the blood and the scrape isn’t as important as telling Mom. When my daughter didn’t get the job, it stung. The rejection felt less painful once she sat with her friends and ate. Again, the presence of others did not change the reality of the circumstance, but did change how the individual could weather it. God the Father knows our needs and gave us His Son and the Holy Spirit, not to mention the Blessed Mother, our guardian angels, and all the angels and saints and martyrs so we’d know that we are never alone, even in the midst of our sufferings.
Cry out from the heart if your heart aches, and know, “Christ is with us.”