In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus plumbs the depths of loneliness. His tears, his sobs are seemingly without witnesses. Even GOD is mute. His disciples are asleep. He is totally possessed by the horror of what is unfolding.
Why? Why? What has he done?
The answer is deceptively simple. During the past three years he had criss-crossed a relatively small area of Roman occupied Palestine, preaching and living something he called the Kingdom or the Reign of God.
Not the reign of the Jerusalem Temple, nor the reign of the mighty Roman Empire ...but of God!
From the beginning, this reign of God had been his constant preoccupation. In the fullness of its perfection, it had always been on his mind and in his heart. His mission was to attract and draw all of us into it.
The reign of God called and continues to call for a spirit of loving awareness and humble respect for our Heavenly Father and for each other, but, in a special way, for the poorest and the weakest of our brothers and sisters.
This translates into the ongoing struggle to serve the common good of humanity and to do so in the name of God.
It also translates into bad news for the Palestinian based representatives of Rome, the continuance of whose power base depended upon the effective enslavement of the conquered through punishing, dehumanizing taxes coupled with a generous reward system for local leaders who cooperated in the demeaning of their own people.
In fact, the Reign of God, as proclaimed by Jesus with its heavy emphasis on the protection of the most needy and neglected, was a serious challenge to the whole Roman structure as well as to the comfortably integrated Temple system of Jerusalem.
Both depended upon calm waters and Jesus was already making waves. Jesus had to go!
Secular history records that Pilot and Caiaphas shared a mutually acceptable working relationship. They agreed, though not always publicly, that crucifixion would be the most effective punishment for Jesus, not to mention the best possible deterrent for his followers.
Crucifixion was widely regarded as a shameful death. No one who valued his or her respectability would dare to be seen or heard honoring the memory of one who had been crucified.
Death by flagellation and crucifixion was a verdict Jesus was soon to hear. It terrified him!
For a boy growing up in the Roman Empire, crucifixion, in all of its unspeakable stages was the most frightening of prospects. The Romans used it with a high degree of frequency, just to keep everyone in line.
Allow me to interject here that it would be a mistake for us to even try to penetrate Jesusí inner world. And yet, the temptation to do so is very real when we imagine him praying in the Garden, on the path to Calvary and on the Cross itself. Praying we are told with loud cries and tears.
Once more we ask why? In this case we ask why did Jesus finally give himself up completely to the Fatherís will at a moment when, frankly, His will seemed absurd and incomprehensible?
THERE IS NOTHING ABSURD, NOR IS THERE ANYTHING INCOMPREHENSIBLE ABOUT THE FATHERíS WILL.
The Gospels never say that the Father willed the torture and destruction of Jesus. The execution of Jesus was, from top to bottom, a crime, a gross injustice.
What the Father did will was that Jesus remain unambiguously faithful in His service to Godís Reign. That in spite of that hour of decisive, horrific confrontation, he would not renounce his message of salvation. That is what God wanted.
Jesus was not a divine person clad in the bone, blood and tissue of humanity. Jesus' humanity was genuine and unfiltered as was his terror and his pain ...as was his final conscious decision to endure.
Without any doubt, he knew the value of the witness he was about to give ...witness to the Reign of God, witness to his solidarity with the Christian martyrs of every generation including our own, his solidarity with the victimized, the impoverished and the challenged among us.
Furthermore he knew that this witness, in order to be stamped upon the universal memory of future generations, demanded his holding firm.
He, then, would give until there was nothing left. Such is the nature of perfect love.
And so it was that on that night in the Garden, effectively alone, Jesus freely made a decision. It was a decision to trust in his Heavenly Father. It was a decision that would be sorely tried but never revoked.
Contemplating this, places us on holy ground. Each of us made a decision to come here this afternoon. We did not come to be entertained.
This ground upon which we stand is precious for what it reveals of itself without our trampling all over it, digging and prodding and theorizing.
The second person of the Blessed Trinity, as the liturgy of every mass teaches us, humbled himself to share in our humanity ...so that we might share in his divinity.
How? Simply by reflecting him in our relationship with others ...by remaining steadfast no matter no matter how dark the night, no matter how lonely the day, no matter how great the injustice, no matter how devastating the loss, no matter how debilitating the pain and, just as he did, as best we can, make it all a gift ...a gift of witness to the Kingdom, to the Reign of God and at that instant he will give it value ...unimagined value for you, your loved ones and all of humanity.