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The Sorrowful Mysteries: Agony in the Garden

By Jennifer Hartline
March 26th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There is so much to be gained from thoughtfully considering, and yes, dwelling on the events leading to Calvary.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - From now until Easter we offer all our rosary prayers within the context of the Sorrowful Mysteries. I have found throughout my life a tendency to resist dwelling on these painful events – a common human experience, I think. We instinctively turn away from pain and try to avoid it at all costs.

But as they say, "No pain, no gain." There is so much to be gained from thoughtfully considering, and yes, dwelling on the events leading to Calvary. But this is uncomfortable stuff and very hard to face with a serious degree of reflection. (I still have to squelch the urge sometimes to skip over these cruel and heartbreaking scenes and go straight to the Glorious!)

I never hesitate to proclaim there´s nothing I wouldn´t do for one of my children because I love them so.

I love my Jesus, too. This year I feel challenged to sit still and do the uncomfortable…reflect on the agony, contemplate the wickedness, listen to the hatred, wince at the excruciating pain…and see myself in all of it.

He did it all…for me. He loves me so.

The Sorrowful Mysteries, part one

1st Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:42-44

Let this mystery teach us true contrition for our sins.

True contrition… it seems to me that before we can have true contrition, we have to first truly understand that we have sinned.

I think our self-obsessed, modern, "enlightened" culture would very much like to proclaim Sin as an archaic, prohibitive concept whose time is over. Moral restrictions, clearly defined standards of right and wrong, and consequences for violators are all antiquated notions wrongly imposed on people of free will.

To dare to suggest that Someone outside ourselves, higher than ourselves has the authority to define right and wrong, good and evil, and then establish the just punishment for wrongdoing, well, that´s practically blasphemous in this age of moral relativism.

How can we be truly sorry if we´re not thoroughly convinced we´ve done wrong? Okay, maybe we can admit that we´ve sinned, but we haven´t done anything truly terrible, so it´s not really that bad. It can´t be that big a deal.

Think about that scene in the Garden again. Jesus was in so much anguish that he sweat blood as he prayed! He asked God to change the plan and find some other way, so it´s obvious this Sin problem is a very big deal, indeed. The torture He was about to suffer wasn´t due to something small or trivial.

But I can´t help wondering… what grieves Him more – that we sin, or that we try to cover our sin, make light of it, and even delight in it?

Is it the arrogance that inhabits our sins and causes us to deny that we haven´t just broken a rule or made a little mistake – we have sinned against a perfect and just God who also happens to love us beyond our comprehension?! Our sin is aggravated by prideful indifference. Insult is added to injury.

Why? Because it is scary as all hell, literally, to fully grasp the gravity of our own sin and the consequences of it, and were it not for the Cross and the unspeakable love of the Father, none of us could bear it. Contrition that begins out of fear of the just punishment for sin is a good place to start, but God isn´t satisfied with leaving us there. He wants to overwhelm us with His love; that crazy, illogical, endless love that took our hideous sin upon His perfect Self and endured our punishment for us.

We no longer have anything to fear. Now we are free to be repentant ,out of sorrow, not terror or despair. We can face our wretched condition and own up to our sins honestly, because what awaits us is forgiveness, not wrath. Once that reality takes root in our hearts, then gratitude inspires us, humility enables us, and LOVE compels us to true contrition.

"Blessed is he who transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" and you forgave the guilt of my sin." Psalm 32:1-5

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge…Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:1-4, 7

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Jennifer Hartline is a Catholic Army wife and stay-at-home mother of three precious kids who writes frequently on topics of Catholic faith and daily living. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.

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