As we began Holy Week and prepare to witness once again the three days that are the foundation of our faith, I think about one particular verse in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 22: 41 - 42) that I use often in my own prayer life as well as discuss with spiritual directees: After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”
Why are these verses so impactful? Simply put, it’s where Jesus’ humanity is exemplified so clearly and bluntly. It’s my interpretation He is saying to his father essentially: it’s not too late, would you consider not going through with the plan, let’s talk about this, can you please make this all go away? At His most vulnerable, weakest and excruciating moment, Jesus shows us he is human because He knows what is to come, and it isn’t going to be easy or pretty, to say the least.
By saying “take this cup away from me” He is giving one last ditch effort to see if there is another way out of this situation. Jesus is being human! How often, when we are facing insurmountable odds or a day packed with things we simply don’t want to do, do we mutter under our breath or even moan to a friend or partner, “I don’t want to do this. Please don’t make me do this. Can I just crawl into a hole and hope this will all go away?” These are times when we can really relate to Jesus, because even He asked his father if this horrible thing he was being asked to do could be taken away from him. Jesus gets us, he gets our hardships and our trials. He’s been there. Jesus knows our pain because he has been in pain.
What happens next is also equally impactful. As soon as he begs for another outcome to this current abominable situation, he surrenders, knowing that He must move forward, by acquiescing to what has been foretold for ages, giving over His will to that of God the Father. Sigh. Deep breath. How often do we know the power of giving ourselves over the will of God, yet resist it because it’s just so hard to do? I can say for myself that surrendering to the will of God in my life is an almost daily occurrence and when I need strength and solidarity that I can do this, I meet Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and kneel right next to him and pray that I will have the courage to do as he did and say yes, “not my will but yours be done.”
Ellen Kelly is a spiritual director. She earned a MTS from The Jesuit School of Theology