This past Sunday, Palm Sunday, the Passion of Christ was read in churches around the world. It is a beautiful way to relive the last hours of Jesus’ life. This reading, from the Gospel of Matthew, begins with Judas agreeing to betray Christ and accepting thirty pieces of silver from the chief priests and ends with the veil of the sanctuary being torn in two and the bodies of saints being raised from their graves.
Every year, when we read this scripture, one part that always hits home with me is when the disciples fall asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, while Jesus is praying. Before he began to pray, “he took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.”
It would be easy to say, ‘if Christ had said these words to me, I would have stayed awake…I would have prayed for him.’ But how many times have I proven just the opposite? Like the disciples, how many times has Jesus ‘woken me up’…just to have me fall asleep again?
St. Benedict spoke of a group of monks of his time called gyrovagues. This group spent their lives drifting from different monasteries, where they would stay for a few days at time, living off the hospitality of others. They neither worked nor contributed in any way.
They say the road to good hell is paved with good intentions…I must have a whole section that I’ve paved myself. Before the “shelter in place” order, my morning was filled with spiritual acts: Liturgy of the Word (with Jim before he left for work), Lectio Divina, study of the Rule, Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary, watch a Mass online. I was doing good works…but to be honest, part of it felt like I was completing a check list. The only thing I wasn’t doing in the morning, was evening prayer with Jim.
Because of the surge of resources on social media, these prayerful acts, now joined with others virtually, have spread out through the day. Whether it is Lectio with Br. Simon at 1pm or the Rosary with Fr. Robert at 8pm, my day is now “praying unceasingly”, in that while I am working at other things, my mind is reflecting on the last prayerful act.
This is not to brag…it has nothing to do with me. If it were not for the pandemic…if it were not for others, taking extra time and resources to provide these online opportunities, I would still be here, checking off my list. God, in his infinite wisdom, has graced us with this time. This mandatory, stay at home, time. Will we be like the disciples and sleep through it? Or will we embrace this opportunity to turn our extra time into growing spiritually?
The prophet said in Psalms 118, “Seven times a day have I praised you.”
Lord, in this time of distress, as our world is reeling from the effects of this pandemic, let us use this time to draw near to you. May our hearts and minds be open to your word and may we grow in confidence, thought the storm lash at our doors. Bless those to whom the virus has already afflicted and help us to help those in need, especially through our prayers. Amen
Angus Dei, miserere nobis!
(Lamb of God, have mercy on us!)