March 10, 2013

Staying Awake on the Job by Sharon Espeseth

Thursday is the day of Holy Week when Jesus meets his disciples in an upper room furnished by divine arrangements and prepared by two of the apostles. As planned, Jesus and his twelve celebrate the Jewish Passover. During this in-camera session, Jesus provides his men with more information: this will be his last supper with them; the bread and wine are his body broken and his blood shed for all of us; a betrayer is among them.

Although the men heard Christ's words, they question their understanding, and they can scarcely believe what they do comprehend. A betrayer in their group? What will they do without their Lord? The men talk among themselves, wondering what the others got out of the Master's message.

Jesus speaks of the shepherd being struck and the sheep scattering. Peter protests that he would never leave him. Christ warns Peter that even he will deny him three times before the cock crows.

Filled with anguish and knowing his hour is here, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the foot of the Mount of Olives to pray. He shares with them how overwhelmed and sorrowful he feels. "Stay here," he say, "and keep watch."

Walking a stone's throw further, Jesus falls to the ground. In agony, he cries, "Abba Father. Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." After spending time with his Father, Jesus returns to his men and finds them sleeping.

Reproachfully, he says, "Could you not watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you fall not into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

Jesus goes back to spend more time with God. Returning, he finds them asleep again.

Some years ago, I was at church for an hour of adoration. With company at home, I knew I'd be challenged to stay awake, so I came prepared.
I read, I prayed, I talked with God in earnest. Then I wrote the following prayer.

Prayer for an Easter Vigil

I have a short attention span, Lord. I am not sure I would have stayed awake either, that night in Gethsemane. I need to keep busy or I too will fall asleep. No doubt, your companions did not fully realize what you meant when your said, "My hour is at hand." My mind, much like the disciples, is so limited to the present, Father. Hindsight for me is such a great illuminator. "If only I had known," your disciples must have said regretfully.

Often it is those sins of omission, Lord, that trip me up; those things I wish I could go back in time and do over, or do right. Forgive me, God, when I fall short, when I have words I would like to have said, an act of kindness I would like to have done, a prayer for someone I wished I had prayed for.

Your friends who slept in Gethsemane could not go back in time, any more than I can. Help me to hold that thought every minute of every day. You have given me many second chances, Lord. But I know from experience that there is not always another occasion to "fix" a situation. Guide me, Father, in doing more things right, in acting more Christ-like, in seizing opportunities the first time, just in case. . .

(c) Sharon Espeseth

Painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo daVinci
Disciples Fall Asleep by James T. Tissot

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