The Servants of Charity
Divine Providence Province
GETHSEMANI: PRAYER FOR A CHANGE LEADS TO CHANGE IN PRAYER
Lent is the time of intense prayer and reflection through which we are bound with the mystery of Jesus’ suffering which brought redemption to the world. There are several models of salvation in the Old Testament which were preserved in the Judaism of Jesus’ day. But it was the suffering servant model that impressed the person of Jesus and he designed His program of life according to this model of suffering servant, a model given in Deutero Isaiah chapter 52:13-53:12. It is inspiring that Jesus was strengthened to uphold and live by this model in His last moments of prayer in Gethsemane.
The most crucial moment in the life of Jesus was His moment of prayer and agony in the garden of Gethsemane where confrontation, agony and prayer were intermingled. In the Letter to the Hebrews 5:7, it says that Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears. We can roughly assume that Jesus would have spent two long hours in this tearful, crying prayer at Gethsemane. His emotional position is described as, “deeply distressed and agitated." But we have only two sentences of prayer: “Let this cup pass away from Me. Not My will but Thy will be done”. It is inspiring if we assume that the long prayer of Jesus was centered on the first: the removal of the cup. Though there are different interpretations for the cup, it would be meaningful to take it as the ‘humanity’ which was based on the humanity of humankind. If Jesus were to pray for the removal of only His suffering, while the majority of humankind was experiencing the same, His prayer would be a ‘selfish’ prayer. His humanity and agony are inseparable from the humanity and agony of humankind. Though ‘evil powers’ stood against Him like a huge, threatening monster, He stood alone bearing in mind and heart the agony of humankind. He was firm on this identification even if it were to result in His death. Such a ‘prayerful’ identification made Him reformulate His prayer, “Not my will, but Thy Will be done.” It is this prayer that convinced Him of His vocation to be the Suffering Servant and strengthened Him to pursue the path of this model to save humankind.
What is the ‘Salvation Model’ that I have opted for in my religious vocation? Do I visualize prayer as a way of confirming the religious model that I chose when I dedicated myself? Does my prayer change me again and again and place me on the track of identifying myself with Jesus, still suffering and agonizing among the uncaring crowds afflicted with wounds, deformities, poverty, stigma, unjust persecution, oppression and violence? Let prayer change us!As the Lenten season prepares us for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord through participation in the life of the Suffering Servant, please know of my gratitude to all of you and my sincere Easter greetings to you! May the grace, peace and love of the Risen Lord be with you always!
Fr. Soosai Rathinam, SdC