Wednesday, September 18, 2013

50 Days of Prayer - Day 25

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Day Twenty-Five

The Agony in the Garden



Today we begin to pray the Passion.

There is much to be said about the beginning of it all, the Agony in the Garden - the anxiety, the weakness of the disciples, the consolation by the angels.

I am going to focus on one of the most painful elements of all - the simple Betrayal.

This is from a post I wrote a year ago ...

***

Anatomy of Betrayal

First, none of us has been betrayed the way Jesus was betrayed by Judas.  The slights we endure from friends, family, enemies and others can never quite measure up to that betrayal unto torture and death.

But Jesus suffers greater pains than we suffer so that He can redeem our suffering and our pain.

And what strikes me about Jesus and Judas is the kiss that betrays, and Our Lord's response to that kiss, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?"

Was Jesus being ironic here?  Judas is anything but a friend.  Why would Jesus call him that?  Was he being sarcastic, a smart-alec?  "Friend, wherefore art thou come with a gang of hoodlums behind you who will arrest and assault the man you point out to them with a false kiss?"

Well, to understand the pain of this moment, we must realize that this is not only an example of political opportunism and money-grubbing on the part of Judas, it is indeed something worse - the betrayal of one friend by another friend. Judas was a close friend, an intimate of Jesus.  Of course, we can look back on the hints we're given about Judas all along - his greediness, his disdain for others - and we can say, "Well, Judas was false from the beginning.  He was never a true disciple, a true friend."

But if we begin judging the commitment of the apostles to Our Lord, we can't get very far.  Peter rebukes Him and denies Him.  Thomas doubts Him and Nathaniel sneers when he first hears tell of Him.  And yet they all followed Him, they were all - to some extent - His "friends".  In the moment of testing, they all failed in various ways - but they were all at least Our Lord's "intimates".

And in this day and age when we denegrate friendship, when we can't imagine "intimacy" without sex, when Shakespeare can't speak of the love of male friends without our assuming he means sodomy and mutual abuse, we forget what love of friends can be, we forget what intimacy really is.

It can be a very high form of love.  Intimacy can exist without sex because it's intimacy that informs the marital act and gives it meaning.  Intimacy can exist between friends and not just lovers, for intimacy precedes and informs sexual activity, not vice-versa.  For intimacy is a form of love.

This is why intimate friends share everything.  They don't hold back.  They eat together, laugh together, see things the same way, open their hearts to one another.

But life has a way of testing friendships and of putting even our best of intentions under a fire of proof, a crucible of purification.

And when we find that our love fails in the hour of testing, in the Trial, we are crushed - either because we fail our friends, or our friends fail us.

Friends betray friends; man betrays God.

It's an old old story; and it hurts God even more than it hurts us.

***

A commenter at that original post wrote ...

After surviving many betrayals so far in my life, I've realized there are generally signs that a betrayal will occur whether that is due to smaller betrayals that are more easily forgiven or a general sense of unrest. 
Because betrayal is becoming more prominent, you could either look at relationships and become extremely guarded or open yourself to a deeper love than ever before because it could end at any moment.

... and I can only reply that those who are habitually betrayed become very adept at betraying others, thinking, it seems, that such behavior is the norm (though it's not).  And also I would say that you should do all you can not to put your love and trust into people who might betray you, but into people worthy of your love and trust.  For there are those who do not betray - there are those who stay loyal.  And loyalty and love is much more astonishing that disloyalty and betrayal.  And much more real - and much more a part of our true natures.  But more on that tomorrow.

Either way, opening yourself to such love, even opening yourself to loving a friend you can trust, you open yourself (as Chesterton said) to "the inevitable result of love, which is incarnation, and the inevitable result of incarnation, which is crucifixion."  The mystery of this most intriguing statement is something to mediate upon in the following days.

Let us pray a decade of the Rosary focusing on the Agony in the Garden.

And let us pray ...


To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

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