Friday, March 18, 2016

Gospel text for Passion Sunday 20 March 2016

Luke 22:39-46        He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’

Reflection       It is human nature to react and meet violence with violence. We are hard wired to protect ourselves. That is why when the disciples see Judas preparing to betray Jesus they ask, “Should we strike with the sword?” Should we counter-attack?  Jesus is unequivocal. “No,” but the sword has already injured the ear of a slave. Then Jesus responds in the extreme; Jesus touches and heals the injured slave’s ear. The kingdom of God does not operate according to the same rules of engagement as the kingdom of humanity.

The disciples do not understand this because, instead of following Jesus’ instruction to, “Pray that you may not be tempted,” they fall asleep, which is to say, they are unconsciousness. The question before each of us is, “Are we asleep or are we praying that we “won’t give in to temptation?” Are we praying to align our will in the will of God? Are we open to receive the spiritual strength to live in accord with God's rules of engagement? Or are we like the disciples, unconsciously reacting and willing to preemptively strike out against those who threaten or betray us?

Here’s the thing. It is down right painful to avoid the temptation to react to anger with anger or violence with violence. It takes an enormous amount of discipline forged of continual turning to God in prayer to resist the ways and temptations of the world. It is only in the grace of God, represented by the angel from heaven that strengthened Jesus in his fevered prayer, that we too can offer healing, forgiveness and peace to our world held hostage by fear mongering, power-hungry, self-serving individuals and institutions. 

The time is now to wake up and pray for the strength to align our will in the will of God and live according with God's rules of engagement.  Unless we stay awake and pray we will be swept into the sea of violence and the peace and reconciling power of God’s Spirit  that flowed through Jesus will fail to continue to flow through us. The kingdom of God depends on us and we depend on prayer so "Pray that you may not succumb to temptation."

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