Toward the end of our pilgrimage, we spent a day visiting the holy sites on the Mount of Olives: the ancient grotto where Jesus is believed to have taught His disciples to pray the Our Father and where, later, He wept over the destruction of Jerusalem.1 From the window of the Dominus Flevit (literally, “the Lord wept”), the Dome of the Rock is clearly visible, and it’s not hard to imagine Jesus’ tears still being shed at the conflict and destruction that have taken place throughout the centuries in the name of religion.
But the event we most often associate with the Mount of Olives is Jesus’ hour of agony and His betrayal in the Garden. Arriving at Gethsemane was like coming full circle. For us, it was a moment to look back and reflect on where we had been: from the humble place of Jesus’ birth to this place that marked, in a sense, the “beginning of the end.” For Jesus, it was where He would remedy the disobedience of the first man, Adam, in the Garden of Eden. By Jesus’ obedience, He traded the wood of that tree for the wood of Calvary.2
The large groves of olive trees that gave this Mount its name have disappeared. Today, only a handful of trees remain, some dating back 2,000 years to Jesus’ day. They are silent witnesses to the events that took place that night when Judas betrayed our Lord with a kiss. Just as olives are pressed between stones to extract the oil, so also was Jesus crushed for our sins. “He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.”3 As Isaiah had foretold long before Christ’s birth, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.”4
We often wonder: Why did Jesus cry out? Why did He start to sweat blood? Why did He ask His Father if the cup could pass Him by? Fr. Hector Guerra writes, “The Father asked Him something very difficult for His human nature. This is why He sighs; this is why He cries; this is why He sweats blood and asks for strength to continue his mission. He is teaching us that at the most difficult and hardest moments of life, the only recourse we have is prayer; a prayer during which we ask not that our will be done, but His, however painful and harsh that may be…”5 God, help us to trust in Your plan and depend on Your grace in moments of doubt or weakness.
– Kelley Holy
1 Cf. Matthew 6:5-15 and Luke 19:41-44, respectively.
2 Scott Hahn, Hail, Holy Queen, (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 71.
3 Luke 22:44
4 Isaiah 53:5
5 Fr. Hector Guerra, LC, Meet the Risen Christ in the Holy Land, (Jerusalem: Imprimerie Franciscan Printing Press, 2006), 50-53.