Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wednesday of Holy Week

Tonight in the upper room Jesus said that the bread was His body and wine is his blood. Then he walks through the Passover celebration with his disciples and kneels in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

As Jesus prays we see his appalling mental agony. He declared to His disciples that His “soul was very sorrowful, even to death” Our Scriptures say that Jesus became “greatly distressed and troubled.” In total terror he desperately asks his Father in heaven if there is some other way, saying, “Father is you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Jesus’ sweat becoming “great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

We read this detail tonight from Luke, whom himself was a doctor. And St. Luke or Dr. Luke says that Jesus is sweating blood and he means it. It’s a very rare but very real phenomenon called “hemohydrosis,” which is a rupture of the blood vessels that supply the sweat glands. The blood vessels burst when they come in contact with the millions of sweat glands throughout the surface of the skin – the blood mingles with sweat – and the whole body sweats blood.

The only instances where this happens is when a creature is so completely filled with terror or being tortured.  Cases of sweating blood are rare – the only other documented cases have been recorded in prisoner of war camps and during hellish experiments – particularly under the Nazis in World War 2.

Jesus is so terrified and tortured that he sweats blood in the garden. He is in agony. His sufferings have already begun, perhaps even much earlier. When Jesus rose from his baptism the Father said “this is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”

The Father is well pleased precisely because His Son is the Suffering Servant who will suffer for the sins of the whole world. This is why he came and although very few understand Jesus in the Gospels – Jesus never forgets his mission – not for a moment.

Tonight, in complete agony in the garden, he sweats blood. He can already feel the crown of thorns pressed upon his head. He is already experiencing the shards of glass and metal ripping through his flesh. Tonight he feels the beating and feels the weight of our sins upon his soul. He feels the weight of the crossbeam on his shoulders. He experiences the nails through his wrists and feet. He feels the crucifixion and his chest cavity being pulled apart and the panic of dying on the cross - suffocating from the poison of our own sins. He knows what’s coming.

Consider the price he paid. Consider how deep his love for you. Let yourself be amazed by his compassion for you. Let your heart be softened again and discover again the joy of the Gospel – that God loves sinners. Although you might not think much of yourself, consider God’s thoughts toward you.    

To him you are worth it. Even though you have betrayed him with a kiss, and denied him like Peter you are worth it. Like the rest of the disciples, you too have a habit of fleeing whenever there is trouble. Your heart often is far from him. But he is not far from you. He prays for you “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Turn again toward the God of love and compassion. Death will not hold him. Jesus will be raised. The sun will come up and winter will not last forever. With Jesus, the grass is actually greener on the other side.  So come to him and bask in the light of the holy cross. All your sins have been destroyed.

Let your prayer be “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And he does: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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