Mystical Images of Lent
His father told him as a child: Unless you sweat blood you will never be faithful. Now he finds in Jesus struggle in the garden an icon of love and fidelity:
the fact that Gethsemane is a garden (rather than in a temple, a boat, or a mountain-top) tells us something too. Archetypally a garden is a place of love, a place of delight, a place to drink wine with friends, a place of intimacy. Conversely, that also makes it the place where love is lost, where one feels the deepest kind of loneliness, and where one suffers emotional crucifixion.
Thus, it's Jesus, the lover, who sweats blood in the garden. What he suffers there is the emotional agony that sometimes comes on us as the price of love. What Jesus sweats there is a lover's anguish. What is that?
Several years ago, there was a TV series entitled, Thirty Something. One of the episodes ran this way:
A group of men had gathered for a "men-only" party at a hotel. One of the men at party, a married man, found himself attracted to one of the hotel managers, a young woman who was on duty that night, in charge of the hospitality. He had to deal with her all evening in terms of making arrangements for food, drink, and music. She was attracted to him too and as the evening went on their bond grew and, though nothing but practical conversation was exchanged, the romantic chemistry between them began to intensify. Each sensed it without, of course, revealing it to the other.
As the evening drew to a close, both did what comes naturally, they lingered near each other and found every kind of practical excuse to prolong their contact, without really knowing what to say to each other, but sensing that there was a special connection that they were reluctant to break off.
Finally, it was time to part. The man stalled, thanking her one last time for what she'd done for the group. She, not wanting to lose the moment, took the risk and said to him: "I very much enjoyed meeting you. Would you like to get together again sometime?"
He, guiltily fingering his wedding ring and apologizing for not being more forthright, did what too few of us would have the honesty and courage to do. He sweated a little blood and then said to her: "I'm sorry, but I'm married. I need to go home to my wife."
My dad used to say to me: "Unless you can sweat blood sometimes, you will never keep a commitment, in marriage, in priesthood, or in anything else. That's what it takes to be faithful!"