The Torture of “Have I Done Enough?”

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As Lent closes with Christ’s passion, we join Jesus’ disciples as they witness their master at his most vulnerable. He faces his own death, but the thorn that digs deepest into his flesh may be knowing the vulnerability of those he chose to complete his mission. This must have sapped his strength and inspired this prayer that would become the cry of succeeding generations of people who hear God’s call (Lk 22:14—23:56):

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”

He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.

This agony must have been heightened as, upon completing his passionate prayers, he found his disciples fast asleep.

“Why are you sleeping?,” he asked. “Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.”

The sight of his sleeping disciples probably just added to the misery of what he already knew about them – that one would betray him, one would deny him and the rest—rather than console or strengthen him in his time of need– would fight over who among them was the greatest.

We can imagine these thoughts giving Jesus pangs of uncertainty over whether he had done enough to fulfill his Father’s will. This concern might even be among the legacies 21st century disciples have inherited via the trust Jesus established—in addition to the necessary wisdom, strength and courage his disciples required.

We live in an age tested by pandemics, wars and loss of faith. A recent study by The Barns Group, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, found that 38% of pastors surveyed are seriously considering leaving their ministry. This article also reports that more than 3500 Catholic parishes in the U.S. lack their own priests—requiring them to share this dwindling population. As a result, many in the clergy of all faiths are now feeling what Jesus might have agonized over in the Garden—“Have I failed you, Father?”

On top of that, go back to the passion we read about this Sunday and put yourself in Jesus’ place. In addition to the physical pain ahead is the humiliation of being treated as if he were among the world’s most evil people, as Jesus proclaims: “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, He was counted among the wicked.”

Leaders of all faiths need friends more than ever now—just as Jesus did at his most vulnerable point. When you see them, give our priests, pastors and rabbis a smile and a thank-you for their service.

–Tom Andel

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