Text for the Sixth Sunday of Lent 2017: Matthew 26-27 – the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ
Each year when I lean into the Passion accounts during Holy Week, I notice how I end up “abiding” at the same spot within the Passion. I do not know why the scene of Jesus in Gethsemane remains the “center” of my experience of the Passion. But it does.
What draws me to that Garden? It is a Who, Jesus, who says to me each year, “Remain here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38). My feeling of bewilderment at being there again is lessened when I recognize that Jesus desires my company at what was so personal a moment shared between Him and His Father.
The moment – the most centrally significant of any in the Passion – is this one. “How can this be right?”, I wonder. Jesus on the Cross – the complete giving over; His unconditional love perfectly and completely expressed; “It is accomplished” – that is supposed to be the moment. But for me it isn’t, and I have spent years trying to understand why. (What is the moment for you? Do you know why it is?)
Gethsemane was that night the holiest and most profound place – constituted and guarded by divine grace – that may have ever existed on this planet. What this means is that nothing of evil was there. It was a place utterly beyond the Satan’s ability to enter. Jesus, in this regard, did not wrestle there with a temptation (an evil influence at work) to avoid His Father’s will, but who then overcame it.  We should consider less how Jesus demonstrates obedience (in contrast to our disobedience), so that we might learn to pay more attention to Jesus the Son showing a love so fierce and so trusting that He was able fully to express, unguardedly, His very self to the Father whom He trusted with everything that mattered to Him. The love in His unconquerable, but woundable, heart is so intensely revealed here as to make His obedience seem, well, merely that – not nothing, but smaller than the Love.
How do I know this about the sheer holiness of Gethsemane that night? I know this because Jesus would never have revealed the intimacy of His inner life – this profoundly vulnerable conversation we hear happening between Him and the Father – had it not been safe to do so, and done for His own reasons. It was Jesus in colloquy with His Father on the night before He was murdered. Of course His Father would visit Him!
The more deeply we love another person, the more we want to “know intimately everything about our loved one, so as to penetrate our loved one’s very soul. Thus the Holy Spirit, God’s love in person, is said to ‘search all things, yes, the deep things of God’” (I Corinthians 2:10; Summa Theologica I-II, 28, 2). The essence of intimate friendship is thus mutual self-revelation. And just as friends become intimate friends precisely by entrusting their hearts’ secrets to one another, God reveals the secrets of the divine heart to us through the gift of an intimate wisdom that “makes us friends of God” (Wisdom 7:27; In Johannem 15, lect 3). 
That was a moment of secrets shared. Jesus spoke in a profoundly unguarded way all that He felt, what raced through His mind, how He felt concerned for His followers – “a colloquy, properly so-called, means speaking as one friend speaks with another.”  Remember that our dear Lord “identifies Himself with sinful humanity as suffering sin, not as committing it.”
Or, from another perspective, this “unveiling” of the divine Mystery of Jesus’ personal intimacy with His Father, the sheer majesty of that revelation, the depth of the divine and human feeling being expressed, would have blasted into non-existence any malign presence that sought to intrude. The only ones allowed (were able!) to see and to experience this were those whom the Son made able to be there. As things turned out, they were too tired and fell asleep.
Gethsemane, that night, was the most profound place on Earth, when the disciples, (when we) saw revealed for the first time the inner life of the divine Trinity – how it actually is between the Father and His beloved Son; what is known and is felt there. An earthly location became the one into which the divine Father came – “on Earth, as it is in Heaven” – to be with His beloved Son, to listen to Him, to speak – cor ad cor loquitur.  Or, as St. Ignatius of Loyola puts it in the Spiritual Exercises :
Love consists in interchange between the two parties; that is to say in the lover’s giving and communicating to the beloved what he has or out of what he has or can; and so, on the contrary, the beloved to the lover. So that if the one has knowledge, he gives to the one who has it not…. 
If it is the case that no evil presence was in Gethsemane … until it was time, “the hour” for evil to arrive, and guided into so dear a place by one of Jesus’ own friends, then it is even more certain that there was no fear in Gethsemane either. Jesus was not afraid there. How could that be possible, when everything about this “unveiling” of Jesus, the beloved Son, was something that only Love can effect? And how could fear possibly enter in when the Father Himself has descended to be in colloquy with His Son just as Jesus is about “to be handed over into the power of men”? Love was the meaning of Gethsemane. Love is what both Jesus and His Father felt there, and expressed one to the other. And, as we know,
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17 In this is love brought to perfection among us…. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
I feel a fierce conviction (though I have yet so much to learn) that the “sorrow” and “distress” even the “agony” we see Matthew describe of Jesus in Gethsemane is being misread – the nature of those feelings and why He was feeling them there in the garden.
Let us mindfully, and with confidence and energy, live together this sixth and concluding week of Lent that is given us to live. Today, Holy Week 2017 has begun, with the setting of the Sun last night.
And so at last, dear pilgrims, we have accomplished the sixth, and therefore last, of this year’s weekly Lenten Meditations. And signing off, I say:
25 There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written. 
Ganz #6 – Meditation – Revealed (Week 6)
 Remember that my conviction here is not one that I claim should be that for everyone (!). Rather, when I express it, I am simply sharing the fruit of what I have learned … to this point in my life, and because it is I whom God is teaching, and teaching me such things for a reason that He has, and which reason is not yet clear to me.
 Remember that this kind of statement is not meant to elicit an argument that other places are surely as holy – What about that stable in Bethlehem?, etc. I am expressing something more personally felt about this place, on that particular night, and what happened there. It is how I (perhaps I alone?) find myself being taught.
 Such a thought appalls me; namely, that commentators of different kinds could suggest that Jesus would be available to so basic a temptation – “Should I, or should I not, do the Father’s will.”
 Just a reminder here: When I say that I “know” in this Meditation, I am expressing the fruit of my contemplation – contemplata aliis tradere, as the Dominicans say – trying to pass on what I sense is the truth but also knowing just how much I remain a learner. In effect, when I say that I “know,” I am speaking in a mode of praying that I might understand better than I do.
 To show one’s inner life with God to another is a privilege that one may choose to extend to someone we trust to receive it as the act of trust it is. We would never reveal such to an enemy, to one who wished us harm, or to one who honestly did not care a wit about who we are.
 Mary Ann Fatula, OP, “Contemplata aliis tradere: Spirituality and Thomas Aquinas, the Preacher,” in Spirituality Today (Spring 1991), Vol. 43, no 1, pp. 1935.
 It is this very “unguarded” way that Jesus speaks here that gives the reason why commentators, even from earliest times, were clearly “worried” about Him being misunderstood doctrinally, and so they sought to frame in more acceptable doctrinal language what He said. Consider the Flemish Jesuit, Cornelius a Lapide, SJ (1567-1637), and what he commented at Matthew 26:37 – “And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, &c. He took only these three to be witnesses of His sorrow and agony, lest the other Apostles should be troubled and scandalized thereby.” Cornelius à Lapide, The Great Commentary of Cornelius À Lapide: S. Matthew’s Gospel—Chaps. 22 to 28 and S. Mark’s Gospel—Complete, trans. Thomas W. Mossman, vol. 3, Third Edition. (London: John Hodges, 1891), 200.
 St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises 
 John Saward, The Mysteries of March: Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Incarnation and Easter (1990), page 45. This is a very fine book, which significantly impacted me years ago.
 Literally, “heart speaks to heart.” In a note by Dr. Brigitte Maria Hoegemann, FSO (July 2008) and published on the website of the International Center of Newman Friends, she writes: “When John Henry Newman was created Cardinal in 1879, he did not have his own crest designed, but adapted one from the 17th century, which he had inherited from his father. He did not formulate his motto, but altered a phrase from the 17th century – cor cordi loquitur – that seemed so familiar to him that he assumed he had it from the Bible or the Imitation of Christ. He actually remembered it from a letter by Francis de Sales from which he had quoted it in 1855 in a public letter on university preaching. It seems that Newman never explained his motto, cor ad cor loquitur, but it is obvious that in his coat of arms, motto and crest complement one another to form one illustration of a fundamental principle of the Christian faith that profoundly shaped Newman’s way of life, his theological thinking and his pastoral endeavours.”
 The Latin of the entire quote: Spiritual Exercises  2 m , “quod consistit amor in mutua facultatum, rerum et operum communicatione, puta scientiae, divitiarum, honoris et boni cuiuscunque.”
 Technically, it is only Luke who uses the term “agony” to characterize what Jesus was experiencing in Gethsemane. Yet, Jerome Neyrey, SJ in a profound study of this scene in the Gospels, articulated a startling insight that Jesus is misunderstood in Luke if we think Jesus is “afflicted” with sorrow, disabled with sadness. Rather, Jesus in Luke’s portrayal is depicted as an athlete, who finally has come to the Contest (the Greek agōn) towards which He has aimed Himself all His life, and in preparation for which He has trained Himself to a peak level of readiness. Jesus is ready now, and He fully intends to win this Contest. His text is: Neyrey, Jerome. The Passion According to Luke: A Redaction Study of Luke’s Soteriology. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1985.