San Damiano


Thursday, March 28
Mk 14:32-42


We enter the culmination of the history of salvation today in the liturgy of the Easter triduum. Through the Easter triduum, we will continue deepening our understanding of the Gospel, reading it in the same way as suggested by St. Francis in his Laudato Si’ and Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato Si’, with regard to God’s Creation. We invite you to slow down, to set aside time to deepen your understanding and pray about these bible verses. During these solemn days, the readings of Mark’s passages are focused on the location of the events: places that are immersed in creation: an olive grove, a mountain and a garden. This evening we find ourselves in the garden of Gethsemane among the olive trees in the hour of prayer, of abandonment and of Jesus’ agony.

Gethsemane, in Hebrew “gat šemanîm” means “crusher,” or, better said,”olive press,” the place of pressing olives. The press in Jewish tradition recalls God’s vengeance, for instance  when the prophet Isaiah says, “The wine press I have trodden alone, and of my people there was no one with me. I trod them in my anger, and trampled them down in my wrath” (Isaiah 63:3). Today, through Jesus’ experience, we learn more about this crusher or press and about what God’s vengeance is. Mark’s narrative describes to us a man deeply detached from others, suffering, praying, experiencing sadness and anguish, a “suffering Christ” (Cristo Patiens). This image of the suffering Christ moves away from the image of the “glorious” Christ on the cross where it seems that God had not ever suffered the passion, knowing that He would rise again. Instead, Mark, and then the art and culture that developed from the 13th century onward, also want to tell us about the agony, the suffering, the weeping of God in the face of hardship.

Many themes that we have already seen along this Lenten journey over the past few weeks reappear, as in the Transfiguration scene: the Father-Son dialogue, the searching for the face, the companionship of the three apostles who do not understand what they have before them. Here, almost in contrast to the light of Mount Tabor, darkness descends on this mountain. It is night and Mark’s narrative recounts each hour of the night… of the capture, of judgment, of Calvary, of loneliness, of the eclipse in which at noon it becomes dark over all the earth. It’s a night that lasts all day, full of disappointment and silence. It is the night of the old Creation, preceding the dawn of a new day. It will happen as it did in the first Creation, when there was total darkness yet, with a word, He created light. However, today we enter, after the feast at the supper table, a little drunk and a little upset, at the beginning of this very long night, into the enclosure of the olive grove.


“Then they came to a place called Gethsemane.” Jesus comes out of the cenacle, he comes out of a house made of walls, and from this moment he will pass through buildings and places of torture, into open courtyards, along roads, to end up on a mountain. From that moment on he will live outdoors, immersed in Creation and the cry generated by human justice. It’s a place of habit, where every evening during this week Jesus withdraws in prayer to this very “place,” to this temple. Indeed, Jesus asks his friends, “Remain here and keep watch.” His is almost a plea. He asks us this tonight… within the cry that we live every day. He asks us to stay and to keep watch. We must learn to pray, to ask God not for what we want, but for what is right. To pray for what?

“Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.” The temptations are those that we saw at the beginning of Lent, in the wilderness—all the temptations. Mark, unlike the Synoptics, does not list them, but summarizes the main temptation as putting “myself at the center”; of possessing all things including relationships with others and the planet. These are also the temptations we have seen while living this Laudato Si’ Lent: individualism, comfort, consumerism and so many other ways in which we have disconnected from Creation and from our brothers and sisters. Prayer is fundamental in our ecological conversion process; it is not just a nice habit or something we do because the parish or diocese tells us, but it is the basis for not entering into temptation. Jesus enters the garden, but asks us to not enter into temptation.

“He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed,” referring to the terror and anguish that led him to experience a prayer of total contact with the Earth. A cosmic prayer, in contact with Mother Earth, in which Jesus calls God “Abba,” meaning “Dad,” a word that reminds us of the creative word, a new Creation, out of the darkness and evil of the world. First of all, Jesus distances himself from evil, asks the Father, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me!” that is, the cup of suffering that is wanted by humanity. God does not want evil; it is human beings who build the crosses, who inflict suffering on their brothers and sisters and on all of Creation. God suffers this evil and if He could choose, He would prefer that this chalice be far from himself. But He also flees the temptation of a God with a magic wand, temptation of power and immunity, praying, “but not what I will but what you will.” The root of all evil in the world lies in the exclusion of God when we put our ego at the center. “My” will excludes the will of God, the will of good. Jesus has a centered gaze just as Francis would later demonstrate with his vow of having “nothing of one’s own.” It is not enough to be poor, but in life one must aspire to hold nothing of one’s own because possession is the opposite of love. In Gethsemane, this becomes strikingly clear.

This is one of the great teachings of Jesus, the greatest demonstration of his humanity: it was not only God who knew He would rise again, but here was a man who felt completely torn in his relationship with his father and with an immense sense of injustice. In our injustices, in our prayers, we know that we have Jesus by our side, but He, on the other hand, was terribly alone here.

“Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him.” Sadness and agony prevent us from looking at grace and from keeping our eyes open. They make us feel uncomfortable before God; we don’t even know how to answer Him. How many heavily leaden eyes has this humanity of ours! In this human wavering, Jesus’ voice rings out in the darkness, “Enough! The hour has come.” This is the theme that opened the Lenten journey, the ‘kairos’, the opportune moment. “Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.” Get up and pray. Get up and go. This is what we need to do in the face of evil, even the most unjustifiable evil. This is the greatest teaching we receive, on this night, among the olive trees in the Jerusalem olive grove.

St. Francis, in the wonderful paraphrase of the Our Father, reminds us that: “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven: so that we love you with all our hearts, always. thinking of you; with all our soul, always desiring you; with all our mind, directing all our intentions to you and in everything seeking your honor; and with all our strength, spending all our energy and sensitivity of soul and body at the service of your love and for nothing else; and so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves, dragging everyone with all our power to your love, enjoying the goods of others as well as ours and suffering together with them and causing no offense to anyone (FF 270). Let us thank the Lord for this great teaching He offers us on this night of silence and solitude. Let us pray by dedicating this silence that we may learn from Him how to live amidst the injustices and evils of this world.

Laudato Si’!