Welcome to our virtual book club! We’re reading Fr. James Martin’s bestseller, Jesus: A Pilgrimage. Each week we will tackle a chapter and look forward to a lively discussion together.
Chapter 20: Gethsemane
Chapter 20’s powerful reflection took me back to the moment in my own Holy Land pilgrimage when I stood praying in the garden of Gethsemane. I remember snapping this photo that bright, sunny day:
I recall that as I took the shot, I felt at once a deep emotion of grief and a strong sensation of incongruence. I had pictured this place so many times in my mind, but in my meditative state it had always been a dark and frightening spot. This neat, lovely little garden filled with tidy olive trees from antiquity felt nothing like the place I’d prayed in during my private meditations about the agony in the garden.
Father Jim sets this place in beautiful context in Chapter 20. He opens by giving us an overview of the conclusion of the prior scene, the Last Discourse from John’s gospel. He then physically walks us with the evangelists to the locale of the Garden of Gethsemane, noting its physical location and how its proximity to the desert points to a choice Jesus might possibly have taken, a choice that would have lead salvation history along a different path.
But Christ didn’t take the easy way out. He found himself amidst the trees, in the dark, and he prayed. Repeatedly in Chapter 20, Father Jim points to the duality of Jesus’ nature — truly divine and truly human. We have an intimate look into his prayer life, and his desire to share this moment — perhaps the pain, anxiety and very real fear of it — with his closest friends. His relationships and his human anxiety in this moment point to that humanity, while ultimately we see the truly divine Christ offering himself fully — in an abundance of love — to God’s will.
This chapter on the Gethsemane moments reminds me that even in my greatest moments of “agony”, I am truly never alone. While I will likely never face the trials my savior knew, my life is filled with small challenges that all too often get the best of me and leave me feeling abandoned and hopeless. I hope that having read this chapter, I will be better equipped next time I have a perceived or real crisis in my life to turn to God, as Jesus did, and to humbly and faithful accept God’s will.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Prayerfully imagine that you were one of the disciples praying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. How would you respond?
- Have you ever tangibly asked God to “remove this cup”? What was the result of your prayer?
Chapter 21: Golgotha
In Chapter 21, Fr. Jim Martin describes the experience of prayerfully and tearfully walking up the steps in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The photo above was taken immediately prior to my own ascent of these stairs. To this moment, I can physically recall the anguish I felt as I climbed these stairs, reached my hand into a hold in the ground of the chapel floor to touch bare rock, and then knelt and kissed the floor where our Savior gave his life for me.
My life, my prayers, and my essence were forever altered after I climbed those stone steps. That portion of my pilgrimage united my heart to the crucifixion in a manner that defies words. I pray that each of you can have the opportunity some day to pray in this most sacred spot. If you do so, I truly believe that you will forever connect in a new and amazing way to Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. But although few of us will have that opportunity in person, we can each connect with Christ this intimately each time we receive the Eucharist.
Because of the intensity of my personal connection to this chapter of the book, I am going to refrain from further commenting upon it and instead simply invite you to share your own perceptions of Golgotha. I’ve tried to find words to describe this place and to pay tribute to what Father Jim has described. My teardrops keep falling on my keyboard, so I will instead leave it to you to ponder and discuss.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- How did you personally connect with the content in “Golgotha”?
- How will your reading of this chapter change and perfect the way you meditate upon the Crucifixion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ?
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 22: Risen & Chapter 23: Emmaus. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Jesus Book Club page.
Copyright 2014 Lisa M. Hendey