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The Kiss of Judas, Fra Angelico, c. 1442

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:1-6

On this the first Sunday of Lent, we are called to a closer relationship with Christ as we focus on His loving sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. As we journey through Lent, we ask you to reflect with us on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary: The Agony in the Garden; The Scourging; The Crowning with Thorns; The Carrying of the Cross; and The Crucifixion. Finally, on the eve of Easter, we will reflect on Christ’s Resurrection. Our prayer is that these reflections over the next several weeks will help you gain greater understanding of Christ’s love for you and for your spouse.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:7-12

Today we will reflect on the “Agony in the Garden,”

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Matthew 26:36-37

Jesus had just finished the Passover meal with His disciples and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He was deeply troubled and sorrowful. Christ was not only troubled and sorrowful because His death was near, He was also troubled and sorrowful for the sins of the world that He would carry to the cross. As the prophet Isaiah foretold, “He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Are you troubled and sorrowful, like Jesus, for the sin of the world? Are you praying with Jesus as he asked Peter, James and John to do with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane? We should be deeply moved by this scene and have sorrow not only for our own sins, but for the sins of the whole world.

Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:38

Jesus was sorrowful to the point of death and asked His closest disciples to “keep watch” with Him and pray. Are you keeping watch with Jesus and praying for the salvation of souls? Your most important prayers are for the salvation of family members that are away from the Church. Are you grieved to the point of death for the sins that are being committed in the world today? Jesus grieved deeply for the sins of all people, whether deceased, living or yet to be born. Jesus grieved for those who would turn their backs on Him, not accepting His loving sacrifice as a gift of mercy. Join your prayers with the prayers of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane for the salvation of souls.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

As distressed as Jesus was over His approaching death, even requesting that this burden be removed from Him, He willing submitted His life to the will of the Father. Are you willingly submitting your life and the lives of all your family members to the will of the Father? Jesus knew the outcome of the story yet He faced moments of distress, crying out to God for relief. Jesus trusted His life to the will of the Father and we are called to follow His example. Submit your cares and concerns to the loving Father, trusting your family to His loving care.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41

Are we not like the disciples? We desire to follow Jesus’ example by praying to the Father in our time of need. Yet in our distress, we lack the energy and stamina needed to fight the battle. Jesus is aware of our weaknesses in the flesh. Do not concern yourself with physical limitations. God looks at the condition of your heart. Have a willing heart for the things of God and allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen you when you face difficulties and hardships in your family.

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:44

Never stop praying earnestly for your family. Satan will attempt to discourage you to the point of giving up. Do not give in to the temptation to quit. In the name of Jesus command Satan to go to the foot of the Cross so Jesus may deal with him! Meet Jesus in the garden and pray with Him for the conversion of many souls, particularly for fallen away family members. Their sins are forgiven. Ask the Holy Spirit to touch hardened hearts and to open eyes to see sin in their lives. Ask the Spirit to reveal to these lost souls Christ’s loving sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. It is through the conviction of our hearts that we see our sinful nature and desire to put things right with God. Pray that your non-believing family members will have this conviction placed on their hearts. As the agony in the garden was Christ’s first step to the cross and His resurrection, conviction of sin is the first step on the road to conversion.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28

May the divisions in your family be healed by the sacrificial blood of Christ.