“Lord, help us not to retreat in the face of the trials and suffering that witnessing to the Gospel entails for all of us.”
I am not a squeamish person. Smells, blood and gore don’t typically phase me. In fact, the only two times in my life I have ever come close to passing out have occurred in the last four months. The first was when the neurosurgeon was reviewing the stakes of Peter’s tumor surgery. It was a cold sweats, blurry vision, rapid heart rate, slide down the wall onto the floor type of episode. The second instance was this past Monday while on a telehealth appointment with Peter’s oncologist, reviewing the seemingly unending potential side effects of chemotherapy. The most rare potential pushed my heart rate up. "There’s the rare possibility that this treatment will give him a different form of cancer." As I started to see two doctors on the screen, I proactively asked for a timeout and some fresh air. After collecting myself, we finished the remaining 17 side effects and my wife and I stared at each other for a long time. "I just don’t want to do this," I said. All week I went around in mental circles trying to think about how I would be able to authentically and effectively cheerlead my son through this. Nothing was coming and it made me feel weak as a father. There was no way I could fake my way through this one.
It wasn’t until I read the Passion from Mark’s Gospel that I found some strength. While I’ve know the story my entire life, it was the first time I noticed that not once, but twice, Jesus asked for a pass. In Luke’s account it's even more clear. He prayed so fervently that "sweat became like drops of blood." Every time I intentionally reflect on Scripture, I increase my belief that nothing in the Good Book is superfluous, especially in the Passion. It struck me that the agony, the fear, the lamentation of our Lord in the garden is essential for us as humans to understand the significance of the second half of His prayer to the Father. But I will, if You will. Without the first half, the second half would feel even more impossible for us to understand and embrace. It was the reminder I needed that fear and weakness aren’t the antithesis of faith. They can be essential ingredients to one’s most authentic Amen – Yes, I do believe. Not asking for a pass would be to deny what only God can do. As we enter into this week where we celebrate the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, don’t be ashamed to ask for a pass for that which tears at your heart, while at the same time celebrating how trusting in His will can change the world. Prayers that you and your loved ones have a blessed Triduum and a Happy Easter.