I’d always faulted them for falling asleep. Their best friend had asked them to pray with Him. “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death,” He said. I can almost hear the anguish in his voice. “Keep watch with me.”
How then could they just close their eyes and slumber?
You know the story. While Jesus agonized in prayer, Peter, James and John turned over in their sleep. Twice more the Lord came to them, hoping for their support. And each time – except for the last, when the soldiers surrounded them – they were asleep.
Again I asked myself, how could they?
But I had never put myself in their places. They’d just finished a full meal – the last supper, the Passover Seder. The meal of lamb, vegetables and unleavened bread filled their bellies. And then there was the wine. According to Jewish tradition, the disciples would have drunk at least four cups, including the one over which the Lord said, “This is the cup of the new covenant in My blood.”
Four cups of wine and a full belly. It was night. A gentle and warm breeze swept across Gethsemane. It’s not all that surprising that their eyes grew heavy. Yet, the Lord, aware of our tendency to fall asleep after a full meal and a little wine – the lord nonetheless implored them to stay awake and to pray. “The spirit is willing,” He said knowingly, “but the flesh is weak.”
The disciples couldn’t have known soldiers were gathering a short distance down the road, and would soon overrun them.
My wife and I were talking one evening around the dinner table about the current state of morals in our country. Nancy and I are in our early 60s, and it astounds us how rapidly – like flashes of lightning – morality across America (even the world) has slid into darkness. And only those who are our ages probably recognize it. To those in our children's generation and younger, the way things are today seem normal because they've nothing with which to compare the growing evil. Compared to what passes as morality today, the era of 'sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll’ through which Nancy and I lived in the mid-1960s seems like an age of innocence and virtue as pure as unsoiled snow.
Like the disciples in the Garden, our generation – and more importantly, the Church – fell asleep. It was perhaps easy to do. In those years our economy blossomed. Prosperity opened doors to us that our parents and grandparents could only dream of. The comfort and safety of our communities lulled us into carelessness. Our eyes and our spirits grew heavy with the good food and wine of complacency. Nonetheless, even through those days the Lord implored us through Christian leaders such as Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Francis Schaeffer, Pope John Paul II, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham to watch. And pray.
Oh, our spirits were willing. But our flesh was so very weak. And evil, perversion, and corruption gathered on the horizon. And now they are upon us.
Only when soldiers shattered their comfortable and sleepy world did the disciples fully awaken. By then, it was too late – which brings me to my point: Will we shake ourselves awake before it is too late? Will we do what must be done so that God gifts us with revival and a resurgence of a culture that – if nothing else – resembles what we had only 40 years ago?
How much has changed in only 40 years! And only God knows what America and the Church will look like just a few more years down the road.
So how then can Christians stir ourselves in this time? Repent for our complacency and complicity in our nation’s moral mess? Absolutely. Pray for the salvation of men and women and a return to godliness? Of course. Fast? Not a bad idea. Read, study and meditate on God’s word? That’s always a good plan. And for Catholics, receive the body and blood of Jesus with a proper disposition of the heart, and not be a stranger to the confessional? To that I say, ‘Amen.’
But I will suggest one more thing, a fundamental, foundational thing that we must do: Fall in love with Jesus. Deeply in love with Jesus. Implore the Holy Spirit to impassion us toward Jesus, enflame our hearts for Jesus.
How does one fall in love with Jesus? Perhaps more important, how does one stay in love with Jesus? Most important still, how does one mature in his or her love for Jesus?
The answer is not at all complex or complicated. Falling, staying and maturing in love with Jesus requires the same thing as of a man and woman who fall in love, stay in love and grow in love with each other: It requires time.
That, dear Christian, is the answer to the question. Spend time with Jesus, as much time with Him as you would spend with someone you hope to know better – and to love better. Make time to spend with Jesus. Morning, evening and through the day, make time to spend with Jesus.
I am reminded of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who taught: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, falling in love [with Him] in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with seizes your imagination; it will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you will do in the evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, what you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love [with God], stay in love, and it will decide everything."
The days are shorter than we realize. Listen carefully enough and you can hear the torch-carrying mob descending on our Garden. The night is close at hand. Oh, God! Stir us fully awake to do what we must do that You will restore our land and Your Church to its holy roots.