Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 30, 2015

Guided Meditation: The Prayer in the Garden

We struggle to remain “awake” and alert at the time of Jesus’ agony. In that agony we discover our ability, because of God’s gift, to minister to the disciples and to Jesus. We then become empowered to minister to others in our lives. This meditation comes from Luke 22:39-46. Have your students find a comfortable place and close their eyes. Read the meditation. Pause slightly on each ellipse. Pause slightly longer on paragraph breaks. Total time: 11 minutes.

And we pray:

Almighty God in heaven …

There are times when our path seems confusing …

When the direction we take is uncertain … when the course we should choose is unclear …

We get confused because we’re not sure how things will work out …

Or what the future holds …

Or what we can do now to make things better later …

We try to trust in you …

We want to put our faith in you …

But what can be scary …. when we’re not certain of your will for us …

        when we’re unsure of what is best …

As we meditate … send us your Holy Spirit to guide us … to teach us …

That we might learn deeper trust …

Deeper faith …

That we might act with greater love …

Greater hope …

With your eyes still closed …

Take a slow deep breath …

Let it fill you …

And again …another breath …

Slowly and deeply …

A breath which makes you lighter and lighter …

When you feel weightless …

Exhale the air slowly … silently …

Letting the air propel you … back in time …

Far away in the distance …

To ancient Israel … to the time of Jesus Christ …

It’s early evening …

You find yourself on a high knoll …

Overlooking a valley that leads to the walled city of Jerusalem …

        ahead of you …

And in the bright moonlight you can make our the city’s silhouette …

With its towers … and angled stone buildings …

Squeezed together and protected by an enormous wall …

The night air is refreshing … a cool breeze gently twists and turns …

The sky is crowded with stars …while the moon casts long shadows …

But the city seems strangely quiet … eerie …

As if something important were about to happen …

Something that no one is prepared for …

From where you are on the knoll …

You can just make out a group of travelers …

Walking from Jerusalem …

In your direction on a dirt road …

You can see that they will soon come to a fork …

When they reach it they pause …

And one of the group motions the rest to follow him into a garden …

They move through the opening of the protective stone wall … through the

        gate and into the garden … lush and peaceful … private … secluded …

And you join them there … walking with them through the old cluster of

        Olive trees … trunks thick and twisted … rugged braches hanging low …

Most of the group sit under the outside edge of trees … huddled together …

        their cloaks pulled close to their chins … staying warm … getting comfortable …

The oldest of the group … Peter … points out a solitary figure over to

        one side … near a well …

Peter tells you how that man had been welcomed into Jerusalem with

        cheering … earlier in the week …

He had talked about the end being near … about how everything would

        change now … since he was coming into his kingdom …

Everyone thought he meant that he would lead a fight to get rid of the

        Romans … but he didn’t …and the mood of the people began to change …

They aren’t cheering anymore …and the man has many powerful enemies

        here in Jerusalem …

It’s getting confusing …

Then he talked about betrayal … the man said someone would

        betray him … one of his best friends …how could a friend betray

        another friend? …

Now we don’t know who to trust …

We got into an argument …we accused each other …

He tried  to bring us together for the Passover meal … but now we suspect

        each other …. we are angry …

Do you understand Peter? … Do you know what he is trying to say about

        being betrayed by friends?

Sometimes our friends are really against us … when we think they are

        supporting us…

They can turn against us … as if all they really cared about was themselves …

And we become disappointed with their selfishness … their greed …

And become so very angry at how they ruined everything …. And we feel like

        we’ve lost all control …. And that we are at their mercy …

Has anything like that happened to you? …

Is there anything you would say to Peter? …

Anything you could do to comfort him, soothe his hurt feelings? …

Bring him peace …

Peace …

Another of the group … the one with reddish hair … Thomas tries to

        explain to you how that man had said that everything would change …

        now that he was leaving …

But he won’t take us with him … he is leaving us alone … with no way to

        find him …

Thomas tells you about how he has come to depend on this man …

How he learned to trust him …

How he made plans … knowing that he would be part of those plans …

And now he says that is leaving … soon he’ll be gone … and all our plans

        will be destroyed … all my dreams will vanish …

Do you understand Thomas? … Do you know what he is trying to say about

        the fear of having our friends leave? …

Our hopes fade like the morning mist … and vanish …

And we are left alone … empty … with dry tears and deep sadness … we

        want to sob … but we hurt too much … and are drained of all our

        strength …

And we become fearful about how we will continue without them …

        when nothing will ever be the same … and we know we will suffer terrible

        loneliness when they’re gone …

Has that ever happened to you? ….

Is there anything you would like to say to Thomas? …

Is there any way you could comfort him? …

Bring him peace …

Peace …

And then the youngest calls out for your attention … a very young

        teenager … John waves you over to him …

And he begins to tell you how he wanted to help the situation …

        because he had insights …and he knew what to do …

But nobody would listen …

Nobody would pay attention to him … they just ignored him … because he

        was the youngest … they thought he didn’t know anything … they took

        him for granted … even though he was the only one that

        really understood …

Nobody would give him credit or acknowledge him …

And John … with great frustration … suddenly crosses his arms over

        his chest …

As if closing himself off … as if protecting himself from more hurt …

        from being ignored …

Can you understand John? … Do you know what he is trying to say about

        being ignored or not having your opinions respected? …

Think about how you feel when people won’t accept your knowledge or

        experience … and you become very frustrated …

And they treat you as if you are insignificant …

Saying that you’ll know better when you get older …

And until then … they continue to treat you as if you were invisible …

Or maybe they pretend that they are listening or agreeing … but all they

        time … they’re just trying to pacify you … because they think they have

        the right answer in spite of you …

And you want to tell them how ignorant they are … but it wouldn’t matter …

        because they surely wouldn’t listen to that either …

Has anything like that ever happened to you? …

Is there anything you could say to John? …

Is there any way you could comfort him? …

And be at peace …

Peace …

As the group becomes drowsy … yawning … falling asleep … snoring …

You slowly walk over to the solitary man … who is at a distance …

        near the well …

As you quietly approach him from behind …

You notice that the heavy robe he wars is soaked with sweat …

        his hair is dripping … stringy and matted …

He rubs his hands together … twisting and turning them in his anxiety …

His breathing is erratic … alternately deep and shallow …

        breathing in gulps or sips …

You stand next to him …

He looks up with his bloodshot eyes … skin shining in the moonlight …

        his lip trembling … and he begins to shiver …

Tears have streaked his face …

And he tells you that he is scared …

Scared ….

Nothing has seemed to work out the way he wanted it …

His friends seem to have forgotten everything he said to them about

        the kingdom …

They fight and quarrel … argue over who is the greatest …

Money and possessions are more important than anything …

He had hoped to change people’s hearts … end fighting and cruelty …

        establish God’s justice … usher in God’s return to his world … this world …

And now … at the end … hoping to find healing love in the hearts of those

        around him … he instead finds overwhelming sin …

And he wonders if he has done something wrong … he fears he has

        failed miserably …

He’s afraid he is a disappointment to his heavenly Father …

And there is no time left to change things …

And he would rather have another chance … or more time …

But his only choice seems to be to pay the price for all the sin that remains …

        to suffer for those who still sin … to take that sin upon himself and

        destroy it by letting his own life be destroyed …

He has to die …

“If only there were another way,” he says …

“Some way other than suffering because of others …

Bearing all the pain that they have caused …

Suffering the refection even of those who claim to love me …

My friends abandon me when I need them most …

I don’t think that I am strong enough to endure all that” …

And Jesus begins to sob … his hands shaking, hiding his face …

        as if he were humiliated to have you see him at this

        difficult hour of his life …

You can hear him murmur that there is no other way … and that somehow

        he will just have to trust … to surrender to the Father … to trust that

        God the Father can make sense of whatever seems confusing …

Then he looks up … exhausted … bone weary … hand trembling …

He extends his hand to you … silently … waiting … hoping …

Is there anything you would like to say to the Lord? …

Is there anything you can do for him? …

Can you bring him peace? …

Peace …

Know that you’ll have to let go …

You’ll have to let Jesus continue on his own …

To fulfill the mystery of his earthly life as the Father has led him … alone …

But know that he continues on with the gift of your spirit …

        your caring and concern …

Know that you have an incredible ability to comfort others …

        to give people strength … because of what you have endured yourself …

Bring that gift of caring for others with you … and with stillness in your

        heart … return back here …

Leave the garden at the Mount of Olives …

And return here …

Knowing that you are not alone …

Knowing that you are with others …

Others with the same ability

Able to offer you the kind of caring and support that you need from them …

And be at peace …

When you are ready you may open your eyes …

But please don’t speak to anyone …

Or distract anyone from reflecting on the power they have to comfort

        people in their time of need …

In their time of need …

Their need for you.       

Originally published in Time With Jesus: Twenty Guided Meditations for Youth by Thomas F. Catucci.

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