Reflection given at Morning Prayer in St Mary's Nenagh and Killodiernan on Palm Sunday 9th April 2017, year A - after hearing the long form of the Passion Gospel.
That was a long reading (Matthew 26:14- 27:66)! But it is surely good for us to hear the whole story of Christ’s Passion from beginning to end at least once a year, to better appreciate the enormity of those events. What a contrast between the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with crowd shouting Hosanna and the crowd in Pilate’s palace baying for his crucifixion!
You’ll be glad to know that I’m not going to preach a long sermon too! Instead I ask you to reflect with me for a moment on Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:
‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’
Jesus is distressed and agitated. He is certain that what he is doing is the will of God, his loving Father. He knows what is likely to happen next – his execution as a dangerous agitator, perhaps even the agonising death of crucifixion.
And he does not want to die – he is a man in the full strength and vigour of his early 30s, he loves life, he loves his friends, and he loves his ministry to those who need healing and forgiveness. So he prays to his loving Father for himself, that his death may be averted - ‘let this cup pass from me’.
But that is only half his prayer. Even more important for Jesus than his own distress at the prospect of death is that his loving Father’s will should be done. So he finishes his prayer with ‘yet not what I want, but what you want’.
This prayer of Jesus should be a model for our own prayers for our selves. When I desperately wish for something, it is right and proper for me to pray to God for it. If I cannot ask God for it, who can I ask? But I must never forget how much more important it is for God’s will to be done, than for my wish to be granted. So I should always finish a prayer for myself with Jesus’s words, ‘yet not what I want, but what you want’.
In the end, like Jesus, we must trust that our loving Father knows what is best for us.