Sunday 1 April 2012

Remove this cup from me

Short reflection given at Portumna, Eyrecourt and Banagher on the 6th Sunday of Lent, 1st April 2012 - Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday.

After that long Passion Sunday reading from the Gospel of Mark (14:1-15:47), I feel sure 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 just a moment on Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:

‘Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’

Jesus is distressed and agitated, we are told. He is certain - quite 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 Jesus 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 - ‘remove this cup 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, I think, of any prayer we pray for something for our selves.

When I desperately want 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 human 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.

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