May the Holy Name of Mary be always in our hearts and on our lips.
Once again in Luke’s gospel, Jesus departs in seclusion “to pray” upon a mountain. How he must have cherished being alone with his Father, especially after the earlier disputes with the scribes and pharisees about what is lawful vs what is good on the Sabbath. He spends an entire night in prayer, a distinct reminder of my own treasured quiet times praying to the Father to refresh my spirit.
Early the next morning the disciples rejoin Jesus, still on the mountain. From among the assembly, He chooses twelve…only twelve…from the great crowd of disciples. I ponder if I were there, whether I might have been chosen. Or would I have walked down the mountain with the unchosen but still beloved other disciples? What is in store for these twelve?
When back down from the mountain there is a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of people from all of Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. I imagine that I am one of them. How exhilarating to witness his miracles and hear him preach. It was breathtaking to watch everyone crowding around to touch him because of the power that came forth from him.
Then there follows three years of watching, listening, questioning, witnessing, praying, wondering, fearing. Over time a bewildering and frightening message develops about his pending passion and death. How can that be? That is scary. Perhaps I should go back to my life before the encounter on the mountain. It was much safer and more certain. He washes my feet before we share the Passover meal. There is a confusing scene at the meal when He offers his body and blood. What does that mean? Thereafter another night of prayer in Gethsemane. But this night is one of utmost agony and despair followed by the passion, trial and ultimate crucifixion. Where will I go from here? How many of us will follow him to the foot of the cross? Mother Mary, Mary Magdelene, Mary of Clopas, and the beloved disciple are there. Where are the rest of us? Peter isn’t the only one who abandoned him. Is this not what we signed up for in our exhilaration when we were called that morning on the mountain? What happened to our resolve? Why did we let him down? We know that He still loves us unimaginably and forgives us. Mother Mary, please bring me back with you to stand at the foot of the cross. I so want to hold you in my arms and comfort you during your unimaginable grief and suffering.
I suppose I will spend many more nights in prayer asking for forgiveness and wondering why I wasn’t there when He needed me most. Thank you, Jesus, for calling me in spite of myself. Please never cease calling me. I will try to follow wherever you lead me.
Bill Berger notes that because of his father’s close relationship with the Passionist Community in Detroit, he was a member of the Passionist family from the moment of his birth. Bill and his wife Linda are currently leaders of the Community of Passionist Partners in Houston, Texas.