Last month, I reflected on the first Sorrowful Mystery in light of my first morning praying outside of the local abortion clinic, as part of 40 Days for Life. I was reading and praying Rosary Army’s Scriptural Rosary and found the reflections for the Sorrowful Mysteries to be particularly resonant. The reflection for the first sorrowful mystery begins:
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane. / And he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then he said to them, / “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; / remain here, and watch with me.” (Mt 26:36-38)
“Remain here, and watch with me.” That is what Jesus asked of the apostles, and it is one of inspirations for Eucharistic adoration. I don’t know if it was an inspiration for abortion clinic vigils, at first, but it ought to be an inspiration for those standing and watching. There was nothing the apostles could do – or should do – to change what was happening in the garden. There is, of course, much we should do in general to end abortion. But in individual cases, it can feel like there is nothing we can do legally. There is nothing to do but stand and watch.
Perhaps we are not simply watching to inspire or shame or offer help to those going into the clinic of their own will. Perhaps, too, we are standing and watching those who go in against their will, those mothers that feel forced by circumstance or family or friends and, most especially, watching the passion of those innocents that will die there. As Jesus said elsewhere in the gospel, whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done for me. We stand and watch in the concrete garden outside the clinic, because we are watching with Him.
The Scriptural reflection for the first mystery ends:
“And he came back to his disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:40-41)
I think this applies to anyone keeping a vigil. In my case, I found several people swaying side to side as they were praying. At first, I assumed this was a spiritual practice, that they were “getting into it” by swaying along with the prayers, but I found out a different reason later: they were moving! Standing still and praying for several hours will give you such a leg cramp!
That’s nothing, of course, compared to the pain inside and walking outside of the clinic. I’m being a facetious, but the flesh — all of our flesh, including that of the watchers, is weak. Our spirit, and more so God’s Spirit, must drive our bodies forward to do the right things. It takes grace to really stand out there instead of just thinking about it. It takes grace to keep standing there when it’s too hot or too cold or you’re too stiff. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor inconvenience – as most things on this earth will seem to be from heaven – but it is still a real, if small, suffering, and the body doesn’t like suffering.
Further, we must remember that the spirit may be willing among those walking in, but the flesh is weak. To someone who wants to keep their child – a father or mother or grandparent – there can be many pressures from outside and inside to keep walking through those doors. All you need to do is keep your flesh walking forward and, in a few hours or minutes, your spirit won’t be able to do anything about it. It will be done. What a temptation that must be! We must pray for ourselves, that we don’t enter temptation; we must pray for those working in and walking in the clinic, to receive grace to resist their temptations. Everyone can pray for that, and we need it. We all need it.
Copyright 2015, Joe Wetterling
Image courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Agony_in_the_Garden.jpg