By tradition, Catholics reflect only on Christ’s Sorrowful Mysteries during Lent. I wanted help to recall the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was praying in sorrow until he started to sweat blood. I would like to share with you this reflection from Archbishop Fulton Sheen in his book, “Life of Christ.”
This was the moment when Our Blessed Lord, in obedience to His Father’s will, took upon Himself the iniquities of all the world and became the sin-bearer. He felt all the agony and torture of those who deny guilt, or sin with impunity and do no penance. It was the prelude of the dreadful desertion which He had to endure and would pay to His Father’s justice, the debt which was due from us: to be treated as a sinner. He was smitten as a sinner while there was no sin in Him — it was this which caused the agony, the greatest the world has ever known.
As sufferers look to the past and to the future, so the Redeemer looked to the past and to all the sins that had ever been committed; He looked also to the future, to every sin that would be committed until the crack of doom. It was not the past beatings of pain that He drew up to the present, but rather every open act of evil and every hidden thought of shame. The sin of Adam was there, when as the head of humanity he lost for all men the heritage of God’s grace; Cain was there, purple in the sheet of his brother’s blood; the abominations of Sodom and Gomorrah were there; the forgetfulness of His own people who fell down before false gods was there; the coarseness of the pagans who had rebelled even against the natural law was there; all sins were there: sins committed in the country that made all nature blush; sins committed in the city, in the city’s fetid atmosphere of sin; sins of the young for whom the tender heart of Christ was pierced; sins of the old who should have passed the age of sinning; sins committed in the darkness, where it was thought the eyes of God could not pierce; sins committed in the light that made even the wicked shudder; sins too awful to be mentioned, sins too terrible to name: Sin, sin, sin!
Once this pure, sinless mind of Our Savior had brought all of this iniquity of the past upon His soul as if it were His own, He now reached into the future. He saw that His coming into the world with the intent to save men would intensify the hatred of some against God; He saw the betrayals of future Judases, the sins of heresy that would rend Christ’s Mystical Body; the sins of the Communists who could not drive God from the heavens but would drive His ambassadors from the earth; He saw the broken marriage vows, lies, slanders, adulteries, murders, apostasies — all these crimes were thrust into His own hands, as if He had committed them. Evil desires lay upon His heart, as if He Himself had given them birth. Lies and schisms rested on His mind, as if He Himself had conceived them. Blasphemies seemed to be on His lips, as if He had spoken them. From the North, South, East, and West, the foul miasma of the world’s sins rushed upon Him like a flood; Samson-like, He reached up and pulled the whole guilt of the world upon Himself as if He were guilty, paying for the debt in our name, so that we might once more have access to the Father. He was, so to speak, mentally preparing Himself for the great sacrifice, laying upon His sinless soul the sins of a guilty world. To most men, the burden of sin is as natural as the clothes they wear, but to Him the touch of that which men take so easily was the veriest agony.