This morning on my weekly “Be Not Afraid” segment on Catholic Community Radio in Baton Rouge, LA I discussed a powerful Bible passage that never fails to bring me great comfort. As I mentioned on the show, I turned to this verse last week when I was struggling with some issues that were making me feel anxious. If you are suffering, I strongly believe that this passage will help you.
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. (Luke 22:41-44)
When faced with His upcoming death and the cause of that death (all the sins that were ever committed or would be committed), Jesus suffered greatly. Because He was fully human (as well as fully divine), He was able to experience the same agony that you and I feel when we suffer. By His actions, the Lord teaches us the importance of prayer when faced with suffering or anxiety. When He prayed, Jesus asked His Father to remove His suffering, but only if it was the Father’s will (another great lesson for us). Now, here’s where it gets interesting. In response to Jesus’ prayer, an angel was sent “strengthening Him”. The Greek word used here is “enischuó”, which means “to strengthen or invigorate”.
Immediately after telling us about the angel, St. Luke writes that Jesus was in agony (the Greek word used is “agónia”, which means great fear, terror, anxiety or agony) and “prayed more earnestly”. Wait a minute! You mean to tell me that Jesus was still in agony even after the angel was sent to strengthen Him? You better believe He was! But what’s important is that He had the strength to pray “more earnestly”.
Why is this important to us? Because sometimes prayer doesn’t take away our suffering. Sometimes it doesn’t even make us feel any better. What it does do is give us the strength to endure any catastrophe or predicament that we can ever face. It unites us closely with Someone who knows what it’s like to suffer and can help us to get through even the most painful experience. We often think that we’re doing something wrong if we don’t feel better when we pray. We believe that our faith must be lacking. As we can see from looking at Jesus, that’s not always the case.
If you are suffering, make it a point to imitate Jesus and pray for relief. If that relief doesn’t come and you are still in agony, make it a point to imitate Him again by embracing your suffering and praying “more earnestly”. You’ll receive the strength that you need and, one day, you’ll see just how your suffering helped you and many others!
NOTE: I’m excited to announce that I’ll be appearing on EWTN TV’s The Journey Home tonight at 8 PM Eastern. I’ll tell the story of how, as a cradle Catholic who never stopped going to Mass, I really never knew Jesus for many years. I’ll also discuss how He kept reaching out to me over and over, until I finally accepted His offer of friendship. I hope you can tune in!