The Facade of the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemani
THE PLOT AGAINST JESUS
- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: The Book of Jeremiah 11: 18-20
1.2. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St John 7: 40-53
1.3. Simple Comment: Jeremiah’s dangerous predicament as a prophet exemplifies what Jesus will be undergoing – he who is acknowledged to be the Prophet will be like a trusting lamb led to slaughter. However, it is interesting to note how each one has a different assessment about Jesus. “The crowd is sharply divided about Jesus”, just as the Pharisees – Nicodemus being one of their own number – find themselves divided. So too did the temple guards have a different appreciation about Jesus from the Pharisees. The last sentence of today’s Gospel passage best describes these opposing positions about Jesus: “each went off to his own house.”
- Monument: Gethsemani
2.1. Almost at the bottom of the western slope of the Mount of Olives, in the Kidron Valley, is a most holy site – the place of Jesus’ agony in the garden and of his arrest. The site itself, long venerated by Christians, is marked today by a noteworthy church which includes in its garden ancient olive trees reminiscent of the olive grove in which Jesus prayed through the night. So old do today’s olive trees appear that we might suspect them to be the trees which mutely watched the terrible events of that night nearly two thousand years ago; an olive tree does not live as long, but it is possible that ancestors of these did witness the pain of that night. Incidentally, Gethsemani means olive press.
2.2. The church marking this holy site is the Church of All Nations, began in 1919 and consecrated in 1924. Within the basilica we must let our eyes become accustomed to the dimness. There is only a faint light centered on the large rock surrounded by a metal crown of thorns. This rock traditionally has been considered the rock on which Jesus knelt for time of prayer, apart from his disciples, just before he was arrested. Many nations donated money for this impressive interior, the entire building and its preservation – so the name Church of All Nations.
2.3. Beneath the present mosaic floor lies the original flooring of the basilica built by emperor Theodosius of Constantinople (379-393 AD). We are, by virtue of this original flooring, in touch with the long tradition of veneration at this spot.
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. The sharp division we read in the Gospel is exactly the kind of division the devil tempted Jesus with during his agony at the garden of Gethsemani. The deceitful Evil One wanted Jesus to be divided from the Father’s design of salvation that is, through his passion and death on the cross. It was a cup Jesus literally shirked from drinking, but after deep prayer and sincere search for his Father’s will, Jesus overcame the temptation and rose victorious to face the ignominy of Calvary. By accepting to die Jesus totally annihilated the sting of death on all humanity!
3.2. Disunity is clearly the mark of the work of the devil and unanimity of spirit the mark of the mission of the Trinity. Our Lenten practices are designed to make us experience our personal integration – fasting; our oneness with God – prayer; and our solidarity with our suffering neighbor – almsgiving! Lent is made to make us grow in love – in unity!
- Contemporary Filipino Question: Our nation is beset by division, strife, infighting, destructive criticism, endless protests. We either join the devil by contributing to greater chaos and mounting bitterness or take the side of Christ in seeking to do the one true will – God’s love and service. This would certainly demand self-sacrifice, but like what Jesus promised, his person on the cross is the Way, the Truth and the Life.