Chronicles in Ordinary Time 49: Odd Things

This is a two-part post; the second half of which is too long for a blog. I have a link at the end of part one that will take you to the second half…

42; or, Jesus in the Garden

In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, [if I recall correctly] one of the characters ask a supercomputer for the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Time passes [this was in the days when a Megabyte was huge], and eventually the supercomputer spits out the answer: “42”.
Being somewhat confused as to the nature of this answer, the character then asks the supercomputer, ‘What is the Ultimate Question?’ Time passes. The supercomputer eventually spits out the result: “What is 7 X 8?”

The nature of the Universe.

I have this tendency to think about the odd things in the Bible.

Not having been raised with “Bible Stories,” I don’t have any “Bible Answers” coursing through my veins. I didn’t learn Bible Stories as a child. My first hearing of Bible Stories was as an adult [Bible Stories, first heard as an adult, can often be strange]. I had been accustomed [thanks to my Senior English teacher in high school—another interesting coincide-ence in my life] to critical thinking by the time I left high school. Critical thinking was part of my college years, although not as much as in that one year of high school—“Appearance vs. Reality as viewed by Pirandello and Kafka” or some such title—at least that’s my recollection, four decades on. All of my careers required/have-benefitted-from critical thinking. The practice of critical thinking has affected my ‘walk of faith;’ I’m rarely satisfied by simplistic answers to difficult questions. So the odd things in the Bible have always attracted my attention, and I have trouble settling for simplistic Church explanations for odd things…

Jesus prayed by Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion. His buddies, who were supposed to be praying with Him, were asleep; twice. Buddies often are. The Bible says that Jesus shed drops of blood due to His internal anguish. Anguish over what? His upcoming torture? I’m not convinced, now that I think about it.

I’ve lived with chronic pain for four decades, more or less. Migraines [starting in 1979, continuing into the 2000s], fibromyalgia/rheumatism, a ruptured appendix, a bone chip in my ankle joint from a torn ligament as a kid, trampoline accident in high school; three ‘totaled’ vehicles from which I walked away [‘any landing you walk away from is a good landing’]. A consistent back pain, every day of the last 40 years, except for a brief period when it mysteriously disappeared, after attending a Crusade [would the back pain have remained gone if I had made that experience a key element of my life and faith? I don’t know; some would say that it would have]. That particular back pain has mostly been superseded by other back pains; and the damage is visible in an MRI. Pain is a fact of my life; but I work at not making it a big deal.

It’s hard to say which of the pains has been the worst. We are blessed that we don’t remember pain clearly. I remember the fact of those past pains, I can remember some of the feelings associated with those pains; but thankfully I can’t reenact the past pains. The migraines were probably the worst in terms of effect on my life, and were pretty continual from age twenty-eight into my early fifties. I remember “lost weekends” as I called them. Weekends spent in the dark with my head packed in ice. I never lost consciousness because of pain; I frequently let go of consciousness in order to sleep; and get away from the pain. I don’t know how similar the two are. I certainly never sweat drops of blood because of my pain. Nevertheless, it’s really hard for me to imagine Jesus sweating drops of blood because of the pain He probably knew was coming at the hands of the Roman military government. We Christians have a tendency to focus on the suffering that came with the Cross; I think it’s more appropriate to focus on the suffering that came with Jesus taking on the punishment that was rightfully ours in history; the punishment He accepted for what followed His Presence here on earth.

As I think about it now, I can imagine Jesus sweating drops of blood over all of the hatred and evil that was going to be done in the centuries ahead, all in His Name. Suppose, for a moment, that Jesus was given foreknowledge of the martyrdom in Rome to come in the next decades and the following centuries; the Crusades; the Inquisition; the Nazi death camps [in a not consistent way, the slaughter was done in His name] the lynching by the KKK [also done in His Name, to a degree]; the martyrdom that continues today, two millennia after His death on the cross. Blaming Jesus for all of the torture and brutality and evil that was going to come; evil that had nothing to do with Jesus and His teachings; yet was going to occur because His followers down through the millennia would get it wrong… To have entered time and space from Eternity and Infinity, in order to teach these pesky humans how to live in tune with their Creator; and to find that not only was the teaching going to be ignored throughout history, but that He was going to be blamed for the cruel death of tens of millions in the centuries to come… I think this might be a reason for Jesus to have been in anguish to the point of shedding blood.

The first thing Jesus did, upon being arrested, having spent hours dripping blood, was to heal the ear of Malchus, a servant who got in the way of the Peter’s sword…

garden gethsemane rev2

The second part of this ‘Easter meditation’ can be found here in a separate pdf file which will open on a new page…

 

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