What if? The Daily Office confronts us today with the great mystery of Christ’s passion in Gethsemane and with his abandonment in that moment by his closest followers (see Mt 26:31-56). At their arrival on the Mount of Olives, Jesus had warned them all that he, the shepherd, would be stuck down, and that they, the sheep of the flock, would be scattered. With his wonted bravado, Peter declared that he would never fall away, even if it meant his death, though all the others might do. And all the rest said the same.
The group arrived at Gethsemane and Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a secluded place so that they all might pray. Jesus’ words to the three were simple: “Remain here, and watch with me.”
After anguished prayer, Jesus returned to find the three asleep. To Peter he said:
“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 26:40b-41, RSV).
This sad scenario is repeated three times: Jesus praying in agony and the three sleeping in disregard.
What if? What if Peter had watched and prayed, not just for Jesus, but for himself that he might not enter into temptation? Would he then, just hours later, have denied the Lord before the rooster’s crow? We will never know, because he did not watch and pray. And because he did not, he failed the Lord in the moment of decision. What if?
What if I watch and pray: that I will not fall into temptation, that my spirit would be willing and my flesh strong, that God’s will — not mine — be done, that those I love might love the Lord, that the Church — and my local parish — might be a place where the Word is truly preached and truly heard and the Sacraments faithfully administered and faithfully received, that the Holy Spirit would ignite in us — in me — a zealous love of the Gospel and a heart for evangelism? What if? I will never know if I do not pray. But what if I do?