December 4, 2021
Was there a specific event in history attributed to the beginning of Christ’s passion? Was it when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss? Or maybe it was when Pontius Pilate sentenced Christ to death. Perhaps it was when Jesus told his disciples that the Son of God would be handed over to be crucified. These are a few of the possibilities I have heard from different people. I want to propose that Christ’s passion began when he experienced his first physical manifestation of stress.
“He was in such agony, and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground” (Luke 22:44). At the Mount of Olives, Jesus prayed to the Father to take away the cup he was about to drink, the cup of his passion and death. The agony of knowing what was about to happen to him triggered high levels of anxiety to the point that his body reacted. Christ experienced hematohidrosis (also known as hemahidrosis), a rare condition with unknown etiology that occurs when an individual sweats blood. It has been associated with certain blood disorders, or a high level of stress. When related to stress, hematohidrosis occurs when the blood vessels surrounding the sweat glands contract. When anxiety passes, the vessels move from contraction to dilation, triggering their rupture. Consequently, the sweat glands push water (i.e., sweat) out through the pores, along with blood.
The narrative of Christ’s prayer on the Mount of Olives paves the way for priestly life. As men preparing to become In Persona Christi Capitis, we are being formed to follow the steps of the King, whose throne is the cross. We believe in a resurrected God, and we are called to live in Easter Sunday. However, we cannot have an Easter Sunday without a Holy Thursday and a Good Friday. The question comes to mind: When we experience our own “hematohidrosis” in our priestly ministry, what can we do?
The Gospel of Matthew describes Christ taking three of his disciples with him to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:36-46). After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them, he prayed to the Father. Later, Christ went back to his disciples and found them asleep. He woke them up and encouraged them to pray. Christ did this three times, going to prayer and going back to his disciples. I would like to propose that Christ was looking for spiritual support from his disciples. Therefore, whenever the difficulties of our priestly ministry arrive, let us imitate Christ. We are invited to pray to the Father and then go to our brothers for support.
How willing are we to give ourselves to serve the flock entrusted to us? How are we preparing ourselves to cope with our hematohidrosis? Let us take courage to minister to others, even when it could result in our own passion.
Deacon Christian Melendez-Cruz
Diocese of Yakima, Washington