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Holy Land Pilgrimage

Remain In Me

March 10, 2019

“Remain in me, as I remain in you.” (John 15:4) Jesus frequently exhorts us in the Gospel of John to remain in Him, to abide in Him. What does this mean for us? Why does Jesus so frequently stress such a unique phrase?

At our visit to Gethsemane—the gorgeous church that sits at the foot of the Mount of Olives commemorating the agony in the garden—I encountered a bit of this reality. When I entered the church, I was immediately struck. The vaulted ceilings were covered in dimly lit mosaics, and the void of the church’s body was dark. The windows were stained purple to prevent too much light from entering. Here one could immediately enter into the first sorrowful mystery, for there was splendor in the distant ceiling and walls, but darkness draped about you, just as Jesus would have seen the seemingly distant goodness of His Father but felt the weight of his coming Passion all around Him.

At Mass, I was gifted with the opportunity to cantor. We celebrated on the center altar and everything said through the sound system echoed over the murmuring of the pilgrims. “In you, Lord, I take refuge, let me never be put to shame.” Psalm 71 was set for the responsorial, and as we chanted these words, I could not help but feel I had entered into the garden with Christ. His cry was ours, and it saturated the church with the reality of that event from two millennia before. I was brought out of myself, and I forgot everything except Jesus in the garden. This was the power of the Holy Mass, and this was the power of the beauty of that church.

What does it mean for us to abide in Jesus but, among other things, to meditate on his mysteries, to enter into the events of his life, and to thus let His life become a part of ours. After reflecting on this experience, I think that in this way we are brought out of ourselves and grow in the capacity to view things from His perspective. Jesus’ mysteries (the experiences of his life—even the everyday ones) begin to penetrate our thoughts, imaginations, desires, and feelings, and we then are more able to live our lives out of this union with Him.

Practically, this means for example that when we are confronted with something difficult we know we must undergo, like a tough conversation or a forgiving someone who just hurt us, the more we have entered into the mystery of the agony in the garden, the more we can prepare for that trial with Jesus, in Jesus, and through Jesus. By entering this part of His life, we let this part of His life enter into us. Then, with Him, we can agonize in the garden, see how much easier our task is than His, draw strength from His courage, feel supported by His suffering with us, and live our lives permeated with Christ. What a beautiful way to live! Easier said than done, and this is a gift we need to beg for in prayer, but this I think is why He exhorts us, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

 

James Guarascio
Diocese of Joliet

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