Persons, places and things: Accompanying Jesus in the Garden


By Barb Arland-Fye


John’s Gospel, which we will hear proclaimed on Good Friday, does not include the story of Peter, James and John falling asleep three times during Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. But that story, told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (and a shorter version in Mark), comes to my mind during the Triduum. Would Jesus have found me, as he found the three disciples, “sleeping from grief” (Luke 22:45) or sleeping to avoid dealing with Jesus’ agony?

How do I respond to Jesus in agony today, in my encounters with others dealing with agony or who are in pain — physical, mental or spiritual? These questions linger as I think about one phrase from a homily that Deacon Matt Levy gave last Saturday night (the eve of Palm Sunday) at Our Lady of the River Church in LeClaire. “Remain vulnerable to those in pain,” he said.

His message served as an epiphany moment: we are called to accompany Jesus in the garden in our daily lives. We are in the garden with Jesus when we visit a friend in the hospital. We are in the garden with Jesus when we deliver a meal to a neighbor or parishioner sidelined by an accident. We are in the garden with Jesus when we volunteer to take someone to Mass, a parish event or a doctor’s visit.


In the sixth station of “Everyone’s Way of the Cross” by Clarence Enzler (Veronica helps Jesus), Christ asks us, “Can you be brave enough, my other self, to wipe my bloody face? Where is my face you ask? At home whenever eyes fill up with tears, at work when tensions rise, on playgrounds, in the slums, the courts, the hospital, the jails — wherever suffering exists — my face is there. And there I look for you to wipe away my blood and tears.”

Participants in “Everyone’s Way of the Cross” acknowledge the difficulty of Jesus’ request. “It calls for courage and self-sacrifice, and I am weak,” we say in response. “Don’t let me run away because of fear.” That station speaks to me. Sometimes, when I accompany someone dealing with a grave illness, I wonder, what if I were in their place? Could this happen to me?

Just before Palm Sunday, I visited a friend in the hospital with a serious illness. Prayer brings her great comfort, so we prayed a decade of the rosary. As we prayed in unison, the rhythm of our prayer seemed to calm both of us and to wrap us in a blanket of peace. It was a holy moment that I will hold close to my heart.

But, I must confess. I have fallen asleep in the garden! Two weeks earlier, a friend from our parish who is unable to drive while recuperating from broken bones needed a ride home from our Lenten soup supper. After volunteering to give her a ride home, I got caught up in conversation with other parishioners and forgot about my commitment. I left church without my friend, who had to find someone else to take her home.

With good humor, she mentioned my “oversight” a week later. This time, I would not fall asleep in the garden! I sat near her during the soup supper and then drove her home. Like, Jesus, she forgave me. We even laughed about my slip up. Accompanying Jesus in the garden does not always require great courage and self-sacrifice. But it does require attentiveness and a sincere heart!

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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