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Let this cup pass from me

We say it so often, sometimes more than several times a day: Thy will be done. It is the anthem of surrender. But do we stop and listen to the words as we say them? Do we let the full weight of their meaning take root in our consciousness? Do we absorb the message and then let go, release control and relinquish to God what was God's all along?

My guess it that the answer to these questions is: "not always and not completely." Complete surrender is advanced holiness; it's theosis, a becoming Christ-like that is the destination on our spiritual journeys. We learn how to surrender from Jesus, the Master Teacher, and we learn that it is not easy and not without struggle.

Lent brings us to the Garden of Gethsemane, where we stop with Christ before the walk to crucifixion. Jesus' time in the garden is the Father's expression of empathy for us. In that moment, even before we have taken our first breaths, God sees us. He knows the sorrows we will face, and He sets aside this time before he takes on the weight of all our sins to teach us how to ask God's mercy.

He sees us in our struggle to surrender. He sees us in our suffering. God knows how hard it is to come to our knees, at the end of our strength, at the end of our power, at the end of everything we thought we could do on our own, and to stare down a difficult situation. He knows what it is to say, "I can't do this anymore." In His goodness, He allowed His Son to come to that place so that we could know beyond all doubt that God is there with us.

"And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Mt 26:39).

I've fallen on my face fairly frequently lately. That part, I seem to have mastered. Like Jesus in Gethsemane, I've come to the end of myself. I can't see, like He does, the suffering that lies ahead. That's definitely God's good design, because I'm sure if last year at this time I could see all the way to this year, I'd have been terrified. All I see is what is directly in front of me. Still, I throw myself facedown and pray with all my heart. Something happens here, in the facedown position. Grace is poured. I don't always recognize it at once, but it's there.

Like Christ, I ask the Father to take this cup from me, whatever the particular cup of the moment. Admittedly, I'm not preparing for crucifixion. My struggles pale in comparison, but they are my struggles, and God knows the challenge they pose for me. He knew in Gethsemane. He saw this day coming in my life and in yours. In His goodness, He showed us how to surrender, and He asks us daily to try again to do it the way He does. Truly merciful, He also shows us that surrender can be genuinely difficult. Even Jesus asked the cup to pass. I've always wondered about that. How could He show vulnerability; He is God? This year taught me that He shows vulnerability because He is God. He sees the crosses on the hills in our lives, and He chooses to walk the walk with us even in the moments when we flail facedown and beg for a way out.

He answers the begging with Himself. He is Mercy.

Foss, whose website is elizabethfoss.com, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016