“When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”” (Luke 22:45-46)
In the weeks before Lent the Orthodox Church prescribes reading through the passion gospels that we will hear at the end of the journey of Lent, during Holy Week. It is an opportunity to prepare oneself, and to remember that at the very center of everything we do during Lent is Jesus, His life, His passion, His death, and ultimately His resurrection.
One thing struck me today about this very small section of today’s readings. We read that the disciples were sleeping “from sorrow”. It can also be translated “for sorrow”. They were grieved by the weight of what was happening, and it seems, they just shut down. Perhaps some even cried themselves to sleep due to the sorrow they experienced from what Jesus had told them was about to happen.
Shutting down in the midst of sorrow, or in the face of very bad news is something I, at least, can really relate to. In the face of news about tragedy, illness in loved ones, injustice, or even severe disappointment, it is easy to shut down. Its a fight or flight response really, which is instinctive for us humans. Its not even because I just want escapism, its often because I, we, simply don’t know how to respond. So often there is absolutely nothing we can do, even though we so desperately want to. So we sleep from sorrow.
In the Gospel reading, though, we see that Jesus rouses them from their sleep and begs them to remember to do the one thing He had asked, the one thing they could do, which was the most important thing of that moment. Pray. The enemy suggests to us that if we do not know what to do, to say, even to pray, that it is best if we do nothing. But we are reminded by Our Lord today that we must do the one thing given to us to do, to wake up, and pray, even if we do not know what to pray for or about. So often the simple prayer “Lord have mercy” is all we have, especially in moments of great sorrow. But perhaps that is enough. And beyond enough, perhaps it is the one thing that will keep us from just shutting down, when prayers are so greatly needed.