We are meant to meditate on the life of Jesus as we pray the mysteries of the rosary. In the Gospel of Matthew we read: “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray”. He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will ”. When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep.”
Jesus had close relationships with the Apostles whom he had chosen and traveled with for nearly three years. The Bible tells us that His mother Mary followed Jesus as well after He began His public ministry. We don’t know if any of His chosen disciples were distant relatives – the Bible doesn’t tell us. Some scholars suspect that there was a distant familial relationship to Jesus among some of the Apostles.
What does it take to make a friend? From my own experience it takes a long time and a lot of work and thought. I meet someone new, who seems friendly, and as I “strike up a conversation” with the person and get past the ordinary courtesies, we each begin to reveal bits of ourselves. I have learned to go slowly in making a friend, because I want to be safe; I don’t want to be betrayed by giving away too much of myself before I am sure of the other person. I also don’t want to overwhelm my new found friend with the joy and/or pain that is in the heart of me. After quite a bit of time passes and numerous conversations have ensued, both my new found friend and I reveal the most deeply held parts of ourselves and our innermost experiences.
The Biblical writers did not tell us everything about the relationships which developed between Jesus and his Apostles. We know little of the friendships of the Apostles between themselves. We read in the Bible that some Apostles were related to one another – Andrew and Peter were brothers, as were James and John. We read of specific important events in those three years of Jesus’ ministry, but there are many things that remain unsaid – things that we must imagine for ourselves when we meditate on our reading of the Gospels. The Biblical authors were trying to share with us who Jesus is and what He did in His brief time on earth. Unlike our contemporary biographies, the Biblical authors omitted the day to day events and the minutia which we contemporary readers find so enjoyable.
The writers don’t tell us about those quiet moments when Jesus was alone with only these specially chosen twelve men, perhaps sharing a quiet meal around a campfire when all the crowds had gone home. We are not told what the group spoke about or the songs they sang or the jokes they shared with each other; we know only that Jesus taught the Apostles what he had heard from His Father. We can surmise that Jesus had revealed his deepest heart to the Apostles during the time He spent with them, as He called them all “friends” the night before He died. During those hours in Gethsemane when Jesus was most in need of His friends, His specially chosen friends all fell asleep, weary from the day’s activities and grief stricken from what He had told them about his impending trial and death. Later that night when the soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus, His closest friends abandoned Jesus out of fear for their own lives.
Some of my close friends have moved away or died, or worse still, can no longer be considered “ close friends”, because we grew apart – our ways and places of living and/or our values and thinking changed. There is no longer much in common between us. When that happens, when someone I called a “friend” changes or shows me that she is not the person I thought she was, I question myself. How could I not notice the change that occurred in my friend or failed to see the person’s true self? Losing those closest of friends is painful, for it is as though my heart has been ripped out of me. What once gave me strength and sustenance to move forward in my life is forever gone and remains only a memory of happier times. The questions remain.
What did Jesus feel when Judas kissed Him as an act of betrayal? I imagine Jesus felt a deep and painful wound in His heart, as though a sword had passed through Him, knowing that someone with whom He had shared so much had betrayed Him for a few pieces of silver. I imagine, too, a tear escaped Jesus’ eye, knowing what the future was for the man who had betrayed Him. The very next day the betrayer’s final act in his own life was one of desperation and despair. Perhaps in his human heart, Jesus hoped and prayed for the man’s eventual repentance, as Jesus said to the man, “you would betray me with a kiss?”. Those words would sting the hardest heart and speak of Our Lord’s deep sorrow and His hope of the man’s eventual return to the love which Jesus had for him.
What about my former friends, the ones I have loved and lost? Will I re-connect with those former friends at some time in the future? Is it possible to pick up the old friendships where we left off and move forward together once more? Those friendships I once cherished still remain in my memory, and I hope in my heart that what once gave me such joy can be again.