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  • Sarah Raad

Guilt

When my Beloved cried out on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34), He was crying about me…

The Garden of Gethsemane (Giorgio Vasari)

We humans are not very good at experiencing guilt – true guilt. It is true, that we are better at experiencing guilt than the animals are, but it is equally true that we do not really understand our actions or the consequences of those actions – into eternity – very well at all. And – as a consequence – we are less capable of understanding guilt than God…


You see, God is outside of time and space, and this means that He understands the true consequence of all actions in a perfect way because He can see the action and consequence simultaneously. It is as though in God’s mind He adds together all the past actions and all the future actions to all the present actions and – in this way – God understands those actions (and their consequences) perfectly!


Accordingly, God understood the implications of the fall of humankind through Original Sin, in the moment when He created Adam. And yet, still, He created Adam. Because He loves us… Even despite our failings…


I have been reflecting upon the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He died, which we remember when we pray the first sorrowful mystery of the most Holy Rosary. For Christ’s agony was tremendous! Christ’s agony was so terrible – in fact – that He sweat blood out of His skin because His agony was so great.


And I have been asking myself, what caused God’s great agony that night? After all, He suffered greatly during His earthly life. He was subject to heat and cold, to persecution to misunderstanding, to mistreatment, to poverty, and even to threats against His person and His life… So what was it about that particular day and that particular time that caused Christ to feel such terrible agony?


Was His agony caused by the carelessness of the apostles – the chosen three – who He took with Him, and who could not even stay awake with Him an hour to pray? Was His agony caused by the betrayal of Judas – the one for whom it was better that he was never born – which He had foreseen? Was His agony caused by the betrayal of Saint Simon Peter – who after promising to follow Him unto death, betrayed Him three times before the cock crowed – and of which He had forewarned?


Yet, though these terrible betrayals caused Our Blessed Lord must have caused Him great grief, I do not believe that it was these betrayals alone that caused His terrible agony in that Garden…

I believe – instead – that God’s agony in that Garden was caused by His PERFECT experience of Guilt…

You see, animals do not feel any guilt at all. This is because animals cannot look backwards and animals cannot look forward. And so, when animals suffer, their suffering is comprised in the present moment – it is fully immediate and therefore, it is limited by their inability to comprehend any past or future connections to their present suffering.


Humans are quite similar really. You see, while we can experience guilt, our experience of it is limited by our ability to comprehend time. This is because humans can look backwards and forwards when they suffer. For example, if a human is sick and has been sick for six months, they will feel the suffering of that sickness in the present as they bring forward all the suffering of their past, and they will think to themselves, that they have suffered so much in these last six months that they will add that suffering from the past onto their present suffering, and their present suffering will grow. In addition, humans can project forward their experience of suffering and we can imagine all the suffering that we may experience in the future. And if – for example – that person who already suffered for six months, anticipates that they might have another one year of suffering, they will bring that suffering from the future to the present moment and experience their anticipated future suffering in the present moment too! And this experience will compound their present suffering…


And the human experience of guilt is much the same, except we cannot really understand the future implications of our guilt and we cannot understand the past implications of our guilt, because we do not have an understanding of the possible alternatives that we destroy through our decision-making…


And this is why Christ experienced such AGONY in the Garden of Gethsemane that night… Because Christ – God the Son – experienced GUILT, our guilt, as GOD… You see, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ felt the full weight of the guilt of sins, and He felt that guilt PERFECTLY, seeing PERFECTLY what we destroy in each moment of sin! And He bore that guilt with the full implication of every single sin in the entire world from the moment of Original Sin to the moment of the final sin as the final human breathes their last breath at the end of the world…


And in understanding that GUILT more perfectly than you or I ever could, He suffered a PERFECT AGONY for our sins…


And seeing something of that, I weep… For when my Beloved cried out on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) He was crying about me…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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