Buonasera Bellissima readers, and welcome to this week’s blog, where today, I will be reflecting on the transformative retreat that I had the privilege of attending last weekend! This experience is one that I have grown very eager to share, as it reminded me of the purpose of Lent and the importance of prayer, which I hope this post does for you, too. I am so thankful that you have returned and invite you to join me as I reflect on my Lenten journey.
Taking place in a town thirty minutes outside of Florence, Rimaggino made the most perfect spot imaginable to step away from the demands of daily life and direct full attention to personal prayer and quiet contemplation. Sitting high on a mountain overlooking the Arno River, the retreat took place in a beautiful garden where our small group spent the afternoon meditating on Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane. Secluded and isolated from everything else in His life, this garden is where Jesus went before the crucifixion to pray to His Heavenly Father. Although He entered into it with His disciples, He went off alone and prayed not once, not twice, but three times, on each occasion expressing the emotional turmoil that He was enduring at the thought of His death.
Because He was fully human, Jesus felt all of the normal human emotions that one feels when they know they are approaching the end of their life and did the best thing that one can do when they are dealing with difficulties: taking them straight to the Father. Bringing to Him all of the fear, apprehension, anxiety, and sorrow that He was experiencing as He prepared to take on the cross, Jesus raised his concerns to God without once questioning His plan, but instead welcoming His will: “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Although he was petrified at the thought of dying like most people are, He graciously accepted that His death was the only way that the imperfect human population could ever rise to new life, and openly took our place because of His great love for us and His father. Through His death on the cross, He took on the sins that are cleansed from the human soul at Baptism, granting every person the incredible gift of sanctifying grace that enables us to become members of God’s holy family.
Jesus felt firsthand the emotional effects that come at the end of human life when people are forced to deal with the consequences of their sins, as He took on every sin that had been and would be committed by the human race. These awful feelings are ones that He never wants his people to experience, which is why He urges his disciples to avoid whatever leads them to sin, telling them to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” This is all so that they would not have to suffer at the end of their earthly life, but instead may enter into eternal glory with the Heavenly Father. However, Jesus knew that this is easier said than done, as He too was tempted in the desert by the devil. He knew that it is not something we can overcome on our own, which is why He encouraged His disciples to pray to God every day, asking for the strength to avoid sin, replacing temptation with the desire to choose the goodness that flows from His never-ending love.
As I sat in this garden of Italy, I put myself in the shoes of the disciples who were sitting with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Unlike the disciples, I did not fall asleep but reflected on the ways in which I have done so in my prayer life during my semester abroad. Coming to Florence, I had the intention of strengthening my relationship with the Lord but quickly became convinced that all of the chapels and religious history I was surrounded by made up for the time I usually spend in personal prayer. Going on this retreat helped me realize that this could not be more false and that the importance of prayer cannot be understated. Communication is a crucial part of any relationship, and our relationship with God is no exception. Jesus set an amazing example of what it means to be in constant communication with our Heavenly Father, especially during His agony in the garden. I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to spend time in my own garden last Saturday, reflecting on all of the agonies that sin has caused in my life and spending time with Jesus who sacrificed himself for our sake. I pray that you get the chance to do the same during this Lenten season; to step away from the business of daily life and thank the one who gave us His.