The Sorrowful Mysteries: The Agony in the Garden and the Myth of Self-Sufficiency

Agony in the Garden - image by Frank Vincentz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As we venture deeper into this season of Lent, let’s reflect upon the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary—those events that lead up to and culminate in the Crucifixion and Death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In this first installment, we reflect on the Agony in the Garden.


The Book of Genesis introduces us to the Garden of Eden—that place where Adam and Eve enjoyed absolute intimacy with God. It is within that paradise that everything comes crashing down as Adam and Eve disobey God and eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The gravity of this original sin is not just disobedience but rather the attempt to go it alone. The serpent had promised Adam and Eve that if they ate of the tree, they would become like God—no longer reliant upon God but completely self-sufficient. Therein lies the downfall of all human beings: the notion that we are self-sufficient.

It is no coincidence that the agony of Jesus takes place in a garden. Jesus is visiting the “scene of the crime,” so to speak, with an opportunity to right the wrong unleashed by Adam and Eve. Like them, he is tempted by the devil to proceed on his own: “Let this cup pass me by.” Now, while I would never attempt to psychoanalyze Jesus, if anyone I knew told me of enduring an experience described using words and phrases such as “sorrow and distress,” “troubled,” “anguished,” “in agony,” “overwhelmed,” “deeply grieved,” “sorrowful to the point of death,” “fell on his face,” or “sweat became like drops of blood” (all various translations from the Gospel accounts of the Agony in the Garden), I would conclude that this person was having a panic attack. Jesus’ descent into hell—that place of separation from God—had already begun in that garden experience.

Interestingly enough, when I did a Web search for “panic attack,” the first thing that popped up was an ad saying, “You are not alone!” In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sought to go it alone. Ever since, humankind has felt the pain of isolation and has longed to experience the nearness of God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus experienced a feeling of isolation and abandonment—by his friends and by his Father—he chose not to go it alone, but to rely on his Father: “Not my will, but your will be done.” Luke’s Gospel even mentions the presence of an angel, a sign that God never left the side of his Son.

It was on the same night of Jesus’ agony in the garden that Jesus gave us the gift of the Eucharist so that we would never be alone. Our reception of the Eucharist is our ultimate rejection of self-sufficiency. In receiving the Eucharist, we admit that, at our deepest level, we are incapable of sustaining ourselves. We are completely dependent on God.

This Lent, may we all reflect on how we can place our trust in God’s will, even and especially at those moments when we feel that God is nowhere near. For in saying the words, “thy will be done,” we draw nearer to the God who has never left our side.


Deepen your understanding of the Rosary by reading The Rosary: A Path into Prayer by Elizabeth M. Kelly and The Complete Rosary: A Guide to Praying the Mysteries by William G. Storey.

Image by Frank Vincentz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

About Joe Paprocki 2517 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

3 Comments on The Sorrowful Mysteries: The Agony in the Garden and the Myth of Self-Sufficiency

  1. Dear Joe That is a very good article of Jesus in the
    Garden many thanks .It really highlights his struggle
    God bless John Williamson
    St Joseph’s Gerrards Cross Uk

  2. Dear Joe,
    Thanks so much for your reflection on the Sorrowful Mysteries: The Agony in the Garden and the Myth of Self-Sufficiency.
    I liked your observation: “In receiving the Eucharist, we admit that, at our deepest level, we are incapable of sustaining ourselves. We are completely dependent on God.

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