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IIC 109: Jesus' Psychological Agony in the Garden


We explore the inner experience of Jesus and the psychological, emotional, relational, and bodily anguish He suffered in His humanity in the Garden of Gethsemane as the drama of of salvation history unfolded. We also explored the reactions of the apostles Peter, James, and John to the experience of Jesus’ agony.



The Lord is in the garden, weeping —prostrate, anguished — all alone.Not far away His friends are sleeping,using pillows made of stone.There in the darkness, time is fleeting —racing toward His destiny.His weary voice is heard repeating,Father, take this cup from Me.More fervently the Lord is pleading —mouthing words without a sound.From sorrow, He has started bleedingcrimson droplets on the ground.Disciples — one by one — awaken.Jesus tells them as they stand,The Son of Man will soon be taken.Rise, the hour is at hand.Bright torches in the distance — nearing;shouts and voices pierce the night.Then Judas walks into the clearing —soldiers to his left and right.To Judas and the crowd behind himJesus asks, Whom do you seek?All eyes await the sign to bind Him —Judas kisses Jesus’ cheek.A glint of steel — a blade is wheeling —Peter cuts off someone’s ear.A call for peace — a touch of healing,Jesus’ friends run off in fear.Surrounded by the priests and soldiers —centered in His Father’s will.The world’s weight upon His shoulders —stretched out on Golgotha’s hill.The poem titled Gethsemane, by poet Robert Hawkins at, used by permission.IntroWelcome to the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast; I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, passionate Catholic, clinical psychologist, bringing to you the best of human formation resources grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person.  I am very pleased to share with you a special edition of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast for Holy Week, this is episode 109 titled “Jesus’ Psychological Agony in the Garden.Interior Integration for Catholics is part of our broader outreach, Souls and Hearts, at Souls and, which is all about overcoming the psychological and human formation issues that keep us from a deep, personal, intimate relationship with God, our spiritual Father, Mary, our spiritual mother, Jesus, our brother and Savior and the Holy Spirit who sustains us. Today we are going to get to know Jesus much better, especially in those moments in the Garden of Gethsemane.Much has been written about Jesus’ physical wounds in his passion – the beating, the 39 lashes, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion itself. Much less has been explored and understood about the psychological aspects of that suffering – the emotional and relational aspects of that suffering. So, Jesus’ psychological distress and suffering has been very underappreciated.Even less understood, even less appreciated are the apostles’ inner experiences of what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is a huge omission, and our lack of understanding and appreciation keep us from knowing our Lord even more deeply, they keep us from a loving our Lord even more deeply.I want to walk you through the events in the Garden of Gethsemane as recounted in the four gospels.To set the stage, I invite you to think about how when we consider the passion, we generally come nowhere near to appreciating the full inner experience of our Lord Jesus Christ, what he suffered for us. We become quasi-Docetists.Docetism is a second century heresy that taught that Jesus only appeared to have a body; he was in not truly incarnate. He just seemed to have a body.  He was like a ghost. By denying the incarnate reality of Jesus’ body, Docetists essentially deny Jesus’ human nature.  Jesus was true God and true Man.  Many Gnostics believed this heresy and St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, and St. Hippolytus refuted it soundly and it was condemned that the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.In Hebrews chapter four, verse 15, we are told, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted, as we are, yet without sinning.”The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, paragraph 22 describes Jesus this way:  By his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin (GS 22).Pope St. John Paul II in his General Audience from February 3, 1988 elaborated on this passage: Today we shall pay particular attention to this last statement which brings us to the heart of Jesus’ psychological life. He truly experienced human feelings of joy, sadness, anger, wonder and love.  And Pope John Paul II cited many examples in the Gospels to reflect all those human experiences, including others – amazement, admiration, disappointment, frustration.  Jesus got tired and needed sleep (sometimes during storms while boating), he got thirsty, he touched others and was touched by others.In other words, Jesus really is true man. And when he went through the passion, when he went through the struggles and the Garden of Gethsemane, he did so in the fullness of that humanity; as an embodied man, with all the psychology of a man, with all the emotions of a man, with all the distress of a man, with all the inner experiences of a man.As Vatican II tells us, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.  So not only is Jesus a man, but he is the perfect man, the sinless man, the exemplar of what it means to be a man. For 30 years in his family home he worked on his human formation first as a boy, then as a man. Immediately after recounting the story of finding the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple, Luke tells us in chapter 2, verse 52 most likely on the authority of Mary, that Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.  In his humanity, as a boy and a man, Jesus increased in wisdom and statue.  In His humanity, Jesus grew up – not only physically, but also in acquiring knowledge and experience through the natural use of us human faculties, through His senses and His imagination, just like we do. Remember, He was like us in all things but sin.  And later in Hebrews 5:8 we read that, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what he suffered.”  In His human nature, he learned obedience. He was like us in all things but sin.At the outset, then, I want to give you a brief primer on human stress responses. If we’re going to understand what our Lord and His apostles went through in the Garden of Gethsemane from a psychological perspective, we need to understand stress responses in human beings.Stress responsesSo let’s talk about two stress responses. The first stress is sympathetic arousal. And the second one is the dorsal vagal response.Let’s start with sympathetic arousal. What is that? When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, we are all about survival that’s familiar to us as being in the fight or flight mode.In the fight mode, the human body is mobilized for aggressive action. We have very high levels of energy in this state. We have an adrenaline rush. The Klaxons are going off. We’re rushing to battle stations. There’s not a lot of relationality. When you are in fight mode, you breathe faster, your heart rate rises, your heart pounds hard in your chest. Blood pressure rises. You sweat, it’s hard to think, you can feel overwhelmed, There’s a potential for rage. We disconnect from others; again there is no time or space or energy for connecting in relationships.  We are outside our window of tolerance.In the flight mode, we are hypervigilant, on high alert., there is no sense of security, we act like a hunted animal.  Our pupils are letting in more light, looking and listening for danger. There is no sense of safety; rather there is sense of impending danger. There is a potential for panic, for disorganized fleeing. We make desperate efforts to escape from the perceived danger. We disconnect from others; again, there is no time or space or energy for connecting in relationships.  Because we are outside her window of tolerance, we cannot learn new things.Fight or flight is not a sustainable state because your adrenaline is up, your cortisone is up, your body cannot take it for long periods of time. Your heart could not stand it. And in that space, when you are in that sympathetic arousal fight or flight, your capacity for complex, flexible reasoning is very much reduced.  Confusion predominates.Can you imagine playing a good game of chess on your smartphone when you’re in fight or flight mode? You know, like when you’re running away from a tiger or facing three assailants in a dark alley?   Could you make good moves on the chessboard? No. So that is a brief summary of sympathetic arousal fight or flight mode.But there’s another stress response that people often don’t recognize, and that’s the dorsal vagal response or the freeze response. And all of this is from Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges. I really like the way that Deb Dana presents it. But just to give you a little background, if you want to learn more in the dorsal vagal response, this follows, this follows the sympathetic arousal. This is the freeze response. This is where we collapse into a kind of lifelessness. The dorsal vagal system takes over within us and shuts us down. This is the freeze response. Everything goes offline. Almost all of our brain goes offline and we shift into conservation mode. We do this like instinctually it’s a response to what seems inescapable. We numb out, we disconnect, we dissociate, we space out. We feel disconnected from the present, like we’re untethered or floating. There’s fogginess, fuzziness, collapse. We can feel really alone. Lost, unreachable, invisible. We can lose our sense of identity. Safety and hope seem to be lost. We can lose consciousness altogether. There’s this intense lethargy often feel really lethargic like you’re heavily sedated, this feeling of being stuck or frozen. And there also can be this deep despondency, this great sorrow that overwhelms us.It can be dark and silent and cold inside. Like I’m a rock, like I’m an island. This is all about protection, self-protection. And this is what happens sometimes when you see animals playing dead, like playing possum. There’s just a loss of nearly all cognitive and relational abilities here. We can’t listen to others very well. We can’t share very well. We have very little agency. We can’t focus. And the story, the narrative inside is one of despair, a message that the world is cold, empty, uninhabitable, messages that I’m unlovable, invisible, lost and alone.And so those are the two stress responses in a nutshell, the sympathetic response, which is the fight or flight response, the dorsal vagal response, which is the freeze response. And so now with that little bit of background, I want to walk you through what I imagine happened inside of Jesus and His apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane.Now cautions here. There’s possibilities that you could have parts that get activated, that there could be some triggering going on here. And so I want you to be really mindful of what’s happening inside you, with your parts, as we dive into the experience of our Lord and his humanity and the experiences of the apostles and their humanity.So if you find that you need to take a break, if you find that you are  leaving your window of tolerance, that you’re moving into that fight or flight mode going into hyperarousal, that’s that sympathetic nervous system activation. Then let’s take a break, shut it down, you know, reground yourself. Or if you find that you’re dropping into hypo arousal, exiting your zone of tolerance to the downside, where you’re getting into that freeze response, you’re numbing out, beginning to dissociate things like that.  Then we also want to titrate that. We want to regulate that.  It’s a good thing to shut down this podcast episode for a while. Let yourself regroup. Okay? We want to be honoring our humanity and our human capacity to take these things in,So I’m going to be using the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition for Scripture passages in this episode. And I’m going to be focusing on Matthew Chapter 26 Mark Chapter 14, Luke chapter 22 and John chapter 18. Those are the accounts of the Garden of Gethsemane and what happened there in the Gospels.Let’s just start with a little bit of background on Gethsemane from the Hebrew got shemanim, which means oil press, which suggests that the Garden of Gethsemane was a grove of olive trees in which there was an oil press.And that’s significant because in my opinion, this moment, in the Garden of Gethsemane, this is the scene of the greatest drama ever, Gethsemane. This was the key moment in all of human history, the moment when Jesus decided irrevocably to give Himself up to the most terrible, agonizing suffering in order to redeem us from our sins. All our human existence turned on this decision of our Lord in his humanity in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s that significant.  It’s that important.  And let’s go back.Let’s go back for a minute to original sin. Remember original sin? Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil ruptured our relationship with God. That all happened in a garden. That all happened in the Garden of Eden. When we lost our relationship with God. We lost that harmony with God. We lost that harmony with each other. We lost the harmony within ourselves that all happen in a garden. The Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, which I believe for all intents and purposes, was the start of the passion. That was the place when Jesus committed himself to carrying out all of what his father asked him to do in order to save us. That was the decision point when Jesus embraced it all and accepted it all at such a great cost, such a great psychological cost. And Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, two biblical scholars and theologians, they said, quote, It is no exaggeration to say that this is the defining moment of Jesus earthly life”  It all came down to the decision Jesus made in the Garden of Gethsemane”Let’s walk through the sequence of events in the garden from the very beginning in the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Jesus gives his disciples the command to pray. He says, Sit here while I go yonder and pray. Luke gets more specific right off the bat. Luke quotes Jesus saying, Pray that you may not enter into temptation. And then Jesus goes off and prays. He’s modeling the prayer.It’s interesting,  Jesus does not ask the disciples to pray for Him. He commands them to pray for themselves and to pray specifically that they do not enter into temptation. That’s going to be really significant in just a little bit because there’s real implications as to whether they prayed or didn’t pray.Now, side note here, there is no mention of Satan’s presence in the Garden of Gethsemane in any of the gospel accounts. Many people just assume Satan was there. And that may be in part because of the impact of Mel Gibson’s 2000 film, The Passion of the Christ, with Rosalinda Celentano acting in the role of an unforgettably creepy and scary Satan. But Mel Gibson or no Mel Gibson, it’s also a reasonable assumption to assume Satan was lurking in the garden, near at hand, especially with Jesus command to his to his apostles that they pray that they don’t enter into temptation.  It makes a lot of sense that Satan was present.So let’s just speak a little bit about temptations, because this is an area that I deal with a lot as a clinical psychologist. Remember that Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us that grace perfects nature. It doesn’t destroy it. In my experience, when clients of mine or others that I’ve worked with in various ways, when they experience external temptations, ones that might have a demonic influence to them, those external temptations focus on the weakest links in the person’s natural human formation. The weakest links in our natural human formation tend to be where Satan, where the demons focus. Satan and the demons look for weak spots within our human natures, within our human formation and try to exploit those weaknesses in our parts.Definition of parts:   Separate, independently operating personalities within us, each with own unique prominent needs, roles in our lives, emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, typical thoughts, intentions, desires, attitudes, impulses, interpersonal style, and world view.  Each part also has an image of God.  Parts who are not in right relationship with our innermost self have a very limited vision and understanding.The parts of us that we reject within ourselves. Demons want to connect with those parts of us, the parts of us that we condemn that we deny. The demons want to accept those parts and relate with those parts of us that we reject in ourselves. Satan and the demons use our shame against us, for example.And so what I’m saying here is let’s not separate the natural realm and the spiritual realm when we’re addressing this question of temptation. Temptation is not just a spiritual thing. Discalced Carmelite Abbott Marc Foley writes that “One…misconception is that the spiritual life is an encapsulated sphere, cloistered from the realities of daily living….we have only one life composed of various dimensions.  Our emotional life, intellectual life, social life, work life, sex life, spiritual life are simple ways of speaking of the different facets of our one life.  (p. 1, The Context of Holiness: Psychological and Spiritual Reflections on the Life of St. Therese of Lisieux ). We have one life.  Just one life.  We don’t have a spiritual life that is separate from our emotional life.  We have one life.  If we are tempted, that affects our whole life, not just the spiritual side of us.Now, I also make a distinction between impulses and temptations. Impulses are what some people call inner temptations. Impulses are things that arise in us. They are desires toward something that isn’t good for us, but they come from within our humanity, from our parts, not from the devils. I think of temptations as coming from outside of us. Coming from demons.The apostles Peter, James, and JohnSt. Matthew describes how Jesus took Peter, James, and John aside with Him in the garden.  From a psychological perspective, what were these men like?Remember Peter?  Peter, who could be dominated by parts that were bold and impetuous, self-confident and courageous, but also inconsistent, hardheaded and prone to insist on his own ideas, even to the point of contradicting Jesus. Peter was outgoing, prone to intense emotions, and a man with the natural capability of inspiring other men to follow his leadership.And James and John – Like Peter, they were fishermen from Galilee, accustomed to hard labor and hard circumstances.  remember not only were these two brothers and sons of Zebedee, they were the Boanerges, the Sons of Thunder, likely due to their intense, powerful, rough-hewn characters.  They never backed down from a fight.  They has firefighter parts who were quick to anger, willing to call fire from heaven on those who didn’t accept Jesus’ message.  They has ambitious and grandiose parts who coveted the honor of sitting at Jesus’ right and left hand in the kingdom of his glory.  In their self-assurance, their parts assumed they could drink the cup of suffering that Jesus would drink.So in this moment, at the beginning, Jesus was asking his Apostles to prepare for what was about to happen, to ask for the virtues of Faith, of perseverance, of fortitude to seek to be strengthened by God the Father.  Jesus’ admonition to pray may have reminded the Apostles of when Jesus taught them to pray, giving them the Our Father. The Our Father.  Jesus said, When you pray, say our father who art in heaven, and then obviously the rest of the prayer, Jesus  wanted His apostles to enter into a relationship with God as their Father. This was really, really clear and really startling, the intimacy of the relationship that we are to have. So that’s what He’s commanded his apostles to do.  And in my opinion, it’s pretty clear that they didn’t do it.  They didn’t pray enough.  And we’ll talk about that in just a little bit.The sorrow and the distressTaking with him Peter, James and John, Matthew tells us Jesus began to be sorrowful and troubled. And he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch with me. Mark, tells us that Jesus was greatly distressed and troubled and repeated, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.And if you go down into the Greek here, if you look at the Greek words to describe the intensity of this psychological experience, Mary Healy brings this up in her Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture from Mark. She says that these verbs, these Greek verbs are so forceful, they imply anguish, alarm. It’s hard to put into words the intensity of the suffering that our Lord is experiencing here. He is distraught in his humanity. This is not some kind of Jewish hyperbole, exaggeration, you know, creative license and poetic language. And no, he is sorrowful, even unto death. The crushing weight of sorrow. Sorrow for every sin, every sin, large and small, from spitballs in seventh grade to genocides, sins committed by every man, every woman, and every child in the entire history of the world and the entire future history of the world. Every sin – And Jesus was sorrowful unto death. That implies a dorsal vagal shutdown. That’s how I look at that.You know, think about the intensity of carrying all the sins of every single man, woman, and child throughout all of human history in the entire future of the world. That includes that time when you pulled that girl’s hair in third grade. You remember that,  That includes all those harsh words to your siblings and all the times you fought in the car on those long car trips. You remember that. And all of the things that you’ve done in your adulthood that divided you from other people and that impaired or harmed or even severed your relationship with God. All of that and all of the sins of every human being.The crushing weight of Jesus’ sorrow for all those sins is beyond imagining. Watch with me. Jesus asked his disciples to watch with him. Let’s take a look at what happened to Jesus’ posture in the Garden of Gethsemane. The usual way to pray for Jews was to stand. You prayed standing on your feet when you addressed God. But in Luke 22, it says that. Jesus knelt down. And the way that I interpret this was that Jesus sank to his knees. He sank to his knees. And then Mark goes further. He says, Jesus fell to the ground and Matthew goes even further, Jesus fell on his face. A prostrate position. Fell on his face, with Jesus’ face not even turned to the side. This is a very uncomfortable position. His face on the ground prostrate. And what that position means is that Jesus is so burdened, nearly completely overcome, lacking vitality, lacking the power to rise.This is a position of distress, of exhaustion, of extreme physical weakness, of duress. The sins of the world, crushing him, bearing him down. The anticipation of his suffering, weighing on him because he was seeing what it would take in order to carry out his father’s command. What it would take for the redemption of your soul, what it would take for the redemption of my soul. And the souls of everyone else. And he prayed. And what did he pray? According to Mark. Abba, Father. Abba. Daddy. All things are possible to thee. Remove this cup from me.  Remove this cup from me. The cup of suffering. Praying this on his face on the ground. The intensity of the suffering. And then Luke the physician, he adds a gruesome detail that’s not included in the other gospels. He adds that there was sweat like great drops of blood. Falling down upon the ground. Great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. Well, this is a medical condition called Hemitohidrosis, or sometimes hemitadrosis, or hemidrosis or hemitadrosis.  I’m going to call it hematidrosis. That’s a condition in which the capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands, that’s when those little blood vessels rupture and it causes blood to exude through the sweat glands. It happens under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress. There’s lots of documented cases of this.But you know, what’s interesting is you begin to look at that medical literature. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at the medical literature on Hematidrosis. Almost always there’s like this like pink sheen on the face or on the hands. That’s not what Luke is talking about. Luke is talking about great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. That’s what the sweat looked like. And that happens when you are in sympathetic arousal. Because again, remember what happens there is your heart races,  Your blood pressure rises. The blood pressure became so great within our Lord that it burst his blood vessels in his skin. His precious blood flowed into his sweat glands and then his blood flowed out Him, falling in great drops, to the ground him.Now this is my own speculative Malinoski theology here, but I think this bloody, rolling sweat is another wound for Jesus, the unrecognized wound.  The first wound of his passion, that didn’t get counted among our Lord’s five wounds – you know, the five wounds, the nail wounds in his hands and feet and the spear wound in his side. I think this hematidrosis is the first of the wounds of the passion – the first wound that drew blood.  That first wound came from inside Jesus, from his inner experience, his inner distress.  The Jesus’ internal distress was just so great that it forced his precious blood from his sacred body. Think about that. The intensity of that psychological distress.There is nothing in our suffering that we experience that our Lord doesn’t know from his own personal experience. Anything that at least does not stem from sin because he’s like us in all things but sin. An angel came from heaven strengthening him. And Saint Luke tells us, being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly. He prayed more earnestly. So in spite of the way that his body is reacting, he is still engaged with his Father.  He is still connected with his Father.  He hasn’t retreated or withdrawn into a protective mode.I can’t imagine being able to hold on to that and not dropping in to some numbed out, dissociated place. But our Lord stayed with it.  He had dedicated his life to his human formation, he had grown in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man, he had learned obedience through previous sufferings.And Jesus took for himself the same advice that He had given to His apostles. He was prepared. The apostles were not prepared. He was prepared for this temptation. This moment where he is bleeding from his face, from his hands, when he is, when his heart is racing, when he is so crushed by the intensity of the suffering. This this more than anything else in the psychological realm, proves his humanity. This was a man. Jesus was a man. The Docetists were totally wrong.  Jesus was truly a man. He was truly human in his suffering.And because he had the same attachment needs and the same integrity needs as any man or woman, God sent an angel to comfort him.  Luke tells us, And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  That angel wasn’t strengthening Jesus in his divinity. Jesus’ divinity did not need strengthening. That angel was there to strengthen Jesus in his humanity. That angel was sent by God to help Jesus, when no one else was there to help them. And I think that it was to help with the attachment needs and the integrity needs that each of us have – the need to have a felt sense of safety and security, the need to be seen and known, the need to be reassured, and comforted, and other needs.What was going on with his Apostles at this time. Let’s go back. Remember, our Lord had commanded Peter, James, and John to watch and pray that they not enter into temptation. Indeed, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak our Lord says in Luke. He goes back to them and he says, Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you enter not into temptation. Matthew and Mark talk about how the apostles’ eyes were heavy with sleep.And sometimes the apostles get criticized in the Garden of Gethsemane for being sleepy. For being fatigued.  With the implication of being lazy, of being slackers, of being out of touch with what’s going on, totally clueless about what’s happening inside Jesus.  There’s a sort of implicit criticism in our Lord’s words to Simon Peter. He says, Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch could you not watch one hour watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation? Right.But I don’t think that this was just laziness. Our Lord never said it was laziness.  I think looking at this as just laziness or just fatigue is a total mischaracterization. And the idea that the apostles didn’t know what was going on — I think that’s also a gross misunderstanding. I think parts of the disciples knew exactly what was going on and couldn’t bear it. They couldn’t take it.  They weren’t prepared. The disciples saw the blood flowing, dripping from our Lord’s face in his hands. They saw him shuddering,  They saw him staggering under the weight of the burden of the sins of the world. They saw him sink to his knees and the fall face down on the ground. And Luke the physician tells us that the disciples were, quote, sleeping for sorrow, end quote.Not sleeping out of laziness or fatigue, but sleeping for sorrow. Again, powerful Greek words here going back to that dorsal vagal shutdown. They couldn’t handle it. The dropped into a freeze response.  They didn’t follow our Lord’s command to pray sufficiently. They weren’t strengthened by God’s grace enough to stay present under these extremely dire circumstances.These self-confident and brash apostles, Peter the Bold and the Sons of Thunder relied on their own human strength and they couldn’t bear it. They shut down. They shut down. They collapsed into a dorsal vagal shutdown response under the pressure.Remember disconnection, numbing out, conservation mode, fuzziness, collapse, loss of identity, loss of consciousness all together.  All that happens in a dorsal vagal shutdown response because the situation is so desperate, so extreme.  They don’t know that there’s anything they can do. They forget what our Lord told them. Their systems are going offline. Their brains are shutting down. And the storyline is one of despair.They put so much trust and the power of Jesus. They had seen the miracles – healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, even raising the dead.  They saw Jesus command demons and the demons obeying.  Jesus calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee.  Jesus was the Son of God.  He was the I AM.  He had outwitted his enemies at every turn, he was so clever and powerful and confident.  He had just returned to Jerusalem in glory, in a triumphant procession, riding on a donkey.  So many Israelites thought Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior, the one who could free them from the yoke of Roman imperialism and restore them to their land, their heritage.  And now, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looks like a shaking, trembling, staggering bloody wreck, in great distress.  Peter, James and John don’t understand what’s going on. How can this be?  They’re confused. It’s not making sense. This is not what they were expecting. This is not what Peter imagined he would have as the rock, the foundation of Jesus’ Church, this is not what James and John bargained for when they sought to sit at his right and left hand in the kingdom.  What was happening?Remember our Lord was focused on loving the disciples. He was trying to prepare them. He ordered them three times to pray and to resist temptation. He understands the weakness of their flesh. He’s gentle with them in spite of the agony that he’s going through. Three times, our Lord prayed that the cup of suffering may be taken from him. Three times He affirms that he accepts the cup of suffering from his father. And it’s in that third affirmation. It’s in that third affirmation that he says yes and he triumphs. “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”  That was the moment. That was the defining moment. That’s when he won. The battle within his humanity.Because in that, yes, to his Father, in the consent of his human will, every part of his humanness joining in the assent, his inner victory, Jesus accepted everything that was going to happen. The rest of the passion was just executing against what he already accepted. He won his battle within in the Garden of Gethsemane. And yes, that implied the cross. And yes, the cross was absolutely essential. But the battle was won in the Garden of Gethsemane.Now he comes back to the apostles. Now he is ready.  Now his human body is in a ventral vagal state.  Now he has connectedness, relationality, flexibility, resilience, the ability to attune deeply to others in the present moment, he can engage all of his brain completely his faculties are all immediately available to him again, the time of acute crisis has passed. Jesus’ body has calmed down, his body is back in the window of tolerance.  He can bring others goodness, and peace, and joy and a depth of love the world has never seen from a man.And now is the moment when Judas shows up with the authorities with those who would arrest him.John 18:3 So Judas, procuring a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.  The soldiers were Romans, and the officers were from the temple guard. Let’s take a look at this word “band” that the RSVCE uses as a translation.  When I think of a band, I think of maybe three, four, five guys, maybe a maximum of 10 guys.  But the Greek word used is spira, and spira directly translates to a military cohort, and the actual size of a Roman military cohort is 300 to 600 soldiers.  If you look at more literal translations of the Gospels, like the NASB and a few others, you find spira translated as “cohort,” In an article titled, How Many Soldiers Does It Take To Arrest One Man?, Rick Renner writes: Matthew 26:47 says it was “a great multitude” of soldiers, using the Greek words ochlos polus to indicate that it was a huge multitude of armed men. Mark 14:43 calls it “a great multitude,” using the Greek word ochlos, indicating that it was a massive crowd. Luke 22:47 also uses the word ochlos to indicate the band of soldiers that came that night was enormous.This was a major military operation.  We know the Roman soldiers and the officers of the chief priest and pharisees carried torches and lanterns and weapons.  This was a demonstration of shock and awe, designed to signal that resistance was futile in the face of such a large force, professional soldiers in full armor, armed and ready if Jesus was in fight mode.  The lanterns and torches would aid in the manhunt if Jesus tried to escape in flight mode.Jesus comes back in full control, full command of the situation, in his body in a ventral vagal state.  How does he respond to the cohort, how does he react to the officers and the great show of force.  Judas kisses him, the sign of betrayal.  And how does Jesus greet Judas? Does he condemn Judas? No.  Jesus reaches out to Judas. He calls Judas by name. He says Judas. And he also refers to him as friend.Jesus is fully self-possessed. His body is in a ventral vagal state. He is calm, connected, compassionate, with clarity and courage and confidence.  He can reach out in love to the one who betrayed and condemned him. To reach out to him and love and in hope still offering. That connection, still offering the friendship to Judas.  Jesus knew all that was about to befall him. He had gone through it all moments before in his agony in the garden and he had chosen it with the entirety of his being, with complete interior integration.It’s Jesus who is in charge of the situation, who commands the scene.  In John, he asks the authorities, Whom do you seek? And they answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I am He. And when he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. That was a theophany. A visible manifestation of God to humankind. I AM. There Jesus was. Fullness of his humanity and fullness of his divinity.  All the soldiers and officers are leveled to the ground.And Jesus is the one who’s giving commands. He asks again, Who do you seek? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus answered, I told you I am He. So if you seek me, let these men go. Do you notice who is in charge here? Who is in command of the situation? It is our Lord.Let these men go. The apostle John, eyewitness to all these events,  writes that  this was to fulfill the word which he had spoken of those whom thou gavest me. I lost not one. Jesus is calling the shots.Jesus heals the high priest’s servant. Malchus severed by Peter, who has recovered from his dorsal vagal shutdown freeze response and is back in a sympathetic hyperarousal fight mode, ready to take on the entire Roman cohort.Jesus is doing miracles in a place where there was a very little faith at that time. Very little faith but his own. And he’s teaching Peter and the other disciples, showing them by lived example the need for the cup of suffering and the passion and the cross, admonishing them not to get in the way of his sacrificial gift of self by wielding swords. Jesus was ready. Jesus was prepared. Jesus had won the battle within. And then all the apostles, run off in fear, in flight mode.But in those moments in dealing with Judas, with the love and the compassion and in the power of his presence. He’s truly God. The Garden of Gethsemane. For me at an experiential level is the greatest proof of Jesus Hypostatic union that he was both true God and true man. Such humanity, Such fragility. Such neediness. In his prayer, on his face, on the ground. And such power. Such perfection. Such love as he encounters Judas and the authorities.Now my.podcast Interior Integration for Catholics. It’s all about overcoming the natural level impediments to a deep and abiding relationship with our Lord and our Lady. And I wanted to mention that you can connect with that podcast on any of the major podcast players Spotify, Apple, Podcasts, Google Play, all of them. You can also go to our website for Interior Integration for Catholics to check out a  a few episodes that are relevant to what we talked about today.A special note – I am including a bonus experiential exercise on Wednesday, April 5, Spy Wednesday – that will be episode 110, titled Being with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  This is really all about helping you and your parts accompany Jesus in his suffering, and checking out within you the human formation blocks that keep you from connecting more deeply with our Lord in his suffering.  That would be a great one to listen to on Holy Thursday evening.To learn more about stress responses, check out Episode 89, which is called Your Trauma, Your Body Protection Versus Connection. There’s a lot more about Polyvagal theory and our stress responses in that episode. If you want to learn about Internal Family Systems, which is more about like the parts within us.Episode 71 A New and Better Way of Understanding Myself and Others to understand Internal Family Systems and parts better.  There I talk about my own parts. Ten parts of me.There’s also episode 73, which is titled Is Internal Family Systems Really Catholic, where we look at how to harmonize internal family systems with a Catholic understanding of the human person.Episode 37 of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast launches a 13-episode series on shame.  Shame is such a critical driver of so much human decision-making and distress.And as part of that episode, episode 37, we get into how Satan seeks to use our shame against us.If you want to learn more about how I understand internal experience of Judas, and the role shame played in his life and decisions, check out Episode 46. Shame and Tragedy Judas Iscariot and You. That would be a great one to listen to on Wednesday of Holy Week, traditionally called Spy Wednesday,And this is one of my favorite episodes. Episode 47 Shame and Redemption. Saint Peter and You, Saint Peter, my namesake. I have so much in common, so many characteristics in common with Saint Peter. And so in episode 47we really get into his internal experience of his relationship with our Lord.And then Episode 48, titled Saint Dismas, Shame and Repentance — all about Saint Dismas, who is the good thief. All of these are relevant in our days here of Holy Week as we come up into Easter.  All these episodes that I’m sharing with you focus on the central role of shame and how much shame drives the impulses within us that are harmful to our relationship with God, to our relationship with others, and to our relationship with ourselves.But the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast is just a small part of Souls and Hearts. Souls and Hearts at That’s our online outreach to bring the best of psychological and human formation resources to you. That’s our little corner of the vineyard: Human Formation. And we have podcasts, courses, shows, blogs. I do a weekly email reflection. There’s all kinds of resources, all about preparing the way for the Lord in our human formation. That’s why Saint John the Baptist is our patron. He prepared the way for the Lord. So I’m going to invite you to check all of that out at, it’s all free at remember again, an invitation to get in touch with me about the themes and contents of these podcast episodes and my weekly reflections.  Please remember that I don’t do crisis interventions or provide clinical services during these conversation hours – I can’t do that, I’m not licensed as a psychologist outside of the state of Indiana, so I’m not going to get into your personal history and symptoms and your mental health issues.  For crisis situations, call the Catholic crisis hotline at the Upper Room at 1-888-808-8724 that line is staffed 24/7 or go to their website at, every week I get a dozen or more requests if I can do therapy – I am totally booked, and I only take on new clients very rarely, and all of those clients live in Indiana where I am licensed.  If you need help finding a therapist, check out our free 90-minute video course titled A Catholics’ Guide to Choosing a Therapist. under the courses tab and  It has all our tips and recommendations.But if you want to discuss the content of these podcast episodes or the weekly reflections, feel free to call me on my cell any Tuesday and Thursday, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Eastern time. (317) 567-9594. I won’t be doing conversation hours during Holy Week, but I will start again on Easter Week.  My phone number — email me at But do keep the emails short if you’re going to email me. It’s hard sometimes to get emails that are, you know, two, three, four pages long. Keep the emails short. You’ll be much more likely to get a more rapid response.I want to thank you for your attention for being with me today on this journey.Please spread the word about our Souls and Hearts resources, including this episode of Interior Integration for Catholics – please let those who might benefit know about it – our best marketing is word-of-mouth. And finally, please pray for us at Souls and Hearts. Prayer is what fuels our entire enterprise. Know that we are praying for you as well.And with that, we will invoke our patron and our patroness,Our Lady. Our mother. Untier of knots. Pray for us.Saint John the Baptist. Pray for us.

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