Granted while I have no precise record of how long the research, mediation, prayer takes for each chapter, I can assure you when it comes to this topic, this reality and grace of our joyous vocation, it has taken a rather long time to be ready to put these reflections on paper.
Two things have dogged me for weeks.
One: a memory, which, until celebrating Holy Mass in the hermitage this morning, seemed unconnected to our vow of obedience.
The other: three gardens, while clearly connected, began through meditation, day in and day out, to make more and more sense.
The memory is almost thirty years old now and is offered here NOT to draw attention to myself, but rather to highlight the lavishness of, as St. John reminds us [Jn. 1: 16], God’s love ever animating, ever sustaining, ever affirming us.
I had been assigned as pastor to a remote rural parish, so run down both in terms of the faith praxis of the deeply divided membership and the physical state of rectory, church, vestments, etc., that a series of priests had gone down in flames before me: one had a massive coronary and died, another had a complete mental breakdown, another fled, my immediate predecessor was so burned out my first assignment was to remove him, which only led to more division.
After six months I was so disheartened I not only had decided to walk away from the parish but from priesthood as well.
The joy which had burned in me for almost two years since the moment of ordination in persona Christi, had soured.
A thing is wisest when it is most fully itself, when it tastes most like itself, in keeping with its nature. It is “foolish” when it forgets to be what it is, when it no longer has its proper flavour, as when salt loses its strength, or when oil becomes rancid, or when wine turns to vinegar. 
Not as excuse but simple statement of fact: I was in such emotional, spiritual turmoil, so exhausted by the stress of discouragement, I had completely forgotten who I was, had lost my ‘proper flavour’, in a sense had allowed the chrism to become rancid, the joyous wine of priesthood had become vinegar of bitterness.
I was just about done packing a few things, having decided to abandon most of my possessions, such was the urgency to flee.
A slight spring morning breeze was coming through the open window of my study, but even its freshness was stale to me – however the open window also allowed the sound of a pickup truck, speeding across the gravel parking lot towards the rectory, to enter and irritate me.
The sound of booted feet rushing up the steps and along the wooden veranda, sound of fist pounding on the wooden door with the simultaneous ringing of the doorbell – inside my entire being screamed: “GO AWAY!” – well, to be honest, the words were more raw.
There was no stopping the pounding, the bell ringing, the now accompanying shout of one word, over and over: “FATHER! FATHER! FATHER!”
My being shuddered for, mixed in with the seething and contradictory emotions within me, a visual image from some long ago seen documentary –or perhaps of some movie: the scene is of the rail cars favoured by the Nazis, of shabbily dressed, thin, terrified adults pressed against the bars, knowing they are trapped yet peering out as if straining to see or imagine or conjure up a real human face, a saviour.
A small boy, perhaps five or so years old, running along the platform after the departing train, yelling over and over, with the pathos of the entire human family ever since the gates of the original garden slammed shut, the waters of the flood began to rise, each one’s inheritance wasted, and hunger gnaws: ‘ABBA! ABBA! ABBA!’– the most powerful of names Jesus gives to us and which we, in our fear, slavishly translate with the distant word ‘father’, but which in truth is: DADDY!
No ‘father’, no one with power in the sense of control over others, in the sense of ability to withdraw what is most hungered for by a son, a daughter – love, no, no, no – such a creature was not called for – but ‘daddy’ was: the compassionate embrace hungered for by the prodigal child was being begged for.
From whence came the grace to move, frankly to love enough and forget myself enough to answer the door?
Only in heaven is it known how some are called to lay down their lives for others in a special way. In silence and hiddenness, many have consecrated their entire lives as a sacrifice for priests. 
When I opened the door immediately the elderly farmer, who had arrived with such urgency, quickly told me his father-in-law was dying, a man away from the sacraments for his entire adult life.
Would I come? Would I try and get the dying man to accept Christ before death?
Still in turmoil, still determined to leave, nonetheless I did as I was asked and, after getting the Blessed Sacrament and the ritual, got into my car and followed the old farmer, down one country road after another, into regions of the parish unknown to me, finally stopping behind his truck and following on foot along a path in the woods, an even less obvious one through a swamp.
We emerged from the swamp.
Amazingly when I looked down my shoes, which should have been mud caked, my pants, which should have been wet, were neither, but such was my de-salted state I missed what was obvious.
The house was ramshackle. A hovel, really.
As I stepped across the threshold, into what seemed thick darkness after the brilliant sunlight reflecting from the dried grass of the field we had just crossed, I remember for the first time in my life, admittedly sotto voce, saying: “Peace to this house.”
Suddenly a silhouette began rising, shakily, from a chair, and a cracking voice began uttering halting words as the silhouette, edging forward into the small frame of sunlight from the still open door, formed the appearance of the dying man and my heart was sliced open by words as sharp as a scalpel incising deep into putrid flesh that poison might drain away – yet the words were uttered with the same childlike sound of the boy running after the escaping train: “I am not worthy that the priest of the Lord should enter my house.”
The old man simultaneously bowed as he spoke, took my hands, and kissed them.
If a man has a great love within him, it’s as if this love gives him wings, and he endures life’s problems more easily, because he himself is in that light, which is faith: to be loved by God and to let oneself be loved by God in Christ Jesus. This act of allowing ourselves to be loved is the light that helps us to carry our daily burden. And holiness is not our work, our difficult work, but rather it is precisely this “openness”: Open the windows of the soul so that the light of God can enter, do not forget God because it is precisely in opening oneself to His light that strength is found, as well as the joy of the redeemed. 125]
Thus: the memory.
Now: the three gardens.
At the outset: because we are in the first instance endowed, at the moment God breathes breath of life within us, with an immortal soul, we have within us an enclosed garden, that intimate place within the depths of our being where, if we willingly, attentively listen – and respond – unfolds constant dialogue, communion of love, with the Most Holy Trinity for, in the second instance, we are baptized, are members of Christ’s own body, children of the Father, temples of the Holy Spirit, and thirdly, for we priests in persona Christi, intimacy with Abba is profound!
Therefore whatever I say about the three gardens is not said as if looking back to some historical event, or even forward to some anticipated after death fulfillment, but is a journey inward, a realization that, not just in a sense, but in reality, the fundamentals, in the deepest sense of constitutive aspects of lived experience, in Him, with Him, through Him, for Him, form the reality of pilgrimage from the moment of our being created to the moment of having crossed the threshold of death where we enter the true life for which we have been created: eternity of communion of love.
Within the first two chapters of Genesis there unfolds, as we know, one beautiful movement, action, gift of tangible love flowing, one after the other, like a rivulet of sparkling water begun high in the mountains, as the spring sun caresses ice and snow into light catching droplets, which gather and race together towards the valley below, along the way becoming a mighty river – only this dance culminates in the ultimate act of Divine-creative love: the human person, male and female, in the very image of God, who is Love!
The human person, the man and the woman, placed with such tenderness in the Garden, gifted with abilities we mostly take for granted: sight, touch, hearing, mobility, creativity, imagination, memory, will – to name a few obvious ones – also have, as we do, two extraordinarily generous gifts at the very core of our beings: free will and the capacity for self-gift as communion of love with other.
God, if I might use the expression, leaves nothing to chance. The man and the woman are so tenderly placed in the Garden upon their creation that neither experiences any want or lack of anything, nor because of Divine tenderness, loneliness, that is the absence of proximity and relationship with one like myself.
Granted I am stating here what we all know, but in the context of our vow of obedience, of the foundational importance of joyful, constant, living of the freely embraced gift of the virtue of an obedient heart and will, it does seem we need to meditate upon and seek to enter ever more fully, the depths of the critical – and by Adam and Eve initially, and still in the lives of virtually every human being, save in the life of the singular non-Incarnate person: Our Blessed Mother – reality of the antithesis of yes, of fiat: freely chosen, willed, acted disobedience.
Love Himself makes only one request, which contains within it, millennia before the Incarnate One, the Risen One, Himself asks it thrice [cf. Jn. 21:15-17] the one thing every father, every mother, every husband, every wife, every child, every friend, needs to know, uttered in word, yes, articulated in action: “Do you love me?”
The question is presented as acceptance of obedience, one which, if not embraced as act of love in return for love, will have dire and irrevocable, until Jesus, consequences [cf. Gen. 2: 16, 17].
Given the immensity of gifts from which to choose, the, for us in our day perhaps virtually incomprehensible lack of need, pain, disorder, etc., the stark reality is that being asked to forgo, in the midst of such plenitude, peace, security, love, joy, intimacy with other and with the Divine, one little thing – but such is the power of temptation, such is the impact of doubt………..
So comes along the primary disobedient one, the disrupter and liar, the tempter and the first sin, the first act of disobedience takes root and by the time we come to the second garden, the cumulative weight of every single act of disobedience – of sin – from this original one [cf. Gn. 3: 1-7] to the last one that shall every be willed, chosen, enacted until the end of time, will be taken on by one person, by the Second Adam, as St. Paul names Him.
There is a direct connection between what happens in the first garden and what Jesus endures in the desert, to be sure, however there is also a telling of Jesus in one of His Parables, of what really has happened in the first garden.
I refer to the parable of the Prodigal Son [Lk. 15:11-32].
In one act of disobedience all of humanity is present, distancing itself from the love given by Love Himself, by Abba, wandering off to places and people unknown, who devour, destroy, abandon, reject, humiliate.
Ultimately every sin is primarily a selfish act of disobedience, a refusal to love in return for love, a resounding NO: to the simple ask: “Do you love me?”
Today, as I continue to write these reflections, I point out that being now retired from parish responsibilities and living the hermitical life, leaving the hermitage a couple of days each week to serve the poor in a soup kitchen, I treasure the time to put down on paper what has flowed from the decades of parochial service.
That said, today in the Byzantine Liturgy is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son!
Having read and reflected upon the classic writings on obedience, from the Fathers of the Church, Latin and Greek, the teachings of the Desert Fathers, the men and women saints who reflected upon abandonment to Divine Providence, trust, fidelity, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, Catechism of the Catholic Church – listed not to brag about reading but simply to make the point of having gone to the classic treasury of insights into the vow and virtue of obedience – because, as mentioned when it came to write this memory, the gardens kept coming to my heart.
In the end I have drawn directly from only two works: THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON, by Henri Nouwen, and , THE MYSTERY OF EASTER by Raniero Cantalamessa.
At the outset of this work I inserted two quotations:
Dear Fathers, do you realize that you are a joy to the world? [From the Servant of God Catherine Doherty]
The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. [From the Cure d’Ars, St. Jean-Marie Vianney.]
Our being a joy to the world is not automatic, that is, simply because we are priests – it does mean our countenance, the way we move, especially when celebrating Holy Mass for example, the tone of our voice, these must radiate joy, and if we are truly living the depths of holy obedience, joy will radiate from us.
Likewise it is to the degree our own intimacy of communion of love with Jesus in the depths of Holy Obedience, in Him, with Him, through Him, to the Holy Will of the Father by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and His sustaining us, that the fire of our love, the love of His Heart, will gush forth from us upon everyone we meet.
At its simplest, yet not without sincere effort, indeed at times great struggle, external obedience for we priests is a simple as “praying the black, doing the red” – in other words assenting to, proclaiming, all the Church believes and teaches, thus having interior obedience as well.
What I am reflecting upon here is much deeper than mere external and interior adherence to, fidelity within our vow of obedience, and yes in a sense even deeper than the depths of the virtue itself.
Here: obedience as absolute oneness with the obedience of Jesus, thus ever more full intimacy with the Father through total cooperation with the Holy Spirit as Jesus Himself cooperates with Him.
Thus the gardens of obedience: the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden of the Resurrection, which by the action of the Holy Spirit forms the enclosed garden within us.
We turn once more then to the antitheses of Jesus’ obedience, surrender to, cooperation with the Holy Will of the Father, namely the prodigal disobedience of the collective human family, from Adam to the last person who shall live on earth, and the particular prodigal stance of each one of us.
The two are inseparable.
The first definitive sign of hope, of the possibility of a return to the Father, the first historical act, history here being primarily what we understand as salvation history, which indeed all human history is weaved within, is itself accepted gift, affirmed response to the Divine query about love, given as both free will choice in the affirmative and becomes at the same time the first of innumerable acts of love – I speak here of Our Blessed Mother and her FIAT!
We look to Mary and imitate Mary as we journey into the depths of the gardens of obedience – Mary who points to Jesus, urging us to follow His lead, His word to us – Mary who becomes our Mother at the foot of the Cross, in particular becoming Mother of Her Priest Sons – Mary who is constantly with us, teaching, guiding, protecting, and above all, loving.
In the same instant, historically speaking since obviously the obedience within the Godhead existed already, the moment of His Holy Incarnation, He Himself then, becomes not the second but rather the definitive, not sign but actuation of hope, first step of the journey of return.
It is essential then if we are to truly understand the implications of our vow of obedience, the virtue of obedience in its fullness, we come to understand, by embracing all its elements, the reality of the Prodigal Son as Adam and every human being, as ourselves to be sure, as embraced and taken on by Jesus.
Only then will we be able, holding the hand of Our Blessed Mother and guided by the Holy Spirit, to enter the Gardens of Obedience, which are gardens of joy, the immense, sweet, perfumed suffering, the fire-joy of being on the Cross with Him, taking up our cross, His Cross, each day and being one with Him in the fullness of our election, our unquenchable joy in persona Christi!
While here I will draw on the insights of Fr. Nouwen I do not intend to do a commentary on the entire book, best read and meditated upon individually.
Throughout the Holy Gospel Jesus is constantly calling to us, inviting us to follow Him, trust Him, be His disciples, forget self, take up our cross, to love everyone, including our enemies, to pray, to enter the secrecy of our room, itself symbolic of the garden enclosed and therein commune with the Father.
Nouwen early on zeros in on the abiding invitation:
Yes, God dwells in my innermost being, but how could I accept Jesus’ call: “Make your home in Me as I make mine in you”? The invitation is clear and unambiguous. To make my home where God made His, this is the great spiritual challenge. 
Original disobedience results in being cast out of the original dwelling place with God on earth and we have been, the human family and each person, across the wide expanse of the earth, of millennia of history, the even greater expanse of our inner beings, wandering, fleeing actually.
With my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and passions, I was constantly away from the place where God had chosen to make home. Coming home and staying there where God dwells, listening to the voice of truth and love, that was, indeed, the journey I most feared because I knew that God was a jealous lover who wanted every part of me all the time. When would I be ready to accept that kind of love? 
We know from Genesis that the first impact of the original disobedience was fear and the attempt by the human person to hide from God.
Absolute obedience is the foundation of that true love which casts out all fear.
Hence, once more, into our room, door closed, into the secrecy of the garden enclosed and:
I have to kneel before the Father, and put my ear against His chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully and very gently what I hear. 
This is key!
What Nouwen is pointing to here is the essence of the proclaiming dimension of our priestly vocation – we must give the people God, that is speak only what we hear the Father say to us – obedience is this intimacy of listening and heeding, this joy of being through obedience freed from the dangerous temptation to preach self, or some agenda or anything that is not of God!
I know now that I have to speak from eternity into time, from the lasting joy into the passing realities of our short existence in this world, from the house of love into the houses of fear, from God’s abode into the dwellings of human beings. 
In a very real sense all that I have written so far on these pages, from the first chapter until now, all other aspects of our priestly commitment, all liturgies, prayer, lectio divina, study, struggle, everything is preparatory prelude for enabling us to enter the joyous gardens of obedience, from whence we go forth to proclaim Him and to bring to every human being all that they long for.
As Jesus before us again and again and again withdrawing to lonely places to commune with the Father where we….
………..are called to enter the inner sanctuary of [our] own being where God has chosen to dwell. The only way to that place is prayer, unceasing prayer. Many struggle and much pain can clear the way, but I am certain that only unceasing prayer can let me enter it. 
Since every sin, from the original to the last, my own sins, unfolds as a process of considering, then choosing, then willing, then acting ultimately disobedience, that is a refusal to love in return for Love Himself, for the Holy Trinity does not ‘give love’ as in offering a quantitative something, rather His love is the giving of His very self and so my refusal by word/act of disobedience is a refusal both to accept Him and to love Him.
Therefore, the entire human race, every individual and…
I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found……………It’s almost as if I want to prove to myself and to my world that I do not need God’s love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent. 
If we priests are in such a flight mode, preoccupied with such a search for love where it cannot be found, we shall be joyless.
Indeed we shall become lost, virtually invisible within the mass of wandering, lost humanity, no longer a living flame beacon light, no longer giving off the sweet perfume of Jesus but adding the stench of our own confusion to the fog of daily life.
The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world. 
Yes and the more entangled we become in the manipulations and power games of the institutional church, local chancery politics, parish divisions.
Likewise the reality of every human-prodigal-being, that is of everyone, their flight, their fears, their disobedience, their sin, their struggle, their hunger to be beloved – all this is ours, for we are His and in His persona, thus the only place for us to dwell where God dwells is within Jesus, within the gardens of obedience.
I must stop running away.
We priests must stop running away.
Our footsteps must be in the via dolorosa footsteps of Jesus for the only way of return, for us, for every prodigal, is to follow Jesus to the Cross, through the tomb – but we as priests MUST be the visible, obedient followers, and people will pick up the scent of the sweet perfume of Christ and come looking for Him and will notice the luminous joy of we priest- cross-carrying followers of Jesus and they will follow too – in our footsteps, yes through our very hearts and lived example, directly to Jesus!
We know that our culture is obsessed with notoriety/celebrity, neither of which should be confused with honour.
Likewise our culture is obsessed with scandal and tears down the fame bestowed faster even than it bestows celebrity.
Any objective look at media reports on, for example, Pope John Paul II over the years of his pontificate will see this process of elevation and disdain repeat itself time and again.
How then are we to measure ourselves in humility and truth?
Most of us, of course, will not have our self-image directly determined by media, but more directly our self-image will be impacted by parishioners, brother priests – though in a more general sense, of course, we are naturally impacted by the persistent assault against the priesthood in the media.
So how then are we to have a humble and balanced self-image?
We should take our measure in the light of Christ, which is standing before Him in the beauty of His Holy Incarnation, following the example of His life, loving and serving in imitation of Him and His humble, meek, courageous, generous Heart.
Most especially we take out measure in light of our willingness to embrace in our own lives oneness with Him in His passion, remembering through holy baptism we are also united with Him in His Holy Resurrection.
Thus before drawing from Fr. Cantalamessa’s words it is important to be clear: is my understanding of Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection primarily that He did all for ‘everybody’ – or do I truly appreciate the personal, intimate aspect of His sacrifice and self-gift.
In other words: Jesus was born, lived, suffered, died, rose from the dead, for ME!
This intimate reality, if embraced, specifically if Jesus is embraced, my entire being opened to Him, life then becomes joy: joy in suffering, joy in every aspect of life.
As I continue this writing we have crossed the threshold into Holy Lent, beautifully referenced by Fr. Thomas Hopko as “the Lenten Spring,” the title of his book on this particular season.
Some of his words are a prelude to the reflections, to follow, from Fr. Cantalamessa.
Joy is at the heart of everything in the Christian life, and Great Lent is no exception…..
Life is a clash of loves. A person either loves God, and so, with God, everyone and everything – for it is impossible to love God and not to love all that God has created – or a person loves himself….sinfully…to live exclusively for oneself….
….repentance means change. It means a turning of one’s mind and heart to God. ….It means violent action in the deepest and most hidden parts of the human spirit. 
We shall see in His obedience in the Garden of Agony, Jesus embraced the fullness of the ‘violent action in the deepest and most hidden’ reality in every human soul, in all of creation.
Indeed, the more I struggle in my almost seventy years of life as a human being, a man, a priest, to truly follow Jesus, to truly live in imitating His own humble, meek, obedient Heart, His very self, the more I am convinced the fundamental reality of obedience is oneness with Jesus in the Garden of His Agony, the Garden of Obedience, hence:
The Gethsemane experience reaches its climax and resolution in those words of Jesus: “But not what I will but what You will” (Mark 14:36). 
When Jesus speaks the “I” here we should all rejoice for while, clearly, each human being must exercise our own freedom, declare and strive to live out ‘fiat’, obviously we cannot do so on our own and so, each time we pray the “Thy will be done” in the Our Father, each time we strive to be obedient, in little and great things, it is within this and every ascent to the will of the Father in Jesus’ life.
When we are faithful to all the Church believes and teaches, for example, we are truly in imitation of Jesus, to be sure.
However this fiat of Jesus in the Garden, this consent of His will to what is unfolding in the Garden, will unfold in cascade to the last drop in the remainder of His Passion and ultimately in His surrender to the Father through surrender to death
FIAT is His willingly embracing the weight and price of every human sin, and consequence thereof, from the previous millennia of human history, that of the immediate moment in history and all of history until the end of chronological time.
We are here also in a Trinitarian moment:
The “I” is the Word, speaking…on behalf of the free human will which he assumed; the “you”, on the other hand, is the Trinitarian will which the Word has in common with the Father. In Jesus, the Word (God) humanly obeys the Father! 
Each time we embrace obedience, each time we are with Jesus in the Garden of Obedience, we too are in a Trinitarian communion of love moment, for it is our willingness to be one with Jesus the Obedient that opens the door of our being to the action and grace of the Holy Spirit who enables our word of yes and our action, our living out of yes to the Father.
Here, in particular as we are in persona Christi, we participate in the great work of the salvation of souls.
Yes one alone is Redeemer, but it pleases Him that we should participate with Him, most especially through the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, therefore light is shone on the critical act of obedience to the rubrics for if, even in a minor way, we allow disobedience to enter we contradict the very sacrifice we are celebrating.
…in Gethsemane, when Jesus says, ‘Father….your will be done’ (Matt 26:42), he utters the fiat of the redemption…..It was here precisely….that grace and freedom kissed and the human and divine Passovers coincided. He who had to fight, that is, human nature, encountered Him who could overcome, that is, God, and victory was the result. 
Yes obedience can be experienced as an immense weight, a huge struggle, which if we resist the weight and the struggle can become a serious disorder and a haemorrhaging of joy from our lives: however if embraced then little by little the Holy Spirit will fill us with the very grace of holy freedom and joy!
Indeed we will become filled with that particular joy which comes from being other centered, from laying down our lives, with love, for other – first and foremost for the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and because of the love of the Trinity for us our love from them, our return of love, becomes love of other.
…In the mysterious passing-over from that “I” to that “you” is contained the true, definitive, and universal paschal exodus of the human race. This is the crossing of the true Red Sea; a crossing between two shores which are very close together but between which runs an abyss; for we are speaking here about passing from the human will to the divine will, from rebellion to obedience. Following Jesus in this exodus means passing from the old “I” to the new “I”, from “me” to other people; from this world to the Father. 
Emotionally, yes even in the depths of our souls, we may well be fearful of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us into the depths of the Garden of Obedience, for we well know it is to consent to being lead into the depths of Jesus’ agony.
It is way too easy to reduce obedience, or even to see obedience as primarily, follow rules, rubrics, orders from the Pope or the Bishop.
In a sense that is kindergarten obedience!
True, we cannot claim to be obedient, to be living out “Your will, not mine”, if we are slack in being obedient on that level, indeed the struggle to be externally obedient is constitutive of our openness to being led into the depths of Jesus’ obedience in the Garden, on the Cross, yes in the Tomb.
Certainly we can maintain certain functionality as priests if we are obedient in the above sense and it is virtuous.
Will we find true joy in that?
I recall during World Youth Day 2002 it seemed very popular for the youth to wear a wrist band with: WWJD.
Indeed what would Jesus do?
There were pundits in the media, sadly some of them priests and religious sisters, who mocked this as being simplistic, or worse ‘conservative’!
However it seems to me WWJD should be engraved, especially, on every priestly heart and be constantly in our awareness:
There is no moment, no action, in a believer’s life that cannot be transformed into an act of loving obedience to the Father…..ask ourselves: What does the Lord want me to do in this moment, in these circumstances? We know this was what Jesus himself did, so that he could say: “I always do what is pleasing to him”(John 8:29); “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me”(John 4:34)
The great joy we human creatures can give God is to share the destiny of Jesus, “Servant of God,” by pushing our own will-to-obey to the very limits, even obeying in the most utter darkness as Jesus did in Gethsemane. Servants of Jesus Christ – those who put their lives totally at God’s disposal in Jesus – by virtue of doing so become, like Jesus, the object of the Father’s satisfaction. The words once uttered by the Father about Jesus become words uttered for them, above all, those words said to Jesus at his baptism: “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased”(Mark 1:11). 
What greater joy can there be than to know we are beloved of the Father, of Abba/Daddy who is joyfully pleased with us!
The Garden of Obedience is the threshold we must ‘pass-over’ with Jesus to oneness with Him throughout every aspect of His Passion, every step of His Via Dolorosa, every moment on His being placed on the paten of the Cross, into the fullness of His handing Himself over to the Father, into the deep silence, the awaiting in the tomb.
The cross is both place of ultimate priestly union with Jesus and doorway to the mysteries of our faith.
It is not a door which can be pushed against, rather it is a door which opens the more we remain still on the cross with Jesus.
No easy task and one beyond our own ability – hence prayer, prayer, prayer, the constant begging of the Holy Spirit for ‘grace in return for grace’!
In a sense the Cross is also the door, the threshold into the mystery of the tomb, the mystery of the obedience of Jesus even in death, the mystery of awaiting on the ‘time’ of the Father.
This is the third garden of obedience and the garden which, if you will, makes sense of the other two for without the Garden of the Resurrection [cf. Jn. 19:41] the Garden of Paradise would forever remain closed, i.e., the gates of the heavenly paradise would be forever shut; without the Garden of the Resurrection in a sense the Garden of His Agony- Obedience would simply remain an historical account of one man’s pre-arrest, torture, trail, execution.
To paraphrase St. Paul, if Jesus is NOT risen, then everything I have written here, indeed everything we priests have preached across the millennia, is bogus!
Perhaps we do not meditate enough, do not proclaim solemnly enough the great cry at the core of every Holy Mass when we declare, and call forth the proclamation of faith:
We proclaim Your death, O Lord and profess Your Resurrection until You come again.
We live in the ‘is-ness’ of His Holy Resurrection, a truth however we cannot proclaim unless it is a reality we live, a reality for which:
…we need a special grace to talk about Christ’s resurrection…….
This is a grace we should beg for daily for this proclamation is foundational to the purpose of our priestly lives.
Everything flows from and towards proclaiming CHRIST IS RISEN!
We love one another, we love our enemies, we pray for our persecutors, we live the missio ad gentes, we go in search of the lost sheep, we build hospitals, schools, nursing homes, care for the poor, the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, indeed we get up in the morning, pray, struggle, celebrate sacraments, especially Holy Mass, celebrate popular pious devotions, – in a word all we are and all we do is, must be, proclamation of, witness to, celebration of His Holy Resurrection.
The very existence of all creation, its purpose and destiny, all human history, and most particular the very existence of human beings, of you and I, all flows, unfolds because He is risen.
When St. John tells us [cf. Jn. 1:1ff.]He was in the beginning, that He dwelt among us – He still dwells among us until the end of time precisely because He is risen and therefore is really present with us in the Holy Eucharist, in Church, Priesthood and in the mystery of whatever we do for one another, to one another is rooted in the “I was…” teaching [cf. Mt. 25:31-46] – St. John also testifies to seeing His glory [v.14] and so we find ourselves once more in the Garden of the Resurrection for in truth the womb of Our Blessed Mother, the Manger, the Tomb, and yes each Tabernacle in which He dwells, each priest in persona Christi, each baptized man, woman, child – thus all creation, all history is inseparable from Him [cf. Col. 3:11].
All the “astounding things” that God has done find their fulfillment and more than fulfillment in this astounding thing: the resurrection of Christ. The Risen One entered the upper room “when the doors were locked”; today too he passes through locked doors………….
Nothing could have stopped its being Easter again this year; nothing will stop its being Easter a year from now, and so on until he returns.