Friday, February 18, 2005

MH - Reflections for the Second Friday in Lent

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. - Isaiah 53:3-9

It doesn't say much in the Gospels about scourging, yet medical analysts tell us it must have been horrific. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, in the Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, describes a beating beyond imagination. It was her writings, of course, that were the basis of much in The Passion of the Christ.

Recall that scene? If you saw the movie, you probably can't forget it. Critics of the movie complained about how it went on and on, beyond any artistic good it could have done. Of course, scourging isn't much of an art form, when you get down to it.

Did it make you uncomfortable? Good. That was its purpose. For while many complained about the supposed "anti-semitism" of the movie, when I saw this scene I thought not of the brutality of the Jews or the Romans, but of my own complicity in Christ's suffering.

Protestants sometimes accuse Catholics of believing that Christ dies over and over again (every time we recreate His suffering and death in the Mass), but in fact we believe that He died once, for the benefit of all (although not all would accept it). Likewise, the suffering He underwent was comprised of the sins of all - past, present, and future. Not just what you and I have done, or our decendants, but those who will come after us, until the end of time - the pain caused by those sins are contained in the blows that wrack His body.

Sometimes when I'm particularly ashamed of something I've done in the past, I think of what I truly deserve, and I imagine my body absorbing some type of beating (think of the pirate movies where some miscreant is sentenced to 50 lashes). And then, when I'm thinking clearly, I realize that Christ has already taken that pain for me. That's not to say I won't ever suffer pain as a consequence of an action, but the mystical beating that I imagine - He's already paid that bill.

I'm grateful for it - the fact that I'm not explaining this very well shows how difficult it is for me to put into words - but at the same time it reminds me of my complicity in His suffering. So as we meditate on the Second Sorrowful Mystery, let us reaffirm our sorrow at the pain we have caused this innocent man, and how in love He has chosen to willingly accept it. Let us ask Our Lord and His Blessed Mother for forgiveness and understanding, and recall the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori:

I love Thee, Jesus my love, more than myself. I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.

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