The Scourging at the Pillar
The Second Sorrowful Mystery
The gift of the Sorrowful Mysteries is different for each of us. Jesus speaks to every one of us individually. He desires to imprint on our hearts what is necessary and good for us. He comes to us and shares with us, so that we can better relate to Him. We all say we want to get to know Jesus better, to take a closer walk with Him. But do we mean His walk to the Pillar, to be scourged? Or is it the Jesus Who drew crowds with His preaching, teaching and healing, we wish to encounter, the popular Jesus?
If we truly love Jesus, we will weep often as we journey with Him through these Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. The greatest gift we can receive is that of being able to conceive the Suffering and Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus. For it is only through His Suffering that we truly discover the tremendous love that Jesus has for us. We need to go beyond the scripture passages; we need to concentrate on what really happened. Then we will ache, as we zero in on the true meaning of the words; then and only then we will come to terms with the great Sacrifice, Our Lord made for us.
Our Bible is beautiful, but I'm afraid we've gotten too used to it. We take too much for granted. After having read it, or had it read to us for so many years, we become numbed to the reality of certain words. Their truth becomes prettily covered over by flower beds of poetic language. And if we are not careful, they become poetry, not life. Phrases like "Scourged at the Pillar", "Mocked and spit upon," "stripped of His garments" and "crowned with thorns" flow trippingly from the tongue, when actually they have deep, gashing, agonizing, blood curdling, very deadly meanings. Each time we have brought a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we have been given the sorrowful gift of seeing these words translated into life, as we experience how it happened, when it happened, why it happened, and the physical trauma it caused our dear Lord Jesus.
In the Dictionary of the Bible, (John L. McKenzie, S.J.- MacMillan Publishing Co., 1965) we are told that in the Roman law, there were two kinds of scourgings. One was by order of the magistrate, in his presence, as a punishment; it was like a slap on the wrist. This was called the Verberatio.
The other was the Flagellatio, or Flagellation, which was designed to torture and kill. The whips that were used were made with jagged animal bones tied to them, as a means of ripping the flesh from the body in clumps. They were also laced with metal balls, which were designed to splinter and break the prisoner's bones. Jesus suffered the Flagellation, and then some. He revealed to St. Brigid that He received more than 5000 wounds at the hands of the Romans during the scourging.
[The Flagellatio was so brutal, so dehumanizing that the law severely prohibited the scourging of Roman citizens under any conditions. This does not mean they were not subjected to it. Paul was scourged many times, by the Romans in spite of his Roman citizenship, and by the Jews just because he was Paul.]
We have seen a statue of Jesus at the pillar in the church built over the home where St. Teresa of Avila was born. I have never been able to look at my Jesus there, tied to the pillar, and not weep. His back was covered with purple swollen welts and open bleeding, gaping wounds, precious flesh hanging limply from his body. He had not the Face of a grown Man, but the look of a sensitive, young Man. I still remember the day that our grandson Rob called us over to see this statue. He said that men from our pilgrimage were over there, and they were crying. When we approached, I could immediately see why. Those Eyes, we will never forget Your Eyes, Jesus! You looked so vulnerable, so abandoned. You did not look like a Man Who was wise with the ways of the world, who understood what was happening. You looked young and wounded! The Youth that was before us was more wounded in His Heart than on His Body. It was as if You were pleading with us, Jesus. You were asking what You had done wrong. Jesus, you were speaking to us, as You spoke to St. Teresa of Avila:
"Around 1555, someone brought to the Convent, a painting of Our Lord and Savior in His Passion, bleeding, bruised and broken. She (St.Teresa) prostrated herself before Him, begging Him to release her from the bondage of the liar and his lies, with his false gifts of the world and the flesh. She asked His forgiveness for the many times she had foolishly been tempted by people and things of the world, `My Lord and my God, I will not get up from here until you grant me this favor.' This was to be the turning point in Teresa's life. She had passionately prayed with her heart and soul, and the Savior responded, as He did when walking the Earth. `Your faith has saved you. Your sins are forgiven. Pick up your mat and walk.' She had fought the good fight and she had won! She was free, free at last of the lure of the devil and his kingdom, the world." (taken from the chapter on St. Teresa of Avila in Bob and Penny Lord's book: "Saints and other Powerful Women in the Church.")
St. Teresa saw Jesus at the pillar, Hands tied, as He just stood there and let them scourge Him. We could not forget the Eyes of Jesus that we saw on the statue. Neither could Saint Teresa; she said her vocation was sealed the day she saw Jesus come to life on that painting, and she was never the same. She carried a small statue with her, whenever she went to open a new house, of the Jesus Who spoke to her and to Whom she spoke, in her vision. When we look at this statue, we want to cry out with His Mother, and St. Teresa, and all the Saints and Angels: "Look at the Face of Jesus. Look into His Eyes. Feel His open, gaping wounds. Please do not make sport with Him, anymore."
After they were finished with Jesus, the chief priests and the scribes handed Jesus over to Pilate. When Judas heard that our Lord had been condemned, he despaired and hanged himself.
Pilate questioned Jesus: "Are you the king of the Jews?" When Jesus said "Mine is not a kingdom of this world..." (John 18:36-37) Pilate did not understand what He meant. With his worship of power and earthly conquest, he had no idea what Jesus was saying when He continued: "But yes, I am a King."
When Jesus said: "I came into the world for this; to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to My Voice." again Pilate did not understand. Not recognizing his chance at redemption, he scornfully replied, "Truth? What is that?" (John 18:38) How could Pilate have known what Jesus was trying to teach him, since truth did not live in his heart. He had long ago traded truth for the false gifts of glory and position.
Pilate turned to the people: "I find no case against Him." Seeing he could not reach the mob, Pilate planned to have our Lord flogged and then release him. He thought when the crowd sees Jesus after his scourging, they will be moved to pity and he can let Him go.
There was a Roman game called the King's Game. The Roman soldiers tossed dice for a prisoner. The winner was given the prisoner for a week, during which time, he could torture and ridicule the prisoner as often as he wanted, in as many perverse ways as he chose. At the end of that week, he killed the prisoner. Jesus was turned over to the guards by Pontius Pilate for scourging. He became a pawn in the King's game. The crowning of thorns and shrouding with the purple cloak are parts of that game. When Pilate turned Him over to the guards, he did not anticipate that Jesus would be beaten near to death, though that was part of the game. As far as the guards were concerned, Jesus was merely a candidate for the King's game. The only difference was, they only had one day to torture Jesus, because He would be executed at the end of the day.
When Pilate saw Jesus, after He had endured this torture, he had to have been shocked. When he cried out, "Ecce Homo! Behold the Man!" he thought for sure, the priests and the scribes would be moved to release Jesus. He was completely staggered when they called for Jesus' death by crucifixion. Pilate may have been shocked, but not enough to resist the crowd when they shouted the louder, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" The tragedy was that it was not the majority, but a few well-placed agitators in the crowd who loudly coerced the rest to join them in condemning the Man Who had healed them, Who had brought them Good News, the One they had proclaimed the Messiah, the Sunday before. Do you condemn them? When the world shouts Crucify Him, do you go with the pace-setters of the world and say nothing? Will you say, when you face Jesus someday, "But Lord, when did I choose the world instead of You?" Will you look away, as He responds: "What did you do, child, when they defamed My Immaculate and precious Mother? What did you say when they denied My existence? Did you just stand by and not get involved?"
How many times dear Lord, how many times are You scourged for our sins? It's bad enough, You had to sacrifice Your Life for us, and die for our sins. Did we have to add insult to injury by having You mocked and beaten, in addition? Do we still drag You before the soldiers to have Your back laid bare, so that You can be tortured in such a barbaric, inhuman way? After having experienced the reality of what our dear Lord went through for us, you would think we would never ever even consider sinning again. When we realize that our sins put huge nails into His Body, pressed a Crown of razor sharp thorns onto His head, thorns so long they pierced His Skull, a whip of jagged animal bones and heavy metal balls lashing, cutting into His back, we could never sin. Right? Wrong!
We are an Alleluia people. We are a Resurrection people. We are an Easter Sunday people. But in order to appreciate the joy of Alleluia, and the gifts of Resurrection, we must first experience the rejection, the suffering and the Crucifixion. In order to really understand what "Happy Days are Here Again" means, we must grasp fully what men jumping off roofs of tall buildings and smashing their bodies into heaps on the streets below during the Depression meant. "Brother, can you spare a dime?" (another song of the Depression) is not romantic, when you are starving so badly, you're ready to eat a dog.
We have a great opportunity. We can listen to the Scripture passages and visualize them as they relate to the torture and death of Our Lord Jesus. We can personalize them. We can pay attention to them this time, so that perhaps we can take some of the blows that struck our Lord's Back. Perhaps we can take one of those jagged bones into our own flesh by doing without something which will lead us into sin, or by helping someone in need when we just don't want to do it. Maybe we can take one of the thorns that pierced His Skull into our skull, by rooting out some of those just plain rotten thoughts from our minds.
We praise You, dear Lord Jesus; we bless Your Holy Name. We thank You for suffering for us. We thank You for dying for us. We ask You to give us the strength we need to end our part in Your suffering. We pray that we never be the cause of one whiplash striking Your precious Body, that we never cause the pressure for one thorn to implant itself into Your beautiful Head. If I, Lord, by disciplining myself can take away one moment of pain from You, and if others, by my example can take away a moment, and others and others, we will truly see a New Jerusalem, where the old days and the old ways are replaced by a new world, where the lion will truly lie down with the lamb, and there will be no more bloody sacrifices. For us men, nothing is possible. For God, all things are possible.