Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lent: Sorrowful Tuesdays

The second Sorrowful Mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar. It's fruit is purity. Purity is definitely not what I think of when I think of the Scourging. I would say humility, sacrifice, obedience, or even love of neighbor before I thought about purity. Apparently I need to dig a little deeper... 

I'm no historian, but a quick GoodSearch gave me ample reading to find that scourging was a typical part of corporal punishment by those in Jesus's time. It also provides evidence that the severity of the scourging depended on whether done by Jewish custom or at the whim of the Roman soldiers. Scourging was used not only to satisfy the bloodlust of the ancient Romans, but also to produce a quicker, although more painful, death for the unfortunate victim. The medical effects of scourging aren't necessary to know that it was painful. Nor does it seem necessary to belabor the humiliation of such a punishment. The focus of this Mystery isn't either of these points. Instead, we are asked to ponder purity when faced with Jesus's suffering at the lash of the soldiers. 

As Catholics (and most Christians), we believe that Jesus was sinless. Therefore, He was undeserving of the cruel punishment He received at the pillar. Jesus's purity meant that not only did He physically suffer tremendously from the scourging; He also suffered emotionally from the scourging. I have been falsely accused and even falsely punished. The accusation or punishment sometimes pales to the anguish I felt that someone mistrusts or disbelieves me.  However, even if I am innocent of whatever accusation or crime foisted upon me; I know that at least once there has been an incident where I was guilty, but not caught. So if I focus on my past sins, the punishment can be easier to handle. Jesus didn't have any past sins. He was a righteous God-man. Yet, He willingly accepted torture in His purity of love for us.
Isaiah foretold Jesus's scourging, "By His stripes we are healed" (53:4-5). Peter later reminded us of Isaiah's prophecy in 1 Peter 2:24. He identified that what Isaiah 'saw' was the same as what Peter saw with his eyes. Regardless of the interpretation of the actual words used in Isaiah, the effect is the same. Jews in Jesus's time expected the Messiah to take on our infirmities and free us from them. Most Jews in Jesus's time expected the Messiah to be a strong military figure or at least like Moses. However, most of the Jews at the time apparently thought they knew better than God. Isaiah's prophecy didn't strike a chord in their souls when they saw Jesus. He showed His purity by not using His God powers to escape punishment. In this one of His greatest moments, the Jews only saw a humble man, not a Sacrificial Lamb sent from God. How often do we let our perceptions get the better of us?

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