May 31, 2020
It has been noted by many Catholic writers and verified by Our Lord Himself that most of His suffering was due to the sins of men. When one considers your own sins over a lifetime, there are an embarrassing number of sins committed by each of us. For those who love Our Lord, it breaks the heart to consider that your sins caused Our Lord to suffer so much. The reality is that each time one sins, it caused His pain and suffering to increase.
Christ’s Passion began in real terms in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood that the time had come for Him to suffer and die. In His humanity He was afraid. This has been made known to us through the Scriptures where He said, “Father, if it be possible, that this chalice pass before Me …”
His Divinity was able see all that He would suffer in His Humanity in the next twenty-four hours. It is understandable that He was afraid. The different sufferings He endured would have killed most men before they reached Calvary.
The suffering was indeed real and intense to the point that Our Lord sweat His Blood. One understands the shedding of blood, but to sweat blood requires a heightened level of fear. Yes, it is possible to sweat blood. By the fact that one rarely hears of anyone sweating blood is a clear indication of the intense suffering of Our Lord. He truly was in an agony that was unique to Him and His suffering.
It should be noted here that it is not my intent to describe all of Our Lord’s sufferings, but to comment on a few of them to illustrate the terrible suffering He endured for men.
Our Lord’s Kingship was directly mocked when the soldiers made a crown of thorns and proceeded to place it on His Sacred Head. He has told us through private revelations that among all of His sufferings, it was this one which was the most painful. One must understand that the soldiers did not lightly place this crown on His Head, but pressed the thorns through the skin and skull. One can at least in some small manner understand the pain from these thorns. Anyone who has frequent headaches, especially severe sinus or migraine headaches, has, in some small way an understanding of His physical suffering.
The principle reason why He was crowned cannot be overlooked. Once Our Lord rightly proclaimed that He is a King, the soldiers took advantage and mocked Him, not realizing the grave sins of which they were guilty. The sins of disrespect, mockery and blasphemy stand out as perhaps the worst sins. Evil men have worked to overthrow Christ’s Kingship for two-thousand years. The raw ugliness of these attempts was displayed during His Passion. It must be said, though, did these men really understand the magnitude of their actions?
Of the different ways in which Our Lord was tortured during His Passion, the scourging clearly displays an open brutality of inhumanity which can be compared perhaps only with the Crucifixion itself. It would take a person who truly hates Our Lord or enjoys the perverted idea of torturing others not to have pity on Our Lord as He endured extraordinary suffering from these metal-tipped whips.
It would be difficult to picture Our Lord realistically after having been whipped in such a barbaric manner by crude and godless men. It is sufficient to say that most of His Body was an open wound after these men completed their horrendous acts. Most men would not have survived the scourging, especially when one considers that the law concerning how many times a person may be struck with these whips was totally ignored.
Catholic spiritual writers explain this part of Our Lord’s sufferings in this way. The suffering was indescribable because it is to be compared with the numberless and terrible sins of impurity committed by men. It was necessary for Jesus to suffer in the flesh and shed His Precious Blood to make up for all of the sins of the flesh of which men have so often been guilty.
Holy Mother Church has understood the connection between the sin and the means to counteract these transgressions. This would explain the need to do corporal fasting so as to tame the flesh and its tendencies to pamper the flesh.
Crucifixion is considered by many to be the most barbaric means by which men put other men to death. The Roman Empire used crucifixion has their means of carrying out the death penalty. There have been other nations to use this method, also.
Most Catholics are familiar with the struggle of Our Lord to walk to Calvary. He was nearly beaten to death when He was scourged and had lost a great quantity of blood. He was then required to carry the cross on which He would be crucified. He simply willed Himself to reach Calvary because it was His Father’s Will that He die on the cross on Calvary. This would be the method through which Man would be redeemed.
Once having arrived on Calvary, He was stripped of His garments. This is too often overlooked because was nailed to the cross within a few minutes. The rough removal of His garments caused Our Lord great pain because it again opened the wounds from the scourging. Although He was not whipped again, the suffering from the scourging did indeed return.
He was then nailed to the Cross. It seems inconceivable that men would nail another man to a cross. These men, though, were rough, crude men; men who carried out the death penalty regularly. Perhaps they had become numb to this act of barbarism, perhaps they did not care.
The thought of anyone being nailed to a cross is repulsive on the most basic natural level. When one considers that Our Lord was treated like a common criminal and violently thrown upon the cross and nailed to it, one is left speechless and in tears. It is a clear indication of how hatred and envy will drive a person to do unspeakable things to others.
Everyone experiences physical pain in their life. This is a part of what has been inherited from Man’s Fall. The pain of a small cut in one’s hand and the pain of having one’s hand nailed to a cross are quite different. Who can bear the thought of Our Lord’s bones being crushed, His veins, muscles and ligaments being torn apart?
He is then lifted up from the earth, where “He will bring all things to Himself.” The death of Our Lord is at the same time, the most terrible act carried out by men, and the greatest deed accomplished by the God-Man. It is the single most important act in history because it redeemed Man and made salvation possible. Yet, one will not find it in history books. Such is the control of evil men.
Our Lord was obedient to His Heavenly Father to the end of His life. His example of obedience is as relevant today as it was two-thousand years ago. His willingness to die for men is a testament of His love for us. Fallen Man is undeserving of His love, but He willingly gave His life nonetheless.
The need of the God-Man to die for us tells the rational man who is concerned with his eternal salvation of the seriousness of sin. This is, indeed, a problem today. Too few people are concerned with sin and its consequences. These people will not reap the benefits of Man’s Redemption.
Make time in Lent and especially in Holy Week to meditate upon Our Lord as He hangs upon the Cross. Realize the love which He has for you. As sinful as you are, His love remains. Resolve to return this love to Our Lord. Allow the merits of His Death to work within your soul and seek salvation by taking up your cross each day.
Fr. Joseph Noonan, OFM