Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

The following is the seventeenth of twenty monthly reflections about the Mysteries of the Rosary as they relate to family life.  The mysteries will not be necessarily chronological but presented as they interact with the liturgical year.

          “You are grounded!” These familiar words were heard by many of us during our childhoods when our behavior was not exactly where it was supposed to be. Losing privileges like going to a friend’s house, watching television, or playing with a toy were hard lessons when we did not live up to our family’s expectations and values. Of course, those punishments pale in comparison to the ultimate form of discipline for many of today’s teenagers: the loss of mobile phone privileges. No matter how we experienced discipline as children, the ultimate aim was to help us reorient our behavior towards a moral end and to help us choose and love what is right. However, sometimes the fear of getting in trouble was a much stronger motivator than anything else!
          In the case of childhood, punishment is usually justified by poor or sinful behavior, but in this month’s Rosary mystery, we have a situation of an innocent man being punished. Jesus is there, having done nothing wrong, and yet he endures some of the cruelest punishment imaginable for our sake. It is amazing to consider the strength of his will to go through with something as painful as a scourging, knowing that all these events would eventually lead to his bodily death.
          What is our response to the realization of such self-sacrificial love? We can only consider the enormity of Christ’s gift every so often, and it can become easy to take it for granted. Even the words that we use to describe Jesus’ punishment and death do not really do justice to the reality of what they were. The Romans had nearly perfected methods of torture meant to produce tremendous pain while leaving subjects alive for prolonged periods. A medical description of what actually happened during a scourging or crucifixion like Jesus’ is not for the faint of heart. No matter what, to prayerfully meditate upon the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice is a fruitful exercise for all of us.
          When we do consider this well and come to a place of gratitude, another curious thing happens in our relationship with God. Instead of living in fear of a punishing God, we begin to flee from our sinful past and inclinations and become motivated by love to do what is right. It is actually a sign of a somewhat immature faith when we only act out of fear. Our goal is to see our sins as violations of a relationship more sacred than any other. We are disappointed with ourselves when we fail in that regard, and we become quick to seek reconciliation when we have done wrong.
          A similar transformation happens during childhood as we mature in our relationship with our parents. Those experiences and lessons can guide the healthy transition in our lives of faith. Grateful for the love of God as shown by Jesus in his suffering and death, we find ourselves seeking to show that love in return by offering ourselves in sacrificial love to others. Rather than being afraid to make a wrong move, we live in the freedom of a life infused by God’s will and guidance.