And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe upon Him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on His head, and put a reed in His right hand. And kneeling before Him they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat upon Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. Matthew 27:27-31.
The Gospel of Matthew here presents us with an image of Christ being crowned with thorns while enduring mockery and beating. Instead of a victor’s wreath, they crowned Him with piercing thorns. In place of a scepter to hold as ruler of all creation, they gave Him a reed, the very instrument they used to beat Him. Removing His garments, they dressed Him in imperial red, and mocked Him saying “Hail, King of the Jews!” Yet the crown of thorns, beating, and mockery did not dissuade Christ from accepting this suffering and remaining steadfast in His love for us.
What can we give to God in return for His love? Nothing less than ourselves. As St. Josemaría Escrivá says, “love is repaid by love.” We demonstrate our love for Christ by imitating the love He showed for us in His Passion. Unfortunately, we often struggle with this. We want to love God, but we easily become comforted by satisfying ourselves with temporal goods, and so love those instead. After a while, however, these things that once comforted us instead bring us to despair. From this despair, we often look for more temporal goods to comfort us, which inevitably leads to more despair.
The only antidote to this despair is allowing God to draw us away from our self-love and egoism. We do this by accepting the crowns of thorns that God regularly offers us. The crown may come in the form of persecution, when we are attacked through mockery, legal oppression, and sometimes even violence for our belief in the Gospel. In most circumstances, however, the crown comes through the love we demonstrate in the ordinary sufferings of life – being charitable to difficult people, struggles with our limitations and deficiencies, losing a loved one – all of these are opportunities for us to embrace the love of Christ. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
These sufferings may at times seem overwhelming, but what Christ reminds us through His own crowning with thorns is that suffering is not an end in itself, but a means to our future glory. Only through the crown can we love as Christ loved, and only in loving as Christ loved can we enjoy communion with Him in paradise. Let us then look beyond the horizon as we end this Lenten season. Let us accept our daily crowns of thorns, and, gazing towards the East with joyful anticipation, prepare ourselves to welcome the glorified Christ into our lives.
Br. Elias Guadalupe Ford, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE