The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

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One of the first challenges that we face when meditating on the Second Sorrowful Mystery is that the Gospels only provide a minimal amount of explicit content to focus upon. John merely records a single sentence: “Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him” (John 19:1). While commenting on this passage, Saint Thomas Aquinas invites us to zoom out so as to pick up on the fact that even this detail has been foretold by Christ. The Evangelist Matthew records: “[They will] deliver Him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified…” (Matthew 20:19). Hence, scourging is an integral part of the path leading to the final hour, the final noble offering of Jesus.

Jesus knew that the hour of His death was arriving, and foretold that scourging would be an integral part of this path. Yet, just as Jesus’ death is not a moment of humiliation, so too His scourging presents an important moment along the path of glorifying the Father. He aligned His will and turned toward the noble death that was coming. He foretold that His passion would include both scourging and mockery. He told this to His chosen ones, so that they might know that everything leads to the glorification of the Father. Nothing is wasted, since every strike that bore down on His skin was united to the Father, in view of the glorious end that would result. Knowing that He was enduring pain for every single human person, Jesus pressed onward, and kept His silence in fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb,
so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

We have a privileged position since we, like the first disciples of Jesus, only seek to understand the significance of Jesus’ scourging after He has been glorified. Hence, in looking back, our position is one of searching for the hidden truths that remain to be discovered behind the veil of this mystery. Scourging in itself is not incredibly interesting. Blood pouring, painful gasps of air, waiting for the next blow; these do not actively draw our attention. The glory of the Father, however, does interest the friends of Jesus. Since we know that Jesus laid down His life for those who are His, even the most gruesome aspect of His scourging radiates with significance and pricks our interest. While it is true that even the smallest drop of blood dripping down the pillar of His chains could have sufficed to save every single one of us, this was only one station along the way to the final moment of glory. Jesus’ pain takes meaning because of who He is, on account of which He voluntarily allowed Pilot to beat Him down through the actions of the Roman soldiers.

Br. Matthew Wanner, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE