“We offer Thee, O Lord Jesus, this seventh decade in honor of Thy Bloody Scourging, and we ask of Thee, through this Mystery and through the intercession of Thy Blessed Mother, the grace to mortify our senses perfectly.”
Of those who have seen the movie The Passion of the Christ, most would agree the scourging at the pillar scenes were incredibly powerful. As you may recall, about half way through the scourging, the soldiers seemed to reduce their torments. The lashes slowed, and their faces showed signs of satisfaction, as if their job was complete. Our Lord, still chained to the rock, was lying there, in excruciating pain, completely spent. But when He sensed the soldiers backing off, He mustered up all His human strength, crawled up the rock and stood ready for more. This, of course, enraged the soldiers, and they unleashed unbelievable vengeance on Him.
This particular scene, while very hard to watch, helps to illustrate our own need to learn to mortify ourselves as we are called to do in this second Sorrowful Mystery. Because Jesus knew the gravity of sin, and how deeply God is offended by our transgressions, He denied Himself any chance He may have had to reduce His suffering. He freely chose to take on this punishment for our foolish sins. It was what was required to obtain forgiveness, that we might join Him one day in Heaven.
Knowing this, how are we now called to grow through this mystery? Do we use it to meditate on our sins and beat ourselves up with guilt over them? Or are we called to do more?
God is not One to allow us to wallow in our guilt for long. Once we have confessed our sins, made proper restitution and performed our penance, our sins are gone from His memory. And so they should be from our memory as well. But we are not to forget that while we may have been forgiven, there is still temporal punishment to pay for these sins, either here through mortification, or in Purgatory.
We also must remember that we are indeed capable of falling even deeper into sin in the future. We are weak. And though we may love Christ deeply and pray we are doing His will in all things, we are still in a constant battle with our own wills. If we do not address our weaknesses, we will stumble frequently in our journey towards Heaven, or cease in our advancement all together. And bodily mortification is the perfect remedy for overcoming our weaknesses.
We already learned to mortify our wills through holy obedience. And we will now learn, through this Sorrowful Mystery, to mortify our bodies through denial of bodily comforts. Mortification of the will through obedience, and mortification of the body through self-denial must be intertwined, for each act strengthens the other.
But this kind of spiritual training must be taken slowly. To suddenly begin wearing hair shirts and eating nothing but bread and water would certainly end in frustration and despair! But perhaps for one hour a day, you could practice mortifying yourself in ways no one else would notice. Do not eat that piece of candy on your desk. Sit in the most uncomfortable chair in the house. Take the most undesirable looking piece of meat as your share of dinner. Or, as our children say, choose “God over gum!” And always make this sacrifice a conscious act of love for Our Lord.
In choosing to deny our bodies these little comforts, we are taking active steps to perfect ourselves and are increasing our merit in the eyes of the Lord. As we grow stronger in these mortifications, we will soon find we are also better able to deny ourselves the things which are not lawful to indulge in. For, as St. Alphonsus Liguori states, “If you deny your body lawful pleasures, it is not apt to seek unlawful ones; but if you indulge in all the lawful enjoyments you will soon cross the line into forbidden territory.”
Our Lord offers you a multitude of opportunities to mortify yourself throughout each day. Keep the Scourging at the Pillar in your mind whenever you have a chance to indulge in some small treat and decide which will bring you greater pleasure in the end. God? Or gum? Then, for those times you decide to choose God, simply walk away, offering your small mortification to Our Lord who chose to suffer so much for you.
“Grace of Our Lord’s Scourging, come down into my soul and make me truly mortified.”
Copyright 2010 Cassandra Poppe