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Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns

Monday, July 21, 2014

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

These words of Jesus hanging on the Cross reveal a profound truth about the present scene of his crowning with thorns. What must have pained our Lord above all is the knowledge that his own people, these sons and daughters of God, were tormenting him to death without knowing his true identity or the depth of his love for them. The worst pains we suffer are inflicted by those we love.

All the Sorrowful Mysteries invite us to weep for Jesus, in his terrible sufferings, but also to weep with Jesus. As the unruly crowd calls for his blood and looks on at this scourged and bleeding man – Ecce homo! Behold the man! – our Lord is silently looking back at them and loving them. He is grieving not for his own pains, but for the sins of his beloved people who have turned against him.

So it is not just the sheer cruelty that makes me want to recoil from this scene. It is also the dramatic, even tragic, irony of it all. The Roman soldiers are mocking Christ and, specifically, his claim to kingship. They have wrapped him in a robe of royalty, put a pathetic stick of authority in his hand, and a twisted crown of thorns on his head. I wince at the thought of those thorns – superfluous, barbaric cruelty. And this cruelty exacerbates the fact that the mockery is totally unjustified: for Christ is just, Christ is innocent, and Christ is king. He is true man – 'a man of sufferings and acquainted with grief' – and also true God, the God who looks upon us with infinite love despite our sins.

It is good to pray this mystery for all those in authority, for those suffering persecution or torture, and for those who do not recognise Christ as king.


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