Too many Catholics have a sanitized idea of what Christ suffered in the long hours between His unjust and planned trial and condemnation, and the road to Golgotha. One must think in terms of rude, drunk, insolent men who tormented Christ the Lord, given over to these lowly men on purpose by Caiphas.
A Jesuit meditation for this past week, from the old book I have been sharing with you off and on for several months, includes a selection on the humiliations of Christ. The priest writes, “When Caiphas triumphant at having condemned Jesus, went to take his night’s rest, he left his captive in the hands of the guard, or, rather, gave Him up to the insolence of his servants and of the soldiery of the praetorium…They immediately dragged Him into a subterranean prison for criminals. What a humiliation for our Blessed Lord! There was no rest for Him there. The hatred that they knew their masters had for Jesus stirred them up, and gathering around Him, they made brutal sport of Him, and tried which could excel the other in showering ridicule, scorn, blasphemy, and curses upon Him; and this scene of horror lasted throughout the rest of the night. Try to form a vivid idea of the suffering and humiliation of our Lord, made the sport of the vile and insolent men during the whole night, without a moment’s rest….”
The priest goes on to give one a meditation on how these men spat in Jesus’s Face. Imagine! He states, “If this were not recorded in the Gospel, we could not have believed that the brutality and cruelty of men could go so far, or that God made man could have allowed and borne such an insult…”
And, yet I complain when I am injured. Someone close to me accused me of not doing a charitable deed which I did, as another person lied about this. I was angry. Then, I realized that God was giving me an opportunity to rise above this lie and feel pity and pray for the person who was purposefully turning someone close to me against me, out of sheer envy. And, to make this episode in my life even more poignant, as if Christ was truly making me realize what He was teaching me, I am living in an unfinished basement, and cannot see the sun or anything from the outside. Christ’s internment is more real to me. But, there are many different kinds of prisons. And one can be free in a basement, or in a cell, and a prisoner in luxury or even semi-luxury. There are many such prisons in the United States, where people have no outside freedom as they have chosen the world and the flesh over the spirit.
Remember that John of the Cross came to know the intense love of Christ for him in a very small prison, which God wanted him to escape in order to share with the world his insights.
Now, I know how God wants me to respond to injustice. This is practice. But, it is also admitting that one must accept humility for one’s own real sins, even when accused unfairly of other sins. However, most importantly, one is given a chance to join in the great humiliations of Christ, the Perfect, Innocent One, who endured such horrible treatment for terrible people who chose hatred over love.
They were so blinded by their own sins, they could not recognize Christ for Who He Is.
Is it not better to be humbled and sit on the block of wood where Christ sat when crown of thorns was placed on His Sacred Head, then to be praised or thought well of by people?
If one can learn to be peaceful in the face of gross injustice and harm, one can face the real test of martyrdom. Christ wants us to learn how to accept humiliations and even abuse calmly and with forgiveness.
He remained silent. How many times have I complained to my friends about injustices when I could have learned more about humility by remaining silent? A good friend of mine, a holy man, told me once that to share suffering is to alleviate it, thus mitigating the pain—but at a loss of merit.
It is better to remain silent and absorb the pain, becoming one with Christ in His Passion.
But, it takes a person who knows love to do this, otherwise it is a sign of a neurosis. One must love one’s self and be in love with Christ in order to maturely endured pain.
The great martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales teach us this—Cuthbert Mayne, Edmund Campion, Thomas More, John Fisher, Margaret Clitherow, Mary Ward, Anne Line and all the others, who not only remained peaceful while in great pain, but prayed for their tormentors.
May God give us all the grace to be with Him in His Passion.
Without suffering, there is no merit—none. I recall again Mother Teresa’s saying, and I paraphrase, God does not want success, but fidelity.
There is no merit in success but there is merit in suffering.