Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lenten Centerpiece: Meditations Week Four

The Flagellation of Christ, William-Adolphe Bouguereau
 This coming Sunday we will add to our Lenten centerpiece a symbol of the whips that were used to scourge our Lord.  Here is what I came up with:

I used one of the leather bracelets from a leather braided bracelet kit my daughter had.  You could use strips of leather, brown felt, or even brown paper.  It doesn't need to be costly.  I glued on a few cut off pieces from a tuna can lid to convey the idea of the metal and bone pieces that were tied into the scourge and that tore our Lord's skin so cruelly.

Jesus Carried up to a Pinnacle of the Temple, Tissot
Meditation #1:   In the second temptation, Satan took Jesus up onto a high tower of the temple and, trying to trick Him by using Scripture, quoted from the Old Testament book of Psalms (Ps. 91), saying, "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone."  Once again, we see that Satan didn't really know who Jesus was, but he was trying to get Jesus to both reveal His true identity and to sin against God.  What is the nature of this second temptation?  First of all, if Jesus had done as the enemy suggested, He would have been testing God.  That is, He would have been trying to force God to do what Jesus Himself wanted God to do in order to somehow prove that God is God. That is totally backwards!  Jesus came to do God's Will--not the other way around!  As our example, Jesus is showing us that we ought not to try to manipulate God into doing what we want Him to do, but rather we should always try to conform ourselves to God's will.  Jesus replied to the devil's temptation: "It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."  We should never try to put God in the position of having to conform to our demands and expectations to prove to us He is indeed God.

Secondly, Satan was tempting Jesus to make a  very public spectacle, so that everyone could see that He was the Son of God.  The Temple was a very busy place with many people always coming and going.  If Jesus did as Satan was asking, He would have instantly become a great celebrity and a man to whom everyone listened.  Satan was trying to appeal to Jesus's pride, but he did not know that Jesus was perfectly humble.  So, once again, our Lord resists all the temptations of the enemy.

The Scourging, Caravaggio
Meditation #2:  Let's look at the new item on our tray this week.  What do you think it is?  It is a scourge.  A scourge was a terrible whip, all studded with bones and metal, that was used to punish criminals in ancient times.  Our scourge reminds us of the scourge that was used on Jesus before He was crucified.   Before He was crucified, Jesus was arrested and taken before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.  Only Pilate had the authority to put Jesus to death.  Pilate decided to have Him scourged first, perhaps hoping that that terrible beating would be enough punishment to make the people stop demanding that he put Jesus to death.
Jesus suffered the scourging without a word.  He fulfilled by His suffering an ancient prophesy about the Messiah:  

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 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 53:3-7 (RSV)

Jesus could have exercised His royal and divine power and authority.  He could have struck down Pilate and the soldiers who taunted and scourged Him. It would have been no effort at all for Him to stop these tortures and show Himself as the glorious King of Heaven that He is.  But He did none of these things.  He did not give us an example of pride and power, but one of humility and silence.  In the desert, Jesus resisted the temptations of Satan by His perfect humility.  At the end of His life, Jesus followed the Will of God perfectly because of His humility.
Jesus, when we are tempted to show everyone how great we are, help us to remember Your example of humility.  Help us to remember how much you suffered to teach us humility and silence, and help us not to act or speak in ways that are boasting and proud. 

St. Catherine of Alexandria at Prayer, Titian
Meditation #3:  We are almost halfway through Lent.  This coming Sunday (that is, March 18th--this was supposed to be posted on Sunday the 11th, but I got anxious!) will be Laetare Sunday--the halfway point!  We have been thinking a lot about how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for us, and also about other ways in which He suffered for us. We have been trying to be faithful to our Lenten penances.  We have been thinking about living holy lives, too, and growing in patience, humility, holiness, and self-control.  Now is a good time for us to take stock of how we are doing.  What are we doing well?  What are we struggling with?  Whatever we need help with, we can be sure our Lord will give us all the help we need if we just ask Him for it.  He suffered so much for our salvation--it's easy to see that He wants us to be holy and that He will help us in every way to become holy.  Let's take some time today to pray and ask Him for all the help we need.

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