JESUS IS MOCKED AND OUTRAGED
The insults and mockeries of the Crown of Thorns remain to be considered. St. Matthew says:
"And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him saying: Hail King of the Jews. And spitting upon him, they took the reed and struck his head." (Mt. 27:30).
From these words we learn that our divine Lord received on this memorable occasion four different marks of contempt.
First. These impious men bowed the knee in derision before him.
Second. They saluted him in mockery, King of the Jews.
Third. They struck his thorn-crowned head with a reed.
Fourth. They spat upon his face.
These are the four kinds of insults that the majesty of God daily receives from men and which our suffering Savior on this occasion undertook to expiate.
1.The first insult is offered to God by Pagans in their idolatrous worship, when they bow their knees to abominable idols. Reason alone is capable of seeing, and able to demonstrate that there can be but one God, self-existent, eternal in duration, infinite in his perfections, immense in his nature, Creator of the world, supreme Lord and absolute master of all creatures. For this one and only God, Pagans have substituted an endless variety of dumb and material idols which they have shaped with their own hands according to the suggestion of their whims and fancies. Before them they bow their knee, these they worship, to them they offer incense and immolate their victims. It is evident that by so doing, Pagans discard the true living God, and they insult his divine majesty by every act of their idolatrous worship. It is no less evident that some condign expiation is demanded by the offended majesty of God. A divine victim only can duly expiate outrages offered directly to God, in his highest attribute of supreme Lord of Creation. Behold then what our most holy Savior is doing now in Pilate's hall. Reflect that Pilate is a Pagan, his soldiers are Pagans, like himself. This hall is turned by these men into a temporary temple. The hard and cold stone, upon which our Lord is seated, serves as his altar. Victims of sacrifice are by Pagan hands garlanded with roses about their heads. Jesus is, by them crowned with thorns. They bow down their knee before him in mock worship. That this act was intended by the Pagan soldiers as derisive and ironical worship towards our Lord, we learn from St. Mark who expressly says: "that bowing their knees, they worshipped him. "(Mk. 15:19) Jesus being the Person of the Incarnate Word of God by whom all things were made, truly deserves divine worship. But by receiving impious mockeries and sacrilegious insults, instead of adoration, he fully expiates before his eternal Father for all the impieties of Paganism, abolishes more effectively Pagan idolatry, and through his profound humiliations, merits for all idolaters the light of faith and the grace of conversion to Christianity.
2. The second insult offered to our Savior was to salute him in derision King of the Jews.
Jesus was by every right and title the true King of the Jews. He was their supreme Lord in his divine nature. He was their King by divine appointment because God bestowed the kingdom of Judea on the descendants of David, and our Lord in his human nature belongs to the family of David. Moreover the angel said to Mary his Mother: "The Lord, God shall give unto him the throne of David, his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Lk. 1:32) But the Jews have repudiated him. They have just protested before the Roman Governor, that they have no king but Caesar. (Jn. 19:15) Our blessed Lord heard these words. Now the Pagan soldiers to humble and degrade him more, and to gratify the Jews who witnessed these outrages with immense satisfaction, ridicule and mock him by ironically saluting him, King of the Jews. By rejecting Jesus as their King, the Jews reject him as their Messias. Because in his person these two titles are inseparable. By rejecting the Son they reject the Father, because the Son and the Father are one. (Jn. 10:30) The Jews have arrived at this depth of impiety by performing their religious acts of worship in the temple, in their synagogues and on every other occasion without any spirit of devotion but by mere routine in a mechanical and material way. As St. Paul says they stuck to the letter, which killeth, and abandoned the true spirit of religious worship which alone can give life to the individual soul and to the entire nation. In bearing these humiliations and insults, our blessed Lord expiates the irreverences of the Jews in their acts of religion towards God, and for their rejection of him as their Messias and King. It is through these sufferings and deep humiliations that he confirms to the Jewish nation the privileged honor of the Apostolate; for all the apostles were selected exclusively from them. He merits and obtains for many thousands of them the grace of conversion to Christianity as the first fruit of his Passion; and towards the end of the world he will see prostrate at his feet like the penitent Magdalene the entire Jewish nation worshiping him, in spirit and in truth, in deep sorrow and sincere repentance as their true Messias and only King.
3. The third outrage offered to our Lord was the striking of his thorn crowned head with a reed. This represents the malice of heretical Christians.
Heresy is essentially an individual choice in belief. Heresy necessarily rebels at least indirectly against the authority of the Church. Obedience and heresy is a contradiction in terms. No heretic as such has ever been found in practice docile to the decisions of the Church of God. The authority of the Church has by Jesus Christ been concentrated in the person of Peter when he said to him: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. (Mt. 16:18) Feed my lambs, feed my sheep. (Jn. 21) Heresy changes lambs into rams that butt against the Shepherd. All heretics rebel against the Pope and make war against his authority. Hence they strike Jesus on the head. And as we have learned from St. Paul, the head of Christ is God; so our suffering Lord had also to atone for this insult and merit for many deluded heretics the grace of their return to Catholic faith and unity.
4. The last and most shocking insult offered to our Savior crowned with thorns was that of spitting upon his sacred countenance. St. Gregory remarks that we know a person by his face. This vulgar insult comes then from those who know our Lord. These then are bad Catholics. They spit upon his face by their bad example by which they scandalize their fellow-Christians, they dishonor their religion and make the enemies of God blaspheme his holy name. This terrible insult is in a special manner offered to our Lord by those hypocritical Catholics who practice some external acts of religion through human motives, self-interest and vain-glory. But above all, those truly spit upon our Lord who receive him, like Judas, sacrilegiously in Holy Communion with mortal sin in their souls. As our most merciful Lord suffered and prayed on the cross for his executioners, so in the hall of Pilate he prays and atones for these unworthy members of his Church. These are the principal mysteries of the Crown of Thorns. They are mysteries of the wisdom and power of God. We have so far considered the wonders of our Savior's wisdom and mercy in the mystery of his crowning with thorns. In the next chapter we will admire the triumph of his divine power.