The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The crowning with Thorns

Anthony Zimmerman
March 11, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

The Third Sorrowful Mystery is a good time to ask God to give us the gift of being obedient to His laws, and to forgive us for acting like lost sheep, like the prodigal son. By accepting the crown of thorns, Jesus merited for us the gift of obedience.

This being the first week of Lent in the year 2003, we ask the Lord to accept the crosses He sends with a bit more patience and resolution this year than we did last year. Baseball players do hard training in the spring, and we do some hard pulling for the Lord in Lent. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote these nice words about becoming mature through suffering:

"When we know the way of love - this exodus, this going out of oneself - is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature. Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he becomes hard and selfish" (God and the World, page 322). Well, who wants to become hard and selfish? So let's follow the Cardinal's wisdom and make the most of our crosses during Lent. We dare say that Christ too, became more human, more loving, that He grew in stature as Our Savior, by making the most of His sufferings.

Saint Augustine has similar encouraging words for us in the Liturgical Reading for the First Sunday of Lent: "Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptation." So says Saint Augustine. I try to remember that while the pollen of cedar trees flies thickly through the air in March and brings allergy miseries to many in Japan, including myself. No, offering it up doesn't make it less miserable, but offering it up anyway is investing it in heaven's stock market to earn a big mansion there, and to get on the cozy side with Christ and His Mother. Now to our third sorrowful mystery, the crowing with thorns.

The Crowing of Thorns is Christ's payment for our disobedience.

Adam and Eve were the first dissenters. God had made paradise pleasant for them, but to remain there, they would have to obey Him:

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, `You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."

We know the rest: the serpent tempted, Eve disobeyed, Adam disobeyed. The two learned by their sin that they were not gods after all. Nevertheless Saint Irenaeus instructs us to be proud of our first parents because they learned from their sin and straightened out their lives after having made their juvenile mistake. In the book Against Heretics (III,23) Irenaeus has the Divine Word treating Adam and Eve with pity after their sin. The Good Shepherd seeks them out specially because they need Him now more than ever. And so it must be with us also: when we have acted as Adam and Eve once did, we should allow the Good Shepherd to seek us out and find us and take us back into the fold.

The crowning with thorns, a cruel game of soldiers:

Why would Pilate's troups do such a stupid thing as to plait a crown of thorns for their Prisoner, then hit Him on the head with a reed, and mock Him as a pretended king? Cruelty to prisoners sentenced to death was a macabre game played by soldiers at the time. A sister and tour guide at the convent in Jerusalem where the Crowning with Thorns is commemorated showed us a peculiar pattern of X's and O's within circles carved into the stones of the Lithostrotos. They were for playing games, something like hob-scotch. Throw a lucky dice landing on an O or X, and you get to hit the prisoner on the head; land your dice there, and you get to spit into his face. Can't you just hear the ribald laughter when a soldier was "lucky" and could go to Christ and spit on Him, or beat Him on the crown of thorns to jar it more deeply into His head. Fun it may have been for them, fun for Christ it was not.

"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him" (Matthew 27: 27-31). Some fun, we say.

Jesus pays for our dissent:

In 1968 dissent from the Encyclical Humanae Vitae may have seemed like fun for the 600 theologians and teachers in seminaries who signed their defiant disobedience. Little gods they tried to be, like Adam and Eve. The 600 did nothing really new. They repeated what our first parents had done as juveniles: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate" (Genesis 3:6). Jesus winced as a blow drove thorns deeper into His skull. "For dissenters in seminaries" He may have murmured. "And for sex abusers who graduated from those seminaries" He may have added. His head throbbed with pain. "And for bishops who did not discipline the seminaries" He may have whispered as spittle hit His eyes.

Specialists Dr. Fitzgibbon and Mr. Rudegeair learned in their clinics that disobedience to the Church is a highway to sexual sin: "Our experience over 25 years has convinced us of the direct link between rebellion and anger against the Church's teaching, and sexually promiscuous behaviors" (see their article in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, November 2002). Sexual abuse is a graduate level disobedience.

What followed dissent against Humanae Vitae is still with us today, an orgy of contraception, abortion, sterilization, divorce, sodomy, pederasty, pornography - black pitch mixed with putrid sulphur coating over with ugliness the precious souls of people in America and in all the world. Christ takes it all upon Himself and prays: "O purify them that they may be clean; o wash them, and they will be whiter than snow" (cf. Psalm 51). He suffers that we may be purified to be with Him in heaven.

"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" (Isaiah 53:5).

Dissent has been rife in America for thirty five years, since 1968. This is anarchy, is chaos, is in effect mass self-destruction within the Church. We can fall in line and be obedient again. It is time to make a U-turn. Dissent in the seminaries in the USA will either stop, or those seminaries will fade into a monument of has-beens. Also contraception in the bed room, sex before marriage - all this must stop so that Christ can be happy with us again.

Christ prays silently for obedience in the Church while the soldiers have their fun. He gives His all for His bride, the Church, and keeps cleansing and beautifying her so that there will be no spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Much as the thorns hurt, as the spittle splotched His face, His desire for our good was greater still. And the Father was listening to His prayer. "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:7-9).

Christ prayed for us as He suffered, and throughout the ages has won great victories for His Church. He won Adam and Eve back to obedience. He will bring us back to obedience also, if we stand with Him and bear our crosses.

May His Kingdom come over all the earth during the next thousand years. Adam and Eve rose from their fall with the help of Christ. All the world must follow their good example. After globalizing disobedience and porn, we rise anew to globalize obedience and chastity. "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11).

We adore thee of Christ and we praise thee, because by thy holy cross thou has redeemed the world. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners. For He was crowned with thorns to save us from our sins.