I find them difficult, frankly. I'd be lying if I didn't admit this. The most difficult to contemplate is, for me, the Third Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is crown with thorns.
Why is this so difficult for me to dwell on?
Certainly the quick answer is the pain...thorns piercing his head, having been brutally scourged, to say nothing of betrayed...not an easy thing to think about.
But it's the humiliation that leaves me...sorrowful.
The Crowning with Thorns is, I often think, the most human thing Jesus submitted to. Why? Because, throughout his sojourn on earth, he repeatedly avoided any exaltation, any pomp, anything remotely resembling the homage due to to...well, to God. He fled those who would make him an earthly "king." Repeatedly. He went about doing good, yes, but so often asked his witnesses not to tell anything about him. Not about his works. He recoiled from praise. He couldn't help but do good, but he didn't want to be patted on the back for it, never mind made a "king."
But we didn't believe him.
Why, I wonder? Perhaps because we ourselves so often aspire to recognition...to receive that award, this raise in pay, that nomination, this compliment...I don't know.
But I do know that, for Jesus, the Crowning with Thorns was more than an excruciating headache...it was the ultimate humiliation.
Image: Detail of a stained glass window courtesy of Stained Glass Inc: www. stainedglassinc.com
It told him that we didn't get it. That we really thought he was seeking earthly glory. And we mocked him for it in a way that must have hurt so badly that I can't even begin to imagine it. Can you?
Perhaps Mary will help us here.
Imagine helplessly witnessing someone you love intimately and deeply—your child, your spouse, your best friend, someone—in unbelievable pain. Now see that person, wracked in agony, being...I don't know...fitted with a dunce cap, maybe. Mocked, certainly. Verbally tortured by the accusation of aspiring to become something he or she never wanted, all while slowly and painfully dying, naked, and without a friend in the world. Perhaps that will help us understand what the ignominious path Jesus not just chose, but embraced, meant to him...to his mother...to us.
The fact that Jesus simply died and rose again should be enough for me and for you, I suppose. But this Lent, I cannot help but think that the ridicule he bore was maybe his ultimate gift.