Thursday, October 18, 2007

2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

My arm aches! It always does after a scourging. Our senior officers do not consider us at all. How would they like to conduct a flogging on an empty stomach? It is a messy and thankless job which often ends up with a corpse needing disposal when the scourging is over. Added to that, there is always a mess around the area of the post and someone is given the job of cleaning up afterwards, that someone often being me because I am one of the youngest in our squad. Sometimes the centurion decides not to have the courtyard washed down because the appearance of the place then strikes fear into other would-be miscreants. It is a little bit of a deterrent to bad behaviour, but not much. If someone is determined to do something wrong, they will do it. On occasion, the victim has committed no crime other than to catch a senior officer on a wrong-footing.

Today, the prisoner was a Jew who had been sent by the High Priests. They tried to escape responsibility by sending him to Herod and to Pilate, but those two old foxes saw through their tactics.

Pilate declared to the crowd that he could find nothing in Jesus that merited death, but he did not thereby release him: he ordered us to flog him. Is that not a contradiction in terms? Why scourge someone after announcing that he is innocent of any crime? That is inconsistent and unjust. Washing his hands of Jesus did not absolve Pilate from guilt. He attempted to wriggle free of his responsibility by offering the mob a choice. They could condemn either Jesus of Nazareth or Barabbas, a brigand, but they, not Pilate, would have passed judgement

The Jews were clever. They had agents provocateurs in the midst of the crowd. They knew the one threat that would cause Pilate to tremble: they claimed that Jesus had set himself as a king and they owned no king but Caesar. Even I saw Pilate blanch when they made this utterance. He had to act against Jesus lest Caesar act against him.

I had seen Jesus around Jerusalem. He did not appear too dangerous even if he was always surrounded by a crowd. He looked even less of a risk after his robe was removed, leaving him standing defenceless. I almost felt sorry for him as my colleague fastened him to the post…. almost, but not quite. I suppose I must have become hardened after the number of times I have been called upon to flog someone. It is different when the prisoner is a fellow soldier: then there is a chance that we have shared the same barracks, camp fire and campaigns. Then I can identify with the pain and the indignity.

If the captive is a stranger, then it is not so bad. I can shut off my mind, so to speak, and busy myself with the task in hand. It is difficult because the screams are the same as the thongs bite their way into naked flesh. That is why it takes time to harden oneself.

Today, attention was focussed on Jesus of Nazareth. I was sorry about that because he appeared harmless and even Pilate recognised his innocence. He was here because of the venom of the High Priests. That is all. Sheer spite and expediency brought Jesus to Pilate. I watched Jesus huddled over the post, but we were tired and allowed him to rest there for a few minutes whilst our aching arms recovered.

But now, we have finished for the day. I can at last rest my aching arm.

God bless,
Sr. Janet