I could only imagine the pain as Christ was being flogged, as the heavy hammer drove the heavy nail down His Hand, piercing through skin, muscle, and bone. His wounds exposed, His flesh dies for every minute he expires on that cross. The sacrifices of the mortal Christ are beyond comprehension and imagination, especially in modern times. No amount of self-flagellation and self-mortification will ever equal the kind of suffering Jesus went through.
Perhaps it is not the crown of thorns, the heavy nails, or the flogging that presented and represented the most suffering for the Son as he was being hurt and killed. Perhaps it is to hang from that cross, and ask God why He hath forsaken Him. I’m not a theologian or anything, and I’m not the most religious or spiritual person in the world, but I guess the questions are as apt as they come, especially if you’re being executed. What has He done to suffer? What has He done to deserve the pain?
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
Could it be possible that, at the moment of extreme pain, Jesus examined His life, and found a pain more intense than a crown of thorns?
Self-reflection is way too similar to – and way too telling in its similarities with – some people who pray. One makes the Sign of the Cross as if he or she is swatting away flies. He or she enters the rows of pews without genuflecting. The prayer commences, as if fervent and pious; bowed not in submission to God, but in attention to a cellphone as a text message is sent. The swatting motions are made again, genuflecting with a slightly bent left knee, and off one goes to sin.
My worst moments in self-reflection come when I don’t do it consciously, when I don’t mean or intend to reflect. It just happens. It becomes a struggle for penance, for judgment, for salvation. There’s the guilt that comes with it as well. Scrupulosity, of sorts: why me? What are the things I have done? What have I done to deserve this? How can I make up for it? Even if there’s no sin or shortcoming involved, when there’s no reason to.
Why not me? Why did – and didn’t – I do things? I write this knowing that I’ll reflect. Not because I want to be a saint or whatnot – those options are beyond my comprehension – but because there is no suffering more painful than the pang of your conscience. No amount of self-mortification will ever amount to the pain of struggling with conscience.
If I ever did truly believe in the concept of salvation and confession, I would have ignored sins I have made, I probably made, or think I made. I will always be forgiven, anyway. There’s always the convenience of ignoring a mistake, because that’s so common. There’s always the convenience of letting the mistake pass by, without a hitch. Then there are the minor inconveniences of the life of sin: justifying a mistake, or pointing out the mistakes of others. With those options, there’s no room and no justification, and certainly no reason, for reflection. Life is made so much easier. Yet we lose out on the peace that comes with struggling with one’s conscience.
Something tells me we do that all the time.
I have the feeling that we effectively live half our lives without conscience, and the other half of our lives without reflection. I sometimes think we live in a world without guilt. God is in His heaven, and all is right in the world, and the unexamined life is lived on a daily basis. There is no income in reflection, and no outcome in self-examination. There is nothing in life but the next hour of sleep, the next hour of work, the next hour for break.
For a guy who lived a mortal life on a mortal Earth, Jesus sure engaged in a lot of reflection and mortification. The last being that of him hanging on the cross, dying. For many of us, Jesus’ last reflection is our only reflection, and it couldn’t come at a worse time.
When faced with death, the last reflection is to surrender.