If the Agony in the Garden is Christ's experience of mental suffering, the Scourging at the Pillar is surely His taste of wanton physical violence and abuse.
The image I have chosen to illustrate this post is from Borguereau's painting 'The Flagellation of Christ'. It is interesting to look at the facial expressions of the characters in the picture. Christ's face, of course, shows physical agony; the soldiers carrying out the beating appear hardened and 'psyched up' to carry out this act; a phariseaic looking man on the extreme right looks to have an air of indignant righteousness ('Of course this man deserves what he is getting'); others look on with cynicism. Perhaps the two most poignant figures are the man in white, standing just behind Christ, and the small child in the background, being carried on the shoulders of their father. The former has his head turned to one side, and seems to be making some satirical comment to the person next to him: there is, however, a sense that he may be secretly avoiding looking at the scene before him, and attempting to mask this with some bravado. How often are we like this, turning a blind eye to suffering and violence, and masking our disgust with a hardening of heart? The latter is, perhaps, the most disturbing - is this really something you would want, even encourage, a child to see? I cannot help but think of the the many ways in which young people are today exposed to images of, and to actual, violence; of the gangs which are infecting some of our communities, of the torrent of unpleasent material that lurks in films, television, video games, and parts of the internet. I also think of the way that society seems to think it a good idea to expose children to information which they neither want nor need to know (I refer, of course, to some of the things done in the name of so-called 'sex education').
The scourging at the pillar must also be a reminder that Christ has known what it is like to be the victim of other's brutality. This must, therefore be an occasion to pray for all those who suffer physically at the whim of others. Remember the victims of torture, of terrorism, and simply of violent crime. Here, also, I cannot neglect those who have suffered abuse at the hands of Clergy and Religious who have strayed from the ideals of their vocation. May God have mercy on all involved.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especailly those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.