Here I offer my reflections on the Sorrowful Mysteries. They logically follow the final Luminous Mystery, namely, the Eucharist—the meal Jesus shared with his disciples shortly before his crucifixion.
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries
1. The Agony in the Garden. Christ’s agony becomes more severe when he thinks about Mary, his mother. She is sensing her son’s fears about the suffering he will soon have to face, including a painful death on the cross. Because of his love for his disciples, he also frets about the horror and trepidation they will face. He can only imagine what will happen to these 12 individuals whom he had personally invited to follow after him. No wonder our Savior’s sweat seemed to turn to blood! Lord Jesus, give us your love and strength in our own moments of agony!
2. The Scourging at the Pillar. Jesus’ suffering was not yet complete. We rightly place the words of Isaiah on Jesus’ lips: “I gave my back to those who beat me” (Is 50:6). Jesus, of course, deserved no punishment. Pilate did not believe the accusations of the crowd. Yet, he allowed Jesus to be “scourged” (Mt 27:26).This was not the first time that an innocent person had to suffer for the sins of the guilty. Although he was treated most unfairly, Jesus was not one to ask for pity. To the weeping women who met him along the way to his death, Jesus said, “Do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children” (Lk 23:28). Loving Savior, you suffered with great dignity. We are grateful to you for bearing our guilt in a most generous way!
3. The Crowning with Thorns. “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth” (Is 53:7). Because Christ is our king, he truly deserves to wear a golden crown—and not be mocked with a crown of thorns. While Pilate’s style of authority earned him no right to wear a crown, Jesus, through his example of humble service, certainly won that right. And yet, as Luke’s Gospel tells us, soldiers put a crown of thorns on him and saluted him: “‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage” (Lk 15:18-20). Jesus, we proudly place ourselves in the community of those who salute and honor you as our king!
4. The Carrying of the Cross. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it” (Mk 8:34-35). Jesus was surely a man of sorrows. But, in carrying this cross of shame, he was really on the road to glory. His day of suffering would pass, and Jesus would end up on a throne of glory. In the words of the Apostles’ Creed, “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” Jesus, we thank you for showing us the path to glory!
5. The Crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus is the mediator between God and humanity. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). In the Gospel of Mark, we read: “It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him” (15:25). Mark gives other details as well: “There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James” (15:40). It all boils down to helping us see the wonderful truth: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). We thank you, loving Savior, for your great act of charity!
The Sorrowful Mysteries (and the other mysteries) make up one wonderful love story between God and us. Thanks be to God!