On the Interior and Exterior Mortification of our Blessed Father
“So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” Mark 15:15
With what sorrow would Our Lady’s heart have been filled as she watched her innocent Son’s body be scourged for the sins of others. As the privileged preacher of Mary’s joys and sorrows in the Rosary, St. Dominic shared in the sorrow of his Mother’s heart.
“I will chastise him,” Pilate said of Jesus. Yet He was chastised not for His own correction, but for the correction of others. Dominic knew that this suffering was for his own sins, but also that he was called to mortify himself in imitation of Christ for the salvation of his own soul and the souls of others. In a heroic manner, he practiced both corporal penances and interior mortifications. He gave his body no more than it absolutely needed, and deprived himself of any comfort or superfluity. Yet of more value than his corporal penances was his interior disposition of mortification. Always obedient to the will of God, he became that perfect man who has complete control of his tongue: speaking only with or about God. He desired only that which would lead him closer to God and so ruled over his passions to achieve this end. Dominic knew and firmly demonstrated in his life that penance and mortification are not to be feared, but are also not to be embraced sadly or for their own sake. They give us interior joy as we participate and share in the sufferings of our Savior.
In our days, penance and mortification are too often dismissed as the relics of past ages. Yet unless we work to mortify ourselves, we will never attain the fullness of joy which St. Dominic enjoys. Mortification and penance allow us to die to ourselves and to be more available to others, to those souls to whom we are sent. It is in the denial of our self-love and self-will that this mortification lies. We need look no further than our own Rule and Constitutions for our main mortification, for these provide us with means to die to ourselves and live for others.
As a bride ought joyfully to approach her marriage bed, a spouse of Christ ought joyfully to approach the cross – the marriage bed of the Lamb. In our union with Christ in his suffering we find joy in our penance, as did our Holy Father Dominic.
Let us honor today the second sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, the Scourging at the Pillar, and let us beg, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and St. Dominic, the spirit of mortification.