Imagine you are driving on University Street in Peoria and in the distance you see a large crowd of people gathered in a parking lot. As you drive closer to the crowd, you see a man who you have met before tied to a telephone pole. To your horror, you see two young, well-built men taking turns at beating the man with leather whips that have sharp pieces of metal attached to the ends of each whip.
You pull over and park your car and rush over to the area where the crowd has gathered. The man who is tied to the telephone pole is on his knees, with his head down. His back is covered with blood. Several of the people in the crowd are cheering and encouraging the two men to swing harder when they beat him.
As you move closer, you see some law enforcement officers who are in charge of controlling the crowd. You realize that what is occurring is a government-sanctioned beating.
You notice that there’s a woman who is standing about ten feet away from the man who is being beaten. You know from having met the man that the woman is his mother. The woman is visibly shaken and flinches every time one of the whips tears into the flesh of her son. As you push through the crowd to get closer to the woman, you notice that there are tears in her eyes.
You try to move closer to her but one of the government officers steps in front of you and orders you to leave the area or you will be arrested. You turn around and see that you have an opportunity to approach the man who is being beaten. You notice that he has blood streaming down his face from thorns that have been pounded into his head. You rush over to the man and wipe the blood from his face with your shirt.
You feel someone grab your arm and throw you to the ground. You look up and there are two officers standing over you. They both start kicking you in your stomach and back. You quickly get up and stumble over to your car. Your mind is racing, wondering if there is anything else you can do to help the man.
What I just explained to you is a modern-day version of the scourging of Jesus. For reasons unknown to us, it was necessary for Jesus to be beaten and tortured in order to save our souls. The injuries to his head and body were necessary to repair the damage that was (and is being) caused by the sins of the minds and flesh of men and women.
The wealthiest people in the world establish foundations so they will be remembered after their death. Despite their attempt to leave a legacy, they are all eventually forgotten. Yet we still remember and celebrate that one act of courage that Veronica performed more than 2000 years ago when she wiped the face of Jesus with her veil. It was because of that one act of mercy that you and I know who she is, despite the passage of more than 2000 years.
Every day, you and I have an opportunity to do the equivalent of wiping the face of Jesus. When we hear someone use His name in vain, we can courageously speak up and ask the person to refrain from offending God. When we see someone attacking Christians for their beliefs concerning premarital sex, divorce, or homosexuality, we can courageously defend the position of the Church. When we are pressured to use contraception to limit the size of our families, we can decide to courageously and lovingly accept the children God sends to us.
Each of these acts is a work of mercy and is the equivalent of wiping the face of Jesus. And even though we may sometimes get kicked and bullied for faithfully adhering to the teachings of the Catholic Church, there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when we will receive an eternal reward for our faithfulness and courage.