The Cruelest Death - Crucifixion
by Father Robert D.Smith
In the Year 70 B.C., the Roman orator Cicero initiated a prosecution againstVerres, the Roman governor of Sicily, for cruelty and malfeasance in office. Verreshad sentenced a Roman citizen named Gavius to prison in the stone quarries ofSyracuse. Somehow, Gavius escaped, made his way to the city of Messina, and wasboarding ship to Rome, exclaiming that he was going there to protest about Verres.Verres' agents heard of these protests and arrested Gavius. Just then, Verres himselfhappened to arrive in Messina. He had Gavius stripped naked, scourged, and crucifiedthen and there. This was done. All the while, Cicero tells us that "no words came fromthe lips of Gavius in his agony except, 'I am a Roman citizen.' " (see Against Verres II,5,62-66)
Cicero describes crucifixion as "that most cruel and most disgusting (crudelissimitaeterrimique) of penalties", and mentions that as Gavius saw the cross being madeready, "the hapless and broken sufferer...had never seen such an accursed thing untilthen." He then adds, "To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination,(for a magistrate) to slay him is almost an act of murder, to crucify him is....what? Thereis no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed."
To Cicero, crucifixion is not merely a painful death, a shameful death, but the"most cruel" death of all, the "most disgusting," the most shameful death of all. In thiscategory, it is not just one among many. It is the worst of all. It is the "worst extreme ofthe tortures inflicted upon slaves."
This is the death that Christ, the Son of God, was to suffer about 100 yearslater. He not only suffered it, He suffered it through the will of God the Father. Even whenChrist prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that He might be spared that which He sawcoming, His own prayer for Himself appeared to go unanswered.
All this teaches us about the intrinsic and irrevocable nature of penalties for sin.Even Christ, who, though innocent, came to redeem man from sin, had to pay them. HeHimself taught that similar hideous and irrevocable penalties, those of consignmenteternally to Hell, await those who die unrepentant in sins against the Commandments.
Great numbers of people today, unrepentant in sin, boasting even of their unrepent-ance in sin, also boast at the same time of what a great friend they are to Christ, and ofhow great a friend Christ is to them. "He will surely take care of me. After all, He, Himself,is the Judge on Judgment Day. He will take care of everyone. He will save everyone."They forget that Christ on Judgment Day will act in divinely perfect accord withthe will of the Father, and can do nothing other than that.
It is a great mystery...the greatest. But it is clearly expressed again and again inthe New Testament, for those who have eyes to see. Those who see Judgment coming,accept it as a future fact, and prepare humbly for it; prepare themselves for God's mercy.Those who blind themselves to it, allow themselves in their pride to drift unblinking intothat part of God's justice which means irreversible punishment for all eternity.
On Dec.15,2001, Father Smith went to his eternal reward.
"This is why I was born, and why I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." (John 18:37)
Permission to freely distribute these articles has been received from Fr.Smith's estate and from The Wanderer(201 Ohio St.,St.Paul,Mn.55107), which may produce them in book form at a later date.
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