It was the fulfillment of a prophecy about the passion of Jesus Christ. John, who was witnessing the Lord’s passion from close quarters, was the only disciple whom the Holy Spirit permitted to record this incident for future generations. It was the ultimate cruelty one can do to a person; piercing his heart again, that too after confirming that he was already dead. After narrating how the body of Jesus was subjected to a final round of cruelty, John writes; ‘These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” (Jn 19:36-37). A millennium before, David the Psalmist had prophesied that none of the bones of Jesus would be broken. ‘He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken’ (Ps 34:20).
As for the piercing of his side, it was the fulfillment of prophet Zechariah’s prophecy; ‘…When they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him as one weeps over a firstborn’ (Zech 12:10).
John the evangelist once again mentions this prophecy, this time in the Book of Revelation. ‘Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail’ (Rev 1:7). This will happen at the second coming of Jesus Christ in glory.
In fact, not only the piercing of Jesus’ side, but all of his passion is going to be re-enacted before his second coming. The only difference is that this time it will be the Church, the mystical body of Christ, that is subjected to the passion. Torturing the mystical body of Christ started immediately after the inauguration of the Church and will continue till the end. With Stephen, the counting of the number of martyrs started and the Lord has been waiting for their numbers to be completed. ‘They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.’ (Rev 6:11).
Paul was candid when he said that suffering is part and parcel of Christian life. ‘For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well’ (Phil 1:29). Paul never ran away from this ‘privilege’. Instead he accepted all the persecutions believing that they would help him in making up for the shortcomings of Christ’s suffering for his Church! ‘I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church’ (Col 1:24).
If the second coming of the Lord is postponed every moment (see CCC 673) it is because God the Father is waiting for the number of martyrs to be completed. Back then, it was Stephen, Paul and other disciples who accepted the call to make up for the lack of suffering in the Church. Today, it is you and me, who are called to contribute our sufferings and afflictions for the Church, who is, like her Lord, betrayed by her own people, denied, mocked, spat upon, flogged, crowned with thorns, and paraded in purple robes with false accusations and led to her Calvary for the final phase of her trial.
But remember. None of her bones will be broken. Her foundations will never be shaken, because they are built on the cornerstone called Jesus Christ. Enemies will pierce her heart, but Christ will ensure that ‘every eye will see her in glory, even those who pierced her.’
Yes, we are closer than ever to the final triumph of Christ and his Church, but for it to happen the number of martyrs should be completed and God is counting on you and me for it.
Let us pray for the gift of martyrdom, so that we too be considered worthy to be counted to complete the numbers that God has fixed in his infinite wisdom.