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(LifeSiteNews) — Imagine being able to have a doctor at Calvary. We would have a medical account of how much and what Christ suffered for us. Now Easter was several weeks ago, and recently a debate has sprung up questioning whether Christ truly suffered the most out of all men who ever lived, or whether Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is wrong when it depicts Our Lord carrying the whole Cross rather than just the crossbeam.

Bob McDonald, a deacon with over 20 years of medical experience and someone who has studied the Shroud of Turin, joins me for this episode of The John-Henry Westen Show to discuss Our Lord’s Passion from a medical perspective.

McDonald begins the show with a discussion of the Agony in the Garden. According to the deacon, we have to “understand that Jesus suffered abominably in the Garden, much more than is obvious from the scriptural description.”

McDonald observes that Christ had all the sins of the world put on Him, those that had been committed up to that point, were being committed then, and would ever be committed. The result of this was a pain that was so great it made Christ sweat blood, a condition called hematidrosis, which can be found in people who are in “extreme physical and psychological pain for which there is no relief,” McDonald tells me.

“What happens is that the small blood vessels in the scalp actually get swollen and stretched, so much so that red blood cells are able to escape from the small blood vessels and they end up in the sweat glands, and the sweat of blood takes place,” he explains. He also notes that the condition is known to have occurred in prisoners walking to their execution, and has also been observed in the life of St. Gemma Galgani.

Shortly thereafter, McDonald explores the injuries Christ suffered during His scourging, during which Christ was beaten with rods and an instrument called a flagrum, consisting of a short wooden handle with five leather cords coming out of the end, on the ends of the cords a sharp piece of lead. When the lead struck Christ’s back, the deacon says, it would embed itself into His skin, such that whenever the flagrum was flicked back, pieces of skin would come with them. According to McDonald, Christ was scourged by two soldiers, one taller and one shorter, and suffered hundreds of wounds, compared to the Jewish law that mandated only 40 lashes because of how deadly it could be.

READ: Trained doctor explains scientific evidence connecting Shroud of Turin, Eucharistic miracles

McDonald lists the effects of the scourging’s force. He notes that Christ’s chest wall filled the area between it and His lungs with liquid, a process he calls pleurisy, compressing Christ’s lungs and resulting in shortness of breath. The pericardium, or sac, around Christ’s Heart, meanwhile, filled with liquid McDonald calls pericarditis, to protect it from the scourging. The pericarditis worsened Christ’s shortness of breath, causing him to turn blue.

Likewise did Christ suffer shortness of breath because of kidney failure from lashes on the lower back between the ribs and the base of the spine, an area McDonald calls the loin. Meanwhile, Christ’s eyes became sunken in their orbits, and He suffered “very great confusion” and fatigue, also from the kidney failure. Looking briefly to the confusion, McDonald says that Christ would have been confused about what to do or where to go, and says we can be sure the Romans scourged Christ on the way to Calvary to control His direction.

McDonald describes the crown of thorns as a cap woven together and pressed on Christ’s Head, basing his judgment on the Shroud of Turin. Some of the thorns, the deacon continues, entered the skin in one place and exited in another, pointing to a wound above the supraorbital point of Christ’s eyebrow appearing on the Shroud near the supraorbital nerve, which would have caused Him “tremendous” pain.

Looking to the Cross itself, McDonald is of the opinion that Christ carried the whole Cross, disagreeing with the modern consensus that Christ carried only the crossbeam, or patibulum. If Christ did carry the patibulum, His Body should exhibit injuries on His shoulders and neck, injuries McDonald posits are not there. He also observes that the word St. John uses in his gospel for the Cross is stauros, a word he maintains refers to the upright portion of the Cross. The Cross’s weight, he says, was 150 pounds.

The soldiers, meanwhile, fastened Christ to the Cross through the wrists, as the palms do not have the capacity to support a man’s weight. He also notes that the Aramaic word for hand also includes the wrist. While one wrist was nailed to the patibulum without problem, one of the Roman soldiers had to dislocate Christ’s opposite shoulder to get the other wrist in place, there being two holes already burned into the wood to show where the nails should go.

While the brutality of the crucifixion is such that it “alone is enough to shock us and paralyze us” such that we don’t “grow” or “learn” anything from it, save how to push it from our minds, McDonald tells me that as Christ, even in the midst of His pain, could ask the Father to forgive us, He wanted us to know that He not only already forgave us, but that He wanted the Father to do so as well. McDonald further notes that since Christ forgave us for murdering Him amidst His suffering the worst pains in history for our salvation, He has the right to command us to forgive others who give injury to us, and that no pain inflicted on us will ever compare to His.

“We discover that if we return a blessing for a curse to our enemy, an incredible miracle takes place,” he says. “The enemy loses his power, loses his ammunition, loses his righteous indignation, and he is faced with the fact that although he has tried to hurt you, you are returning a blessing for that curse, and that blessing is pouring red hot coals upon his head, and may result in the very healing that is necessary between you and your enemy so that your enemy now becomes your friend.”

Concluding the episode, McDonald says that we are “a privileged people” because Christ chose to come to earth and suffer for our salvation despite our sinfulness. Our attitude, therefore, should be one of gratitude and meditation over what Christ had to endure for us, which will increase our appreciation of the love He showed us. Further, we should always “reach out to” and offer our brethren the same forgiveness Christ offered us on the Cross.

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John-Henry is the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of He and his wife Dianne have eight children and they live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout the world. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum, an annual strategy meeting for life, faith and family leaders worldwide. He is a board member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family. He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization. He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.