instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Good Fridays of our years are threescore years and ten

Was ever a man less prepared for what the day would bring than Pontius Pilate on the day the chief priests brought him Jesus?

Political scheming he could deal with. Though they forced his hand, he did manage to get the chief priests to swear fealty to Caesar publicly. As a bonus, he used the opportunity to befriend Herod.

But you cannot scheme with both God and mammon. It was Pilate's political habits that made it so difficult for him to deal with the non-political Jesus. He wondered, and was afraid, and was warned by his wife... but a dream's a dream and a riot's a riot, and the Empire doesn't rate its procurators based on their openness to theophany.

We should be better prepared than Pilate for the day when we must declare what we make of Jesus of Nazareth. But then, Caiaphas should have been better prepared, too, and he had the greater sin than Pilate. Our habits -- political, cultural, even religious -- can make it difficult for us to deal with Jesus.

Jesus tells Pilate, "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." In turn, we must hear His voice in order to give right judgment about Him before the people. 1 John 3:16-19 shows how our being "of the truth" relates to Good Friday:
In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth. In this we know that we are of the truth: and in his sight shall persuade our hearts.
I do not understand Good Friday if I do not understand that Jesus laid down His life out of love for me. But my response can't be gratitude alone; it has to grow into a life-giving love that reflects Jesus' love. The faith that Jesus died for me is dead if it doesn't lead to concrete acts of love.

Penance and self-denial, prayer and fasting and almsgiving, these should prepare us to hear Jesus, standing before us and calling us to our vocation as His disciples: to lay down our lives through acts of love in deed and in truth.

And when, like Pilate, we fail to love those the day has brought to us, we should be prepared to ask forgiveness and listen all the more to His voice.