Barabbas Preferred Before Jesus
Source: THE SCHOOL
OF JESUS CRUCIFIED, Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus,
PILATE finding no cause in Jesus, and being willing to save Him from His enemies, has recourse to the expedient of offering the people their choice between Him and Barabbas, who is a man so hateful to all account of his crimes, that it does not seem possible they can for a moment hesitate to ask the favor for Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus, and who is Barabbas? Jesus is the Eternal Son of God, the King of Majesty, the Lord of Glory, the Creator of Heaven and earth and the Holy of holies. It would be a grievous insult to compare Him with the highest of the Angels, what then must it be to compare Him with Barabbas, a rebel, a thief, a murderer, and a notorious criminal? How keenly must the Heart of Jesus feel so ignominious a comparison! What anguish must His Soul suffer on hearing Pilate say to the people: "Which of the two will you have? Whom do you prefer? Whom do you love best, Jesus or Barabbas?" And yet He joyfully submits even to this disgraceful outrage. How often have you renewed this shameful comparison? Whenever the devil has tempted you to indulge in some sensual pleasure, or the world has instigated you to take vengeance, and you have been careless and lukewarm in rejecting the temptation, being undecided as to whether it were better to please God and obey His laws, or indulge your evil passions, so often have you compared God, the Sovereign Infinite Good, to a miserable gratification and vile pleasure. What an outrage to God! What an insult to His Majesty! Be ashamed of your rash presumption, and weep over your sin.
2. The unjust preference given by the Jews to Barabbas.
The Jews having heard the proposal of Pilate, and being inflamed with rage against our innocent Saviour, exclaim as one man, "Not Jesus, but Barabbas!" They are well aware of the unsullied innocence of Jesus---they have been witnesses of the sanctity of His life-----they have received infinite benefits from His hand, nay, many out of that numerous crowd have been miraculously healed by Him. And yet, though a prodigy of injustice, there is not one man in all that multitude who will ask for His liberation! And the most generous of benefactors is set aside for the sake of a wicked seditious man! The God of Majesty and Holiness is treated as nought in comparison with a murderer! Words can never describe how deep a wound is inflicted on the loving Heart of Jesus by the intolerable injustice done Him on this occasion by His chosen people. Compassionate Him in this His painful humiliation, but pause and reflect also upon your own conduct. The Jews are guilty in preferring Barabbas before Jesus, but they committed this enormous crime upon one occasion only, whereas how many times have you exclaimed in your heart, by consenting to sin, "Away with God from my soul, give unto me the devil with that wicked pleasure, or illicit gain, or that gratification of my evil passions!" You have preferred the devil to Jesus whenever you have renounced the service of God. You knew that Jesus was your King, you believed Him to be your God, you adored Him as your Saviour, and yet you thus preferred an unclean and degrading sensual pleasure before Him! What more frightful injustice than this? Detest your malice, force your perverse will to retract its shameful determinations, and resolve ever to prefer God before all created objects.
3. The Jews having asked for the liberation of Barabbas---thus proving that they set more value on the life of a public thief, than on that of the Saviour of the world, now demand with loud cries that Jesus should be condemned, that He should be put to death, that He should be crucified.
Who could have thought that this ungrateful people would have reached such a height of iniquity as to desire the crucifixion of their King, their Messias, and their Deliverer---the Expectation of Nations, whose presence they had so long sighed for, and whom, but a few days before, they had welcomed with acclamations as the Son of God? But who would ever believe that a Christian, so liberally loaded with favors, so tenderly loved by Jesus, could commit so atrocious a crime as to exclaim in his heart, "Let Jesus die!" And yet such is your daily cry by the commission of mortal sin. You say, not with your voice, but by your deeds: "Let sin triumph, but let Jesus die! The loss of God I consent to, but not the loss of this shameful pleasure. Let Jesus be crucified, and sin reign in my soul." Can any impiety or ingratitude surpass this? Pilate says to the furious Jews: "But what evil hath Jesus done, that you wish Him to die?" And they persist in crying, "Let Him be crucified!" "What evil hath Jesus done you," was the cry also of your conscience, "that you are determined to offend Him?" And yet you obstinately persisted in sin, and in crucifying Jesus. The only crime of Jesus is that of too much love for us, His charity has induced Him willingly to accept death for our sakes. His love for you, and desire for your salvation, cause Him to wait for you with such infinite patience, even after all the outrages you have committed against Him. Love so loving a God, thank so merciful a God, and displease not so good a God any more.
Determine to avoid sin above every other evil. Be careful and prompt in banishing bad thoughts and the wicked suggestions of the devil, declaring your firm determination of serving God alone. Conceive a holy hatred against your flesh, your passions, and your self-love, which have so frequently caused you to offend God. Often say of these enemies, "Let them be crucified!" and endeavor to crucify them by mortification.
There is nothing which may not serve to remind the lovers of Christ Crucified of the sufferings and death of their beloved Redeemer. The servant of God, Sister Mary Minima, of Jesus of Nazareth, a Carmelite nun, was one Friday in March sitting down to table, when she saw a little lamb come into the Refectory, run towards her and take refuge in her arms. More was not required to make her think of Jesus, the Lamb without spot, delivered up by the furious Jews to the bitterest torments and most ignominious death. She was so much overcome by this reflection, and so many tears flowed from her eyes, that she was quite unable to take any food for the remainder of the day.Accustom yourself in like manner to take occasion from everything to remember the sufferings of Jesus.
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