Excerpts from MEDITATION ON THE PASSION
Rev. Reginald Walsh, O.P.
Burns Oates & Washbourne LTD, London
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1922
PILATE'S FAILURE TO SAVE OUR LORD
(a) Consider the reasons of the miserable failure of all Pilate's efforts to save our Lord. The Jews were the first cause - above all - the stubbornness with which they kept to their diabolical plan. They rejected Pilate's conciliatory offer to scourge our Lord, although he twice repeated it, and demanded that Barabbas should be set free and our Lord put to death. The second cause was the activity of the Chief Priests and their skill in exciting the passions of the mob. It was they who instigated the people to demand the release of Barabbas and crucifixion of Jesus. Lastly, the exasperation and uproar of the multitude and the threatening attitude assumed by the Chief Priests and the excited rabble, which made the place a perfect Babel. Time after time the shouts rang out: "Away with Him! Crucify Him!" By degrees a regular tumult ensued, and all the people cried out like demons, with ever-rising fury, that Pilate should have our Lord crucified.
What a true and vivid picture of the evil passions of the human heart. There is no safety for us but in generous self-conquest - self-denial. This alone with devotion to the Mother of Jesus will keep us true to our Lord, and safe from the wiles of the Evil One. O Mother of God, Mother of Jesus, I have need of thee ever and always!
As far as Pilate was concerned, the frustration of his efforts to release Jesus was due to his uncertain mode of action. He had no fixed plan, and so he falls back upon one expedient after another, just as they chanced to present themselves. A good lesson here for me! Have everything fixed and act through blessed obedience - leave nothing to chance. Then another cause of Pilate's failure was his inconsistency- he declares the innocence of Jesus and yet orders Him to be scourged. And, again, his weakness! He had nothing but words, declarations of innocence, negotiations; but no deeds, or at least only weak, half-hearted ones, such as the ceremony of washing his hands -a ceremony signifying innocence and immunity from an alleged crime - but it can never have the sense of shaking off the responsibility of an act that one regards as unjust, and yet voluntarily commits - as Pilate did here.
The last cause of failure was the wretched policy which sacrifices the life of an innocent man, though fully aware of his innocence, from considerations of state and fear of an insurrection. If Pilate had at once shown sternness, and threatened the rabble with the sword, as he had often done before and as the Romans were accustomed to do, he would have come off victor. As it is he retreats, step by step, before the systematic and pertinacious attack of the Jews, and already gives a virtual consent to the crucifixion, although he does not yet pronounce the sentence in due form, but orders the scourging first in the hope of satisfying the Jews and finally saving our Lord's life.
(b) Sufferings that these efforts of Pilate caused our Lord. These sufferings consist in slights, humiliations, and wrongs, which are showered on our Lord from all sides. From Pilate He has to suffer this humiliating injustice, that the legal authority - the representative of justice - instead of espousing His cause and protecting Him, gradually deserts Him for reasons of policy, and out of cowardly weakness. But the most outrageous injustice and humiliation is offered to our Lord by Pilate when he places Him before the people side by side with Barabbas, and on a par with him, and leaves them to choose which they will with the words: "Whom will you that I release to you, Barabbas or Jesus?"
To realize how deep a degradation this was for our Lord we must consider Who He is - Christ, the Son of the living God: Infinite Sanctity! And who Barabbas is - a robber, a murderer, a criminal! And by whom our Lord is thus insulted and exposed? - by Pilate himself, with the intention of saving His life at the expense of His honour; then, before whom this indignity is put upon Him? - in presence of the people. And, lastly, the result of this degrading attempt to save Him - that Jesus is rejected and Barabbas preferred to Him. Oh, think of it! What a degradation of His innocence, His merits, His Person, His dignity! How humiliated and degraded and despised my dear Lord is as He stands there beside Barabbas before; the. whole crowd! Jesus, my Divine Lord and Master, loses His cause against a robber and a base murderer.
How great the ingratitude of the people! How much they wound and grieve His Sacred Heart! Not only do they prefer Barabbas to Him, but they demand that He shall be put to death, and in the most painful and shameful way - by crucifixion; and as Pilate declares Him innocent and solemnly repudiates all responsibility of the execution, they cry unanimously: His blood be upon us, and upon our children! What an awful act! What terrible words! What revolting ingratitude! He had done no one any harm - on the contrary, how many of those who joined in this shout He had healed, instructed, and comforted. O the fickleness, blindness, and ingratitude of the human heart!
With what reason and truth our Lord might have cried out: "O My people! what have I done to thee that thou coverest Me thus with opprobrium and demandest My death?" This act of the people was the most crying injustice. Most of them, certainly, did not know the truth of the matter. They simply let the Chief Priests dictate the sentence to them. Their shouts express a terrible hate that could rest satisfied with nothing short of the disgrace - nay, even the blood of our Lord. They show indescribable contempt of our Lord. Pilate, heathen as he is, calls attention to the responsibility they will incur by the shedding of innocent blood - the crime they are committing against a human life. But they cry: "His blood be upon us!" They are quite ready to answer for the blood of the Nazarene; they take all the consequences upon themselves and their children, and are sure they will not find them too heavy to bear. In their eyes our Lord is no more than the worm that one treads under foot without compunction ... He their Creator and Judge! How terrible is the position of Saviour now. All His friends are near but powerless to help Him. The authorities do not protect Him, and their enemies have their own way. He is hated, despised, and rejected by the whole nation.
COLLOQUY. - With sincere and deep love, compassion, and humiliation, behold me, dearest Jesus, at Thy Sacred feet; how great my share in the ignominies and indignities now heaped on Thee! O Sacred, suffering Heart of my Jesus! I grieve most heartily for all my ingratitude, injustice, and baseness. Look on me, sweet Jesus, with those eyes of tender mercy; pardon the past - wash me yet more and more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sins! Strengthen me against my own weakness - rather take me out of life, dear Lord, than permit me ever again to waver in choosing between Thee and self or the world. Here at Thy blessed feet, in this mystery, may I learn what sin is - that just what Pilate proposed to the people takes place in every sin that is committed - a choice between God and a creature. Dearest Lord, I learn, too, that the result of policy and half-measures is to deliver Thee over to be scourged and crucified. Ah, Lord Jesus, this mystery clearly shows me what popularity with men is worth. Toay the cry is "Hosanna"; tomorrow, "Crucify Him." Nothing is more fickle and uncertain! Help me, sweet Jesus, to understand the value of humiliation in Thy service. Whatever may befall me in this way, it can never be compared with what Thou, my Blessed Master, hast endured for me.
Ah, my Jesus, grant that by my love and fidelity henceforth I may offer some consolation and reparation to Thy loving, suffering Heart. May I never shirk a difficulty in Thy service. O Mother, I have need of thee!
"O thou Mother, fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with thine accord."
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