For the last fourteen days of Lent, I’m posting one Station of the Cross per day, taken from Pope John Paul II’s 2003 Good Friday meditations, and Pope Benedict’s 2005 Good Friday meditations, both delivered at the Colosseum.
V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]
From the Gospel according to Mark. 15:14-15:
But the crowd shouted all the more, “Crucify him”. So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Pilate Shows Christ to the People (1515)
Pilate’s verdict was pronounced under pressure from the priests and the crowd. The sentence of death by crucifixion was meant to calm their fury and meet their clamorous demand: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Mk 15:13-14). The Roman praetor thought he could dissociate himself from the sentence, washing his hands of it, just as he had already distanced himself from Christ’s words identifying his Kingdom with the truth, and with witness to the truth (Jn 18:38). In both instances Pilate was trying to preserve his own independence, to remain somehow “uninvolved”. So it may have seemed to him, on the surface. But the Cross to which Jesus of Nazareth was condemned (Jn 19:16), like the truth he told about his Kingdom (Jn 18:36-37), had to strike deep into the Roman praetor’s soul. All this was, and is, a single reality, in the face of which one cannot remain uninvolved, on the sidelines.
When Jesus, the Son of God, was questioned about his Kingdom and, because of this, was judged guilty by men and condemned to death, his final testimony began: he was about to demonstrate that “God so loved the world…” (cf. Jn 3:16).
We have this testimony before us, and we realize that we are not allowed to wash our hands of it.
Jesus of Nazareth, condemned to death on the Cross, faithful witness to the love of the Father. R. Kyrie, eleison.
Jesus, Son of God, obedient to the will of the Father, even unto death on a Cross. R. Kyrie, eleison.
From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:22-23,26
Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
|Carl Heinrich Bloch, Christ with Thorns|
The Judge of the world, who will come again to judge us all, stands there, dishonored and defenseless before the earthly judge. Pilate is not utterly evil. He knows that the condemned man is innocent, and he looks for a way to free him. But his heart is divided. And in the end he lets his own position, his own self-interest, prevail over what is right. Nor are the men who are shouting and demanding the death of Jesus utterly evil. Many of them, on the day of Pentecost, will feel “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37), when Peter will say to them: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God… you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law” (Acts 2:22ff.). But at that moment they are caught up in the crowd. They are shouting because everyone else is shouting, and they are shouting the same thing that everyone else is shouting. And in this way, justice is trampled underfoot by weakness, cowardice and fear of the diktat of the ruling mindset. The quiet voice of conscience is drowned out by the cries of the crowd. Evil draws its power from indecision and concern for what other people think.
Lord, you were condemned to death because fear of what other people may think suppressed the voice of conscience. So too, throughout history, the innocent have always been maltreated, condemned and killed. How many times have we ourselves preferred success to the truth, our reputation to justice? Strengthen the quiet voice of our conscience, your own voice, in our lives. Look at me as you looked at Peter after his denial. Let your gaze penetrate our hearts and indicate the direction our lives must take. On the day of Pentecost you stirred the hearts of those who, on Good Friday, clamored for your death, and you brought them to conversion. In this way you gave hope to all. Grant us, ever anew, the grace of conversion.
|First Station of the Cross (detail),
Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian
Pater noster, …
Stabat Mater dolorosa,
iuxta crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.