On Our Lord in the Presence of Pilate

Christ before Pilate by Tintoretto, 1566-67

A Lenten Reflection for Tuesday after the Third Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On Our Lord in the Presence of Pilate.

Imagine, my soul, that you see the Saviour arraigned before the judgment-seat of the Roman governor. Pilate gazes in astonishment at the Accused standing before him in sublime majesty and dignified silence, His whole appearance and deportment seeming sufficient refutation of the statements of His accusers. Hatred and sullen rage are plainly depicted on the countenances of these men, as they surround our Lord, He standing speechless in their midst, while they shriek out their false charges in a confused medley of voices. All that they bring against our Lord is utterly untrue and unfounded. The reason why they have delivered Him up to Pilate, the reason why they demand that He should be put to death is to be sought elsewhere.

1st. Our Lord Himself acquaints Pilate with the real reason why He is accused by saying: “For this I came into the world that I should give testimony to the truth.” (St. John xviii. 37.) John was cast into prison and left to languish there because he had spoken the truth regardless of consequences, and for the same cause Jesus is now brought before Pilate. The fact that He taught the truth, proclaiming it fearlessly and thereby exposing the ungodly, hypocritical conduct of the chief priests and Pharisees and reproving it severely, affords the clue to their hatred of Him, their lying accusations, their angry cry: “Crucify Him!” The troublesome Preacher of unpleasant truths must perforce be silenced, the unwelcome Light must be extinguished. Consider this, my soul, and ask yourself whether the real reason why you dislike this or that Superior, why you feel an antipathy to this or that Brother, why you find fault with your Confessor, why a certain sermon, a book assigned to you for your spiritual reading does not commend itself to you, is not because the truth is borne in upon you too forcibly? No doubt you imagine the cause to be something quite different, but is it not worthwhile for you to examine to-day whether this is not the true motive at the bottom, as it was in the case of our Lord’s accusers?

2d. Consider the other reason of the accusations brought against our Lord, one which Pilate fully perceived, that the Jews had delivered Him from envy. Even at the time of His entry into Jerusalem the Pharisees, devoured with jealousy, exclaimed: “Behold the whole world is gone after Him.” (St. John xii. 19.) Our Lord was a constant thorn in their side because they wanted a monopoly of the respect and esteem of the Jewish people. Consequently they desired His death, for the sake of getting rid of a dangerous rival. St. Chrysostom is indeed right when he says that envy oftentimes gives rise to murder, and that it so greatly deludes the human heart as to render it incapable of discerning what is right and just. Although even pagan justice could not do otherwise than acknowledge our Lord’s innocence, yet envy mastered the Jews to such an extent that they determined to obtain by foul means what they could not obtain by fair means, and in defiance of justice to carry their point by force of compulsion and by dint of clamorous outcries. This shows us how detestable is this vice. Of how much mischief, of how much strife is it not the author in families, in ecclesiastical bodies, in religious communities. Wherefore examine yourself attentively to ascertain whether you are not infected by this widespread spiritual malady.

3d. Consider finally the main reason why our Lord was delivered to Pilate: because it was the will of God. Jesus was given up to the unjust judge that we might not have to fear the just Judge. In order that we, the true culprits, might have life, He, the innocent Victim, was condemned to death. In order that we might have a merciful sentence, He caused a most severe one to be passed upon Himself. O my soul, awaken the deepest gratitude of your heart, marvel at the infinite charity of God; resolve never again by your harsh and uncharitable judgments of your fellow man to set yourself up to act the part of an unjust judge to our Lord, whom you condemn in the person of your neighbor. And if you in your turn have a hard, unjust sentence passed on you, if you suffer as a martyr to the truth or as a victim of the envy of others, remember that the chief reason why you have to suffer such treatment is that it is the will of God, who intends it for your trial and your sanctification; and this thought will enable you to submit to it in silence, as Jesus did in the presence of Pilate.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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