On the Release of Barabbas

Ecce Homo by Wenzel Coebergher, Belgium, 1576-1634

A Lenten Reflection for Friday 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 the Release of Barabbas.

Realize to-day, my soul, to the best of your ability, the striking contrasts presented by the scene in the history of our Lord’s Passion when He is placed in opposition to Barabbas. Pilate again had found no fault in our Lord, and consequently he resorts to what appears to him a sure method of setting the innocent Prisoner free. He places Him beside a murderer, and then appeals to the people, saying: “Whether will you of the two to be released unto you?” (St. Matt, xxvii. 21.) Picture to yourself the Saviour standing there, holy, innocent, adorable, the Benefactor of the Jewish people, who fed them in the desert, who healed their sick in towns and villages, and beside Him a sinister-looking criminal as unlike Him as darkness is to light, one on whose brow vice is plainly written, on whose soul rests a heavy load of guilt; yet the deluded populace give the preference to this infamous wretch rather than to the Holy One of Israel! This is indeed a strange, a sorrowful sight!

1st. Consider how innocence is forsaken. See how Barabbas, a man notorious for his crimes, finds many partisans, nay, a whole nation clamors for his release, whereas Jesus, the Source of life in contrast to this murderer, the Mirror of sanctity in contrast to this villain, the Benefactor of the people in contrast to this outrager of the public safety, Jesus stands alone; not a single voice is raised to befriend Him; on the contrary a thousand voices cry: “Let Him be crucified.” Well indeed may St. Augustine exclaim: “O fools, what is it that you demand? It is nothing else but that He who raised the dead to life should Himself be slain, and he who destroyed the living should have his life spared to him.” Reflect, my soul, upon this truth, that in the world innocence most frequently stands alone, forsaken by all; and ask yourself whether you have not sometimes abandoned your fellow man when he was reviled by the tongue of slander, persecuted by the hand of envy and malice; whether under such circumstances you have not left him helpless, without speaking a word in his defence, or endeavoring to console him.

2d. Consider how inconstant men are. Only a few days previously the very same multitude were almost frantic with exultation, intoxicated with delight and rapture in accompanying with hosannas “Him that cometh in the name of the Lord;” in fact only a little more was wanting and they would have taken Him and made Him their king by acclamation, in preference to all others. Now, a few days later, the mere sight of the self-same Individual excites them to an indescribable fury of hatred and anger, and they give Him the last and lowest place, preferring a common murderer to Him. Let this be a warning to you, O Christian. Do not be too much concerned as to whether you are praised or blamed, blest or curst by your fellow men. For if they behaved in so false and fickle a manner in regard to your Lord and Master, how can you, His servant and disciple, expect better treatment at their hands? Men are unstable and their judgments are only too unreliable. Wherefore do not dread the criticism, do not pay too much heed to the opinion of a man who to-day is and to-morrow is no more, but fear God, Who ever remains unchangeable. Barabbas, acquitted by the popular voice, was not acquitted by God, and our Lord, condemned and sentenced to death by the fickle mob, was justified in the sight of God. As an example to you see how a few days ago He was as indifferent to and unmoved by the acclamations of the people as He now is by the hatred they evince toward Him.

3d. Consider how often you commit the same sin of which the deluded Jewish people were guilty. Every temptation to sin is nothing more or less than the question put to you, whether you value more highly Christ or Barabbas, the Creator or the creature; whether you give the preference to the will of the Most High or the sinful propensities of your fallen nature. And as often as you yield to the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil, you cry with the Jews: “Away with this Man! Away with Christ, away with His grace, away with His law; set free the passions that law restrains; release the murderer of my soul, the robber that deprives me of my eternal felicity.” What a terrible, appalling cry! Alas! how often is it heard from your lips?


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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7 Responses to On the Release of Barabbas

  1. kathleen says:

    These lovely Lenten meditations from Holy Cross Publications are extremely profound. For instance, in yesterday’s one we read above:

    Reflect, my soul, upon this truth, that in the world innocence most frequently stands alone, forsaken by all;

    How often we see this in our world today in a hundred different ways.
    The innocents in the womb are slaughtered in an unprecedented scale under the twisted slogan of “womens’ rights”… while Satan’s minions scream out in rage against any good person or organisation that lifts their voice in defence of the unborn. Many countries are writing more and more anti-Christian practices (such as euthanasia, transgender theory, same-sex ‘marriage’, etc.) into their legal and education systems; evil laws that will threaten the livelihood of any courageous soul daring to lift their voice in protest. The P.C. crowd – yes, those who talk so much about “freedom of speech” and “tolerance” – is out in full force these days to pounce and destroy them. (Just look what they are doing to Catholic Voice spokesperson, Caroline Farrow, for no more than expressing her Catholic views! And how about the outrageous witch-hunt and condemnation of Cdl. Pell for his fight against corruption and the powerful ‘gay’ lobby in Australia?)

    We do indeed “stand alone” on earth when we stand up for God’s Truth.
    But we are not alone, nor “forsaken”. Countless saints and martyrs have suffered torture and death rather than renounce their faith. Never were they, or we ourselves, so close, more greatly loved, and more protected and rewarded by God, than when we put Him above the spirit of the world.

    [Edit.] But whilst we struggle onwards in our earthly pilgrimage, let us not forget:
    ”Every temptation to sin is nothing more or less than the question put to you, whether you value more highly Christ or Barabbas, the Creator or the creature.”


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    “Many countries are writing more and more anti-Christian practices (such as euthanasia, transgender theory, same-sex ‘marriage’, etc.) into their legal and education systems; evil laws…”

    How is the rain in Spain today, Kathleen? But to address your point – we legal beagles over here are now being forced to sign statements saying that we will abide by principles of equality, diversity and inclusion in all that we think, say and do:
    “As part of this strategy you [johnhenry] are required to create and abide by an individual Statement of Principles that acknowledges your obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion…

    …and so, just as my friend Burrito has been forced into retirement, so am I being forced to take down my shingle this year, but in my case due to insanity, not physical ill health. After 40 years of standing on my hind legs in court, I look forward to returning to my old job wiping old men’s bottoms, which I last did in 1969. As an unpaid volunteer this time.


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Please feel free to correct my overuse of italics 😦


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    If you read that Law Society link, you will see that the new requirement to abide by principles of equality and so forth applies, not just to practising lawyers but “to all Law Society licensees. A licensee is anyone who is licensed to practice law or provide legal services and includes retired licensees…”, which means I must not only retire, but also resign.

    Welcome to Totalitarian Ontario. Yours to Discover


  5. kathleen says:

    Hi JH! 😀

    ”How is the rain in Spain today, Kathleen?”

    Not too good, I’m afraid to say. The “Equality/Inclusion/Diversity” crowd, that we have here too, have the law on their side (unjust though it is for faithful Christians) and the “thought-police” are out after anyone who they see as stepping out of line! It has not reached the appalling levels of some other countries (like Canada), not yet anyway, but things are definitely worsening. Radical feminism is also a growing problem in Spain, also prompting increasing criticism of the Church’s perceived chauvinism (“machísmo” in Spanish). Our new conservative political party, “Vox”, that gained amazingly good results in the recent Andalusian Elections due to their restrictive immigration policies, is being attacked viciously on all sides by the leftists.

    I believe there is an unfortunate copycat syndrome ruling in our global age today, where the world’s leading nations with their PC. ideology are admired and pandered to, and the poorer, more insignificant* Christian countries and communities are ignored. Only Trump, continually vilified, holds out against them.

    * “insignificant” only in the eyes of the powerful of course.

    It must be very difficult in today’s world, perhaps impossible, for an orthodox Christian lawyer to fight for his (Christ’s) teachings. He would be cut down immediately he opened his mouth.
    I wish you a very happy retirement dear JH (workwise)… but don’t ever retire or “resign” from defending your beliefs.
    I know you wouldn’t 😉.


  6. Brother Burrito says:

    Happy retirement JH.


  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Thank you, my friend. This time in my life brings to mind another friend whose career trajectory has been far more impressive than mine and who is also retiring this Spring after 40 years. I’m very happy for him. We were close friends back in the 1980s, although no more than casual acquaintances for many years since. Nothing to do with his first wife becoming involved in a ménage à trois I assure you, although her lover was a client of mine, some of whose hymns have been published in our Catholic Book of Worship II and possibly in your Hymnal as well, (he is well regarded in Church circles) although I cannot possibly comment on that. Ross served on a United Church of Canada committee back then (1980s) opposing the ordination of homosexuals, but I think he’s had a professional epiphany since then and has signed our Law Society Statement of Principles in favour of “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion”.

    You are in my prayers tomorrow.


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