“Now Jesus stood before the procurator; and the procurator asked him, saying, ’Art thou the king of the Jews?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thou sayest it.’ (Mt. 27: 11)
St. Matthew’s words “Now Jesus stood before the procurator” are certainly stirring words, for they point up the fact that He who shall judge the nations, Himself stands before Pontius Pilate to be judged. Pilate has won a terrible pre-eminence among the sons of Adam, for every child is taught to say that the Son of God “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.”
It would be an error to say that all those who had anything to do with the death of Christ were totally depraved. Certainly Pilate was not in this class. He was actually a reluctant agent. Pilate’s sin was not so much that he failed to recognize the Messiasship of Christ, as rather that he condemned without evidence, that he acted against his own convictions, that he was influenced by the fear of man, that he had a sordid regard for place and power, which all led him to the condemnation of an innocent Man, and in so doing, he prostituted his office.
There is something of Pilate about all of us. Despite our avowals that we are followers of Christ – Christians – do we not all too frequently act against our convictions, and do we not fail to do the upright and noble thing because we fear the mob or have a servile love for human applause. Certainly we are other Pilates when we fear to say we are Catholics; when we are afraid to bow our head or tip our hat passing a church; when we are afraid to make the Sign of the Cross before grace at meals; when we are afraid to refrain from eating between meals during lent for fear of what others will think or say; when we are too timid to walk away from a person who insists on telling impure stories – these and a thousand other ways.
The sequel of Pilate’s history is affecting and instructive. The thing he dreaded came to pass, for he lost the favor of the emperor and died a suicide.
There is another point in the story that calls for our studied attention. It was Pilate’s question: “Art Thou the king of the Jews?”
Jesus did not look like much of a king as He stood there, His hands bound, and a rope about His neck. Where was His power? Where was His Throne, His crown, His scepter, His royal robes?
But to us today, how different does it all appear! Christ is throned, now far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, as He sits at the right hand of His Father.
But what of Christ in the Holy Eucharist? He doesn’t look much like a King in the tabernacles of our churches the world over. Before we place too much blame on Pilate, let us look within our own souls and we shall doubtlessly discover that we, like Pilate, have somehow failed to realize the King of kings under the humble species of bread and wine.
Before we do another thing today, let us each make an act of faith in the Divine Presence of the King of kings in the Eucharist and beg that this faith be increased so that from today on, we shall never fail to visit Him daily – if even only for a moment. Beg, too, for the courage to follow always the dictates of our conscience, and never to compromise, no matter what the pressure, in matters of faith and morals.