It is strange how often a person who is too weak of character to do what he knows is right, will rack his brains for something to excuse him from doing his duty and thus will seize upon the first thing which comes to mind to relieve him of his dilemma. So it was with Pilate. He knew after he had questioned our Lord that He was guiltless, and that he should release Him. Then the thought struck him that perhaps if he offered to follow an ancient custom of releasing a prisoner on the eve of the great Jewish feast of Passover that he could manage, somehow, to have them choose Christ as against a murderer, and thus he would be rid of the problem. So he mentioned the custom to the Jews and the alternative to Christ, he chose Barabbas – a robber, a rioter, “one who in the riot had committed murder.” (Mk. 15:7)
Pilate said: “Which of the two do you wish that I release to you?’ And they said ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them: ‘What then am I to do with Jesus Who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let Him be crucified.’” (Mt. 27: 21, 22)
Never in the annals of human history has there been a greater example of criminal evasion of personal responsibility. Here was Pilate, who in his heart knew that Christ was innocent of any crime, and had said so in public, but now, in fact says to the mob, “you pick the victim and I’ll sentence Him whether he is guilty or not.” Many of us today, who decry the weakness of Pilate, get much the same way on many occasions. We often allow others to determine our duty. Have we not all at times said something like this:
“But every one does it”; or “Everyone else in the office tells off-color stories”; or “If my husband didn’t drink, I wouldn’t drink,” and so on.
Let us beg of God the grace to do what we know to be right and just, and for the grace to manfully withstand those who would even suggest our making concessions to evil for fear of man.
The second point of this consideration is equally important. Pilate poses one of the most striking questions formulated when he asked: “What am I to do with Jesus Who is called Christ?” – a question Pilate and all of us are compelled to answer in the end. Jesus stands before each of us, as He stood before Pilate, demanding reception or rejection. The question may be postponed, but we cannot get it off our hands. Every soul must stand in judgment on Christ and give a decision.
Resolve to make a thorough examination of conscience daily on how you fulfill the duties of your state in life and to what extent you permit others to determine your duty. Ask yourself, too, this burning question:
“What have I done today with Christ?” The answer God expects us to give is: “I have loved Him; I have obeyed Him in all things; I have served Him faithfully.”
See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.
*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle