Is 52.13-53.12; Ps 30(31); Heb 1.14-16; 5.7-9; Jn 18.1-19.42
She Was Just 22
Alin was just 22 years old. She was full of life, beautiful and talented. Fate sealed her life at this age. She was diagnosed with brain cancer. The torture began. She was determined to beat this horrible sickness. She was full of hope and at times hopes against hope, maintaining her composure and calm. To be precise she suffered for 4 years until she was very badly ill and doctors had given up hopes. But she was as always hopeful that she will be alright and will resume her college studies. I went to meet her just after my papa’s first death anniversary on 25th January 2011. I was till then struggling to come to terms with my papa’s sudden death last year. When I met this girl with this horrible cross, I had no words to console her. But she was still hopeful with her eyes beaming with light and serenity. At one point she asked me to put my hand on her head for prayers. My hands shivered with fear and I asked the Lord for help. Then she told me, ‘do you think father, the Lord has abandoned me?’ I was dumb; no word came to my lips. I closed my eyes and just remained in silence. When I left her home I said to her, ‘May the Lord take care of you’. She died in June this year (2011). A thought came to my mind when I saw the photographs of her funeral: “My God, My Lord, why? Why this innocent girl had to die?
Behold the Man
After Jesus is brutally scourged, Pilate, hoping that the assembled mob will be placated by the sight of the chastised Jesus, places him on display and declares “Ecce Homo.” “Behold the Man.” The scourging has rendered Jesus into a blood-covered mess. There would be blood dripping from dozens, perhaps even hundreds of wounds, and flaps of skin would be hanging from his lacerated and bruised body.
Man without a Face
Jesus would have been a horrid sight to behold. As Isaiah prophesied, “so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless.” Indeed, Pilate was banking on Jesus’ appearance; he was hoping that beholding the sight of Jesus would move the mob to pity and get sufficient reasons to release him.
But the sight of Jesus does not bring out the compassion of the crowd, but incites them to call for Jesus’ blood. The sight of blood and suffering does not satisfy them. It startles them to demand more blood and more suffering. Seeing Jesus, they cry “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate’s ploy of trying to play on the crowd’s sympathy backfires.
The Last Attempt Pilate’s last attempt to spare Jesus’ from the cross is an appeal to the crowd’s patriotism. Pilate knew all too well how the Jews despised the Romans and greatly desired their freedom. So he brings Jesus out, enthrones Him on the judge’s bench, and declares “Ecce Rex vester,” “Behold your King.” The crowd is given a choice, just like they had a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. They can embrace Jesus as their King, or they can embrace Caesar. And again, they cry “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!... We have no king but Caesar.”
Whenever Pilate says “Behold”, whether he knows it or not, whether he believes it or not, he is declaring a truth about Jesus. Moved by jealousy, hatred, and blood lust, the crowd denies the truths proclaimed by Pilate. They deny Jesus’ humanity showing no sympathy for an innocent man, yet they embrace Barabbas, being sympathetic to a murderous thug.
Embrace the Pagan
In denying Jesus’ Kingship, the crowds embrace a pagan ruler who declares himself to be not only a king, but insists that he is also divine. In rejecting Jesus, they reject the dignity of what it means to be human and made in God’s image, they reject one of their own, they reject their identity as the Chosen People, they reject the promise of a King of David’s line, and they reject God as their true Ruler. Jealousy, hatred, and blood lust lead to the crowd rejecting all that it means to be Jewish.
What is Truth?
It is ironic that the very man who asks “What is truth?” proclaims the truth every time he says “Behold.” Likewise, it is ironic that the very people who have been entrusted with God’s truths deny them in response to Pilate proclaiming “Behold.” But He Who is Truth also says “Behold.” From the cross, Jesus addresses His mother saying “Woman, behold, your son.” Then He addresses St John saying “Behold, your mother.” Here Jesus is not just stating truths, He is creating truths. The beloved disciple is not related to Mary at all according to the flesh, but Jesus creates a spiritual relationship between them.
Indeed, if we are among Jesus' beloved disciples, isn't Mary as much our mother as she is John's mother? And if we are spiritual sons and daughters of Mary, then Jesus is our Brother. It is as if Pilate's “Behold the Man” becomes “Behold our Brother.”
Members of God’s Family
Through Jesus, we enter into a new relationship with God, not just being His people, not just subjects of his Kingdom, not just being his friends, but becoming members of God's own family. Such is the power of Jesus saying “Behold” from the cross. And such is the power of Jesus' suffering and death.
The Final Word
Indeed, Jesus' suffering and death mark the end of all suffering and death. Because of Jesus' suffering and death, the sufferings we endure and the deaths we shall undergo no longer have the final word. Now, sufferings united to Jesus' cross bring glory and death brings forth life eternal for those who truly love Jesus. Jesus has the final word, and that word is Behold.
He will Wipe every Tear
As we read in the book of Revelation, “[Jesus] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’”.
So as we approach the cross tonight and give homage to the display of what Jesus has done for us, let us “Behold the Man”, let us “Behold our King”, let us behold the Truth, and let us behold his love, for his love makes all things new.
We need to behold with our eyes the miseries of this world; poverty, sickness, violence, natural calamities, war and other many ways that people of God suffer. They are crucified daily and shed their blood and tears for their loved ones. There is no turning away from the Cross in our daily lives, as Jesus told his disciples that those who would like to follow him must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. This is very true indeed; we are never free from crosses in our lives.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada