If you attend the Celebration of the Lord's Passion this Good Friday, the proclamation of the Passion according to St. John may be presented in a "choral" form. This form has a Narrator (usually a deacon or another lector), Christ (a priest speaking the words of Jesus), the Crowd (the congregation), and a Voice (usually a lector). After proclaiming the other readings in the Liturgy of the Word, I will have the role of Voice today.
In preparing my part of the Passion Narrative, I discovered I will be the voice to three different people. They are, in order of appearance, Simon Peter, a temple guard, and Pontius Pilate. While Pilate will have the vast majority of the sentences, each person will have something to say to us.
We start with our first Pope. The night before, having boasted he would never deny Jesus and hearing the prophesy he would, he was challenged three times to profess his discipleship. Twice, we hear the exact same words from his mouth: "I am not." It is the same number of times Jesus said, "I AM" in the opening section.
It has never been easy to proclaim "Jesus Christ is Lord" in any age. In our time, it is just as difficult. "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust." How much fear was there in the Chief Apostle at this time? Seemingly much more than fidelity, as he wept after the third denial and the cockcrow.
How much fear is in us? To proclaim Him the center of our life, much less put Him there, takes all the courage the Holy Spirit can provide. We can always become perfected if only we take that stand.
Then there is the temple guard. While his words (and action) were not the most violent rejection of Jesus (that would come later), it does come to symbolize how much of a negative reaction some of the world has to the Word. To some, it is a threat which calls for a swift response.
But you cannot deter the Hound of Heaven. The Word dwells among and within us, a never ending echo. Do we have ears to hear, eyes to see, a heart which is open? Lent is to help us empty ourselves so to be filled with Him. How much success was there?
Now we come to Pilate. John has much dialogue between Christ and Pilate. But, there are three short statements made by Pilate which draw my attention.
"What is truth?" The question of our time. Relativity rules. Subjectivity is supreme. Any claims to absolutes are arbitrary. Yet, Pilate stared right in the face of Truth. Somewhere deep inside, he had to know the answer, else why would he repeatedly attempt to get off the hook?
"Behold, the man!" Helping to fulfill the words of Isaiah, Pilate presents the Suffering Servant. Somewhere deep inside, he had to know there much more to Him than meets the eye.
"Behold, your king!" Not as bold as Peter's confession, but Pilate realized what other would not. Somewhere deep inside, he recognized the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He saw the Savior. I think he wanted to believe.
Do we? Is our faith in Him growing? Conversion is an ongoing process. I think we can all honestly say, "I do believe, Lord; help my unbelief."
Today, the most somber day of the liturgical year, we reflect on these people as they reflect a little of what is in all of us.
"If we die with Him, we shall also rise with Him."