So one of my absolute favorite, make-the-hair-on-my-arms-stand-up dynamics is when God, in His perfect and unsearchable Providence, causes even His enemies to testify, unknowingly but unmistakably, to His Godhead and His infinite love. For me, these episodes are even more compelling and convincing than levitating saints (St. Philip Neri, my direct patron, for example).
This tidbit comes from Dr. Mazza’s Church History Course. This is something that I feel like I SHOULD have known, but when Dr. Mazza said it, I was so shocked and overjoyed that I think there is no way I could have forgotten something so cool.
Let’s go back to Pontius Pilate’s court. Pilate knows Our Lord is innocent and does NOT want to execute Him, but the Jews, led by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin have threatened Pilate – they have threatened his life, and almost no one today understands this. Pilate was terrified for his life and the life of his family, which Mel Gibson alluded to in “The Passion of The Christ” in the scene between Pilate and his wife, Claudia, in which Pilate expresses the pressure he is under from Rome. But even Gibson’s treatment doesn’t fully explain how deep Pilate’s fear was.
Did you know that there was a man named Lucius Aelius Sejanus, who was the head of the Praetorian Guard, and was essentially the number 2 to Tiberius Caesar? When Tiberius withdrew to the Isle of Capri in ARSH 26 (some of you may have been to Capri as tourists, apparently it is very beautiful), Sejanus was left to essentially administer the entire Roman Empire. Sejanus, not Tiberius Caesar, APPOINTED PONTIUS PILATE the governor of Judea. So Pilate was Sejanus’ boy, not Tiberius’. Sejanus was executed by Tiberius in AD 31 because pretty much everyone suspected Sejanus of plotting to take over. SO, when the Jews, led by the High Priest and Sanhedrin in Pilate’s Court yelled out to Pilate…
“If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar’s friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar.” — John 19: 12
…what they were doing was threatening Pilate’s life – they were threatening to have Pilate and his entire family “canceled” and “Arkancided” by denouncing him as not loyal to Tiberius, and rather loyal to the Sejanus faction. “Not Caesar’s friend,” but rather “Sejanus’ friend.” Which would have meant torture and execution for Pilate, and his family.
Isn’t. That. Interesting.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, non?
And just so we’re clear, as we heard in the Sixth Lesson of Tenebrae of Thursday night-Friday morning, St. Augustine says that Pilate, even under intense coercion of his own torture and death and that of his family is still guilty, but less so than the Jews. Yes, succumbing to coercion, even the most severe coercion, does not absolve guilt. WE MUST DO THE RIGHT, NO MATTER THE COST.
“By the very fact of doing what he did, Pilate became a sharer in their crime; but compared with them he was much less guilty.”
But Pilate was still guilty. Because “much less guilty” is still guilty. WE are called by Our Lord to “be perfect”, that is, to not succumb to coercion AT ALL. It’s not okay to fold in fear, find an easy way out, and wash your hands of the mess, being content with being merely “much less guilty.” Pontius Pilate is NOT a moral example to anyone. In fact, he is a dire warning against the temptation to succumbing to coercion.
NOW, for the amazing part.
Pilate, as we all know, NOT wanting to execute an innocent man, but desperate (and now we know exactly why) to appease the Jews led by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, tried to appeal to the annual “release one prisoner” Jewish tradition. And we all know the prisoner that was offered was Barabbas. And as we all know, the Jews, led by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin cried out: “Give us Barabbas!”
STOP. Do you know what the name BARABBAS means? I’m ashamed for not making this connection. Dr. Mazza laid this out for us:
“BAR” means “the son of” in Aramaic. As in Peter’s original name being “Simon Bar-Jonah” – Simon the son of Jonah. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!” Matthew 16: 17. The Apostle Bartholomew is “the son of Timothy”, Bar-Timaeus.
And we should know what the Aramaic word “Abba” means from Our Lord’s words in the throes of His Agony in the Garden: “And He saith: Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee: remove this chalice from Me; but not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” –Mark 14: 36
“Abba” means “father”.
So the criminal Barabbas’ name literally means “Son of the Father”.
So Our Blessed Lord, standing beside Pilate on the loggia of Pilate’s palace, looked down into the packed courtyard, upon Israel, the historical proxy for mankind, led by the High Priest of the Temple, and they shouted with murderous hatred and narcissistic rage:
GIVE US THE SON OF THE FATHER! LET HIS BLOOD BE UPON US AND UPON OUR CHILDREN!
And Our Lord, infinite power, infinite LOVE, infinite mercy, said…
Amen. So be it.
And so it was, and so it is. And so we ARE redeemed, and so we might be saved. God is so powerful that His Providence causes even His most intransigent enemies to unwittingly testify to His Godhead, and His Sacrificial Love.
(And we worry about the likes of Antipope Bergoglio and his Antichurch, or the New World Order, or the Deep State in Washington…?)
This moment is made manifest at EVERY Mass, because the Mass is the bending of space-time behind a supernatural veil such that the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Our Lord’s Passion is made literally present upon the altar. This moment in which the the entire Church cries out, “GIVE US THE SON OF THE FATHER! LET HIS BLOOD BE UPON US AND UPON OUR CHILDREN!” occurs at the elevation of the Chalice. Angels come and dip supernatural hyssop branches into the Precious Blood in the Chalice and sprinkle the world, and the Poor Souls in Purgatory, AND YOU, with Our Lord’s Blood, the Blood of the Lamb.
Now you know why I prefer to be in the front row at Mass. Maximum angelic sprinklage. I’m only about 30% kidding. At every elevation of the Chalice, I now say inaudibly, “Give us the Son of the Father. Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children!” I have said “Let His Blood…” for many years, after a conference in Denver in which the visions of St. Gaspar del Bufalo were shared. But now I complete the moment with, “GIVE US THE SON OF THE FATHER!”
And THIS, friends, is why we GO TO MASS. We go to Mass because Our Lord stood at the top of Pilate’s steps and fallen man (which is me) begged for Him and His Blood – not even knowing what they were actually saying or doing. But Our Lord knew, and knew what Love demanded, and what we all need and want: HIM. Our Lord knew why He created mankind, and the entire universe for man, in the first place. And Our Lord in His Providence even had the infinite Mercy to arrange for fallen man, mired in sin and consumed with hatred for Him, to testify to His Divinity and the Power and Glory of His Blood.
And Our Lord said, “Amen.” So be it.
If you aren’t teared up, you should be.
Here is Gibson’s version of the incident. This clip is good because there are no subtitles. Now that you know exactly what was going on, and EXACTLY what was being said and by whom, it is far more powerful without the subtitles. And consider – Our Lady, there present in the courtyard with St. John, certainly “got” what was being said, and St. John very probably understood too.
And now, so do you. (Thanks, Dr. Mazza.)
“GIVE US THE SON OF THE FATHER!”