First Station: Condemned
R/. Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” (Jn 18:33).
“My Kingdom is not of this world; if my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my Kingdom is not from the world” (Jn 18:36).
Pilate said to him:
- “So you are a king?”
- “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Pilate said in answer:
“What is truth?”.
At this point, the Roman Procurator saw no need for further questions. He went to the Jews and told them: “I find no crime in him” (cf. Jn 18:37-38).
The tragedy of Pilate is hidden in the question: What is truth?
This was no philosophical question about the nature of truth, but an existential question about his own relationship with truth. It was an attempt to escape from the voice of conscience, which was pressing him to acknowledge the truth and follow it. When someone refuses to be guided by truth he is ultimately ready even to condemn an innocent person to death.
The accusers sense this weakness in Pilate and so do not yield. They relentlessly call for death by crucifixion. Pilate’s attempts at half measures are of no avail. The cruel punishment of scourging inflicted upon the Accused is not enough. When the Procurator brings Jesus, scourged and crowned with thorns, before the crowd, he seems to be looking for words which he thinks might soften the intransigence of the mob.
Pointing to Jesus he says: Ecce homo! Behold the man!
But the answer comes back: “Crucify him, crucify him!”
Pilate then tries to buy time: “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him” (Jn 19:5-7).
He is increasingly convinced that the Accused is innocent, but this is not enough for him to decide in his favour.
The accusers use their final argument: “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar” (Jn 19:12).
This is clearly a threat. Recognizing the danger, Pilate finally gives in and pronounces the sentence. But not without the contemptuous gesture of washing his hands: “I am innocent of this ... blood; see to it yourselves!” (Mt 27:24).
Thus was Jesus, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world, condemned to death by crucifixion.
Over the centuries the denial of truth has spawned suffering and death.
It is the innocent who pay the price of human hypocrisy.
Half measures are never enough. Nor is it enough to wash one’s hands.
Responsibility for the blood of the just remains.
This is why Christ prayed so fervently for his disciples in every age:
Father, “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (Jn 17:17).
Lord Jesus Christ, you accepted an unjust judgment.
Grant to us and to all the men and women of our time
the grace to remain faithful to the truth.
Do not allow the weight of responsibility
for the sufferings of the innocent
fall upon us and upon those who come after us.
To you, O Jesus, just Judge,
be honour and glory for ever and ever.
--Pope John Paul II
Meditations for the Via Crucis
Good Friday 2000