In every Catholic church in the world on Good Friday, the account of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the Gospel of St. John will resound. Along with the other accounts of the Passion, it is a moving testimony to the final hours of Jesus before His crucifixion.
As all Catholics know who attend Holy Week services, the Gospel is unusual because it is a choral reading, with different readers taking the parts of Jesus, the Narrator, and the other figures in the Passion, while the congregation speaks the part of the crowd. In this way we are invited into the drama of the event. We are made to relive it. It is as though we were there ourselves.
Catholic liturgy accomplishes this. We are present to Our Lord Jesus as He prays in the Garden of Olives, walks the streets of Jerusalem, appears before Pilate, is scourged and beaten, carries His heavy cross, and finally speaks those momentous words, "It is finished." What has Jesus accomplished?
I am particularly struck by the irony of Pilate and what he says. With Jesus standing before him, Pilate asks the question, "What is truth?" Pilate asks this in the spirit of the Roman times. He asks it as a cynic would. In this aspect, our world is not much different from Pilate¹s.
The world today is filled with a great deal of cynicism. Many have lost faith in institutions. They have lost their equanimity. There is anger, but people do not know what to be angry about. There is dissatisfaction, but there are few answers. There is great distrust of human nature and motives. Pilate is indeed a very modern man. What does Jesus have to offer him? In asking the question, "What is truth?", Pilate has in fact missed the point. Truth stands before his eyes.
Truth needs no justification. As a matter of fact, truth simply is. Jesus taught this as well. When Jesus says that He is "the way, the truth, and the life", He is drawing attention to the fact that truth does not reside apart from Him. The Father has sent Him. As the Father is true, Jesus reveals the truth. "I did not come on my own," Jesus explains, "but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true" (John 7:28).
Jesus is willing to die, and in so doing gives testimony to the truth. He obediently embraces the Father¹s will for Him. His death on the cross demonstrates the truth of everything He taught.
It is one thing for a messenger to preach a message. It is quite another thing for the messenger to be willing to die for it. This is exactly what Jesus does. The cross testifies to the message and its truth. For this reason, St. Paul will write, "We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:23-24). The cross is the constant reminder of the truth of what Jesus did and said. As Jesus stood before Pilate, the cross must stand before the world to witness to the truth.
This truth of the cross must be preached and witnessed to in the lives of every Christian. Again as St. Paul expresses it, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14). To identify with Christ to this extent is, I think, the goal of every Christian.
The world simply needs to see witnesses to the Truth. It needs no more mediocrity. When the Pilates of the world ask, "What is truth?", they should find an heroic answer in the lives of faithful Christians who take their faith seriously and seek to follow God¹s commandments. To do so is to embrace the cross, but that embrace implies a victory.
I extend to you my best wishes and blessings for a joyful Easter. As we renew our baptismal promises at every Easter Mass, may we renew our commitment to the Truth. May the sufferings of Jesus be ours, so that His victory might also be ours.
Devotedly yours in our Risen Lord,
+Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles