Pilate Light

In St. John’s account of the Passion, proclaimed every Good Friday, we hear the dramatic exchange between Our Lord and Pontius Pilate in which Jesus makes this remarkable statement: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn. 18:37).

Just one day–or four chapters–earlier, Jesus identified Himself as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). In fact, we will hear that Gospel again this coming Sunday. Perhaps with Pilate we might ask, “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38), or at least, “Lord, what do you mean?” 

All the books in the world can’t contain the full answer, but we can say that Christ came to show Himself as the Son of God, who came that we may partake of His divinity as adopted sons and daughters of God (cf. Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:4-7).

He is the King of the New Israel, the Church, which in His name and through the power of His Spirit is called to renew the face of the earth. This kingdom is fully in this world, but ultimately does not belong here (cf. Jn. 18:36), pointing instead to a new heaven and a new earth (cf. Rev. 21:1-4).

And Jesus is the eternal High Priest, whose once-for-all sacrifice, made present to us through the ministry of the apostles and their successors–bishops and priests–is the one source of salvation for the whole world (cf. Heb. 9:12).

This truth about Christ reveals to us the truth about ourselves. Human sinfulness and folly are part of the story, but not the whole truth. Rather, Christ shows us the liberating truth of our vocation as children of God and heirs of heaven, and even more, gives us the grace to live this truth.

That’s why the Eucharist is so important. As the “Sacrifice Sacrament,” it re-presents and makes effective in our lives Christ’s priestly sacrifice on Calvary.

As “Communion Sacrament,” it establishes us not only as subjects of Christ’s kingdom on earth, but strengthens the familial bonds of charity and solidarity we experience in the “communion” of saints and impels us to bring others into that communion through evangelization.

And as “Presence Sacrament,” the Eucharist is a tangible reminder that Christ has not rescued us from sin only to abandon us in the desert of our own devices. He is always Emmanuel, God with His beloved children.

For more biblical teaching on the Eucharist, I recommend Hahn and Flaherty, eds., Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass, available through Emmaus Road Publishing.

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