Jesus Before Pilate: Five Observations of Fulton Sheen

Ecce Homo by Antonio Ciseri c. 1880

Possessing exceptional knowledge and wisdom, the Archbishop uncovers meanings in biblical texts that would be otherwise easy to miss.

1. After Jesus’ arrest and trial by the Sanhedrin, Friday morning He was taken to Pontius Pilate with a demand for his execution; Pilate responded,

“What charge do you bring against this man?” (John 18:29).

They simply responded that he was a “malefactor”; Pilate refused to hear the case. They then presented Pilate with three charges:

“We have discovered that this man is subverting the loyalty of our people, forbids the payment of tribute to Caesar, and calls himself Christ the King” (Luke 23:2).

Sheen reminds us that in the Sanhedrin he had been convicted of blasphemy. Knowing that Pilate would not judge a religious matter, they made up lies and Pilate knew it:

“If Christ had been the ringleader of sedition or if there had been any signs of insurrection connected with his name Pilate would have heard of it. So would have suspicious Herod; but never had the slightest complaint been brought against Him.”†

2. While Pilate is dismissive of the charges, he is concerned on behalf of the Emperor whether Jesus is truly claiming to be a king. He asks directly, “Art thou King of the Jews?” Jesus explains that his kingship is neither earthly nor political but spiritual. Pilate then asks, “Thou art a King, then?” Jesus responds:

“It is thy own lips that have called me a King. What I was born for, what I came into the world for, is to bear witness of the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth, listens to my voice” (John 18:37).

The Archbishop interpreted the words, “listens to my voice”, as reflecting personal commitment:

“He laid down the moral condition for discovering truth and affirmed that it was not only an intellectual quest; what one discovered depended in part on one’s moral behavior.”

“…Pilate evidently caught the idea that moral conduct had something to do with the discovery of truth…”

So Pilate responds with skepticism, “What is truth?” Sheen adds,

“Skepticism is not an intellectual position; it is a moral position in the sense that it is determined not so much by reason as by the way one acts and behaves.”

“…If therefore, the impulse toward truth was in Pilate, he would know that truth itself stood before him; if it was not in him, he would sentence Christ to death.”

“…[I]ndifference to right and wrong, eventually ends in hatred for what is right.”

3. Christ is nevertheless pronounced innocent by Pilate, “I can find no fault in Him” (John 18:38). The Archbishop makes a simple but significant observation:

“If there was no fault in Him, Pilate should have released Him”.

Pilate cared more about the chief priests than justice, so Jesus remained in custody.

4. When Pilate was called upon by the crowd to release a prisoner for Passover, Sheen notes that Pilate thought he had them cornered,

“Pilate was very clever; he sought to confuse the issue by choosing a prisoner [Barabas] who was guilty of exactly the same charge they brought against Christ, namely, sedition against Caesar.”

It’s astonishing that the chief priests were able to convince the crowd to liberate someone who was convicted of rebelling against Roman rule while condemning Jesus for the same crime; and then cry out to Pilate “We have no King but Caesar!” (John 19:15).

5. Then the chief priests accuse Pilate,

“Thou art no friend of Caesar if thou dost release Him, the man who pretends to be a king is Caesar’s rival” (John 19:12).

Archbishop Sheen explains that Pilate was ultimately worried about Emperor Tiberius, and a delegation of Jews traveling to Rome with complaints in hand.

“The terror of Tiberius seemed more real to Pilate than the denying of justice to Christ. But in the end, those who fear men rather than God lose that which they hoped men would preserve for them. Pilate was later deposed by the Roman Emperor on a complaint by the Jews — another instance of men being punished by the very instruments in which they confided.”

…rjt

†Quotations taken from Sheen, Fulton J., Life of Christ. New York: Doubleday, 2008.

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Was Jesus’ Temple Clearing on Behalf of Gentiles?

Court of the Gentiles

After His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday Jesus headed to the Temple, making a whip out of cords and driving out of the Temple area not just those selling doves and changing money, but sheep and oxen as well. People who’ve studied Temple practices in the first-century find this story curious since this type of commerce was acceptable and necessary. Continue reading “Was Jesus’ Temple Clearing on Behalf of Gentiles?”

Five Consequences of Excommunicating the Governor

Aside from the fact that a dramatic and public excommunication of Gov. Cuomo would be the right thing to do, it could have some very constructive consequences:

  1. It would be a big news story and possibly stimulate discussion and debate on the nature of the law that he signed and the inhumanity behind it. Cuomo gave in to radical feminists who hate babies and actually consider killing them a liberating event. The more this is exposed for what it is, the less sympathy people will have toward abortion rights in general.
  2. The Governor’s response could be offensive (attack the bishop and the Church) or defensive (remain silent and pretend it didn’t happen). He loses either way because he has publicly affirmed his Catholicism. He would probably be defiant, recently stating, “To the Catholic Church, I am sorry about the situation. I’m not sorry about my position. I’m sorry they have taken the position they’ve taken.”
  3. To many Catholics, it would impress a scarlet letter, “E”, on Cuomo. According to the polls, about half of all self-professed Catholics vote democrat. How many of them might be disinclined to vote for a candidate wearing that letter?
  4. It also might have an effect on current and future Catholic politicians to reconsider their stand on abortion.
  5. It might embolden those Church authorities with spines to follow suit and take the battle for the lives of today’s innocents to the streets.

Continue reading “Five Consequences of Excommunicating the Governor”

Lessons from Psalm 51 for the Summit

“…A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

Psalm 51 was the result of a sex crime. It should have been the theme of the summit of bishops in Rome. The abuse, it’s cover-up, and the pain it has caused cannot be undone. More transparency, apologizing to the victims and their families, offers of compensation, are all the right things to do, but won’t undo the damage.

Only a renewed spirit on the part of the clergy as a result of repentance, contrition, and humility will solve the abuse crisis:

“For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” (vss. 18-19).

It is interesting that David’s self-reflection on his transgressions, specifically adultery and murder, do not include a mention of either one. The gravity of killing someone’s husband so you can take his wife was less of a crime against Uriah and Bathsheba than a grievous disobedience of God’s law. God sent the prophet Nathan to David charging, Continue reading “Lessons from Psalm 51 for the Summit”

Five Reasons to Proclaim Christian Truths Fearlessly

 

Emperor Nero used Christians as torches

Author Saul Bellow once wrote that he would occasionally attend a dinner party and would be asked for his opinion on a politically sensitive issue. His standard answer was non-confrontational: “I support all good policies and oppose all the bad ones.”

While the arrogance and moral bankruptcy behind political correctness will eventually lead to its own destruction, the current emerging generation of social engineers are becoming a serious danger to those who publicly proclaim basic Christian truths. Jesus demands, however, that we speak the truth, and courageously.

Breaking down Matthew 10:24-31, Jesus gives five reasons to speak confidently and without fear in the face of opposition: Continue reading “Five Reasons to Proclaim Christian Truths Fearlessly”

From Yellow Vests to Grey Wolves: Insurrection in France

“Couper la tête du roi!”

“Cut off the king’s head” is a common chant heard by the weekly protesters in France, squarely aimed at President Macron.

The fascinating thing is that the Yellow Vests have no real leaders, or common ideology or politics. They’re middle and lower class people who are struggling to keep up with ever-increasing cost of living, including taxation, the highest in the developed world. They blame the elites in Paris and the other European capitals whose priorities are climate change, massive immigration, globalization, and abandoning France’s common culture and history. Continue reading “From Yellow Vests to Grey Wolves: Insurrection in France”

St Hildegard’s Revealing Vision of the Antichrist

The Antichrist grows up

In the same vision as the five beasts, recorded in Scivias, Book III, Vision 11, Chapters 25-42†, the Doctor of the Church shares what was revealed to her about the Antichrist and offers clues to Christians during the last days on how to identify him.

She starts with the mother of the Antichrist, who begins learning “the arts of the Devil” in her infancy. We are told that she grows up apart from her family, and in the care of “abominable people” living in the “vilest of waste places”. As she matures her parents do not recognize her, nor even the people who raised her. At some point, we are not told what specific age, she will be visited by the Devil in the guise of an angel. She will depart from her community and seclude herself under the guidance of this angel from hell (chap. 25).

At some point after this the devil/angel commands her to engage in intercourse with a succession of men at the same time, with all participants remaining anonymous. She is impregnated by one of the men but she will never know who it was. Hildegard tells us that at this point Satan “…will breath on the embryo. and possess it with all his power”. (At this point we are reminded by the Saint that this is all done with the permission of God). After the baby is born the mother will show the infant boy to the people around her, declaring to them that she does not know who the father is or how she got pregnant. At the same time, although she had been given to a life of debauchery, she begins to observe a chaste lifestyle. The reaction of people to this will be to give her and her baby respect and even consider her a holy woman (Chap. 25). Continue reading “St Hildegard’s Revealing Vision of the Antichrist”

“Do sane Christians of the 21st-century really think I wrote that God induces people to sin?!” …St Luke

In art, St. Luke is often accompanied by a winged ox

Following the French, the Italian bishop’s conference recently voted to adjust the wording of the Our Father for liturgical purposes, changing “Lead us not into temptation” to “Abandon us not into temptation”. They had agreed with Pope Francis who had stated that,

“A father does not lead into temptation, a father helps you to get up immediately. …It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation” (Link).

A key point in his public letter correcting Card. Sarah on the new protocol with respect to liturgical translations revealed the pope’s preferred methodology:

“Here we can add that, in light of the MP [Magnum Principium], the “fideliter” of §3 of the canon implies a triple fidelity: to the original text in primis; to the particular language into which it is translated and, lastly, to the comprehension of the text by the recipients” (link).

Continue reading ““Do sane Christians of the 21st-century really think I wrote that God induces people to sin?!” …St Luke”

The Children of the Kingdom and The Children of the Evil One

Once acknowledged as the long-awaited Messiah by His disciples, Jesus knew that the kingdom He would establish after His death and resurrection would not resemble the kingdom anticipated by the Jews of the first century — a restoration of the Davidic throne, expulsion of the Romans, and the establishment of a theocracy. Much of Christ’s instruction was devoted to reshaping these expectations, explaining to the disciples that the Kingdom of God was both a present reality as well as a distinct future event (the word kingdom appears 126 times in the gospels).

Jesus suggests that with His presence the Kingdom of God was already apparent. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the “Prince of Demons”, Jesus exposes this nonsense pointing out that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and then adds, Continue reading “The Children of the Kingdom and The Children of the Evil One”

The Progressive Loss of Eucharistic Faith in Today’s Church

Senator John Kerry

At one time, a bishop’s public denial of communion to a pro-choice politician could be costly. It has been suggested that Cardinal Raymond Burke’s public insistence that communion be withheld from Senator John Kerry might have cost him the 2004 presidential election. Pope Benedict later sent the USCCB a private letter supporting Burke’s position.

In April of 2008, however, during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States, what occurred at two papal Masses might have tipped the scale in the other direction: Continue reading “The Progressive Loss of Eucharistic Faith in Today’s Church”