When we behold Jesus, we see love

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The following message was shared by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Good Friday, April 10, 2020, during a livestreamed service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.

Ecce homo! Behold the man! Pontius Pilate spoke these famous words when he presented Jesus to the crowd after He was brutally scourged, crowned with thorns and clothed in a purple cloak“Behold the man!” On the surface, Pilate was basically saying: “Look how pathetic he isHow can you take him seriously as a king?” Pilate was ridiculing Jesus and he was trying to satisfy the crowds and actually get them to call for Jesus’ releaseHe was basically saying: “look how pitiful He isHe may be dressed like a king, but he’s no threat.” Of course, the chief priests and the guards were not convincedWhen they beheld Jesus standing there bloody and bruised, they had no compassionInstead of agreeing to Jesus’ release, they cried out: “Crucify Him!” They hated Jesus so much that they weren’t satisfied that he had been horribly torturedThey wanted the death penalty. 

Ecce homo! Behold the man! These words of Pontius Pilate have more than a surface meaningThese words have a deeper theological meaning than Pilate ever intendedBehold the man! Yes, Jesus, the Son of God, is true man! He is the Word made flesh who came and dwelt among usHe became a manGod assumed our human nature 

“Behold the man!” Pope Benedict XVI wrote that these words take on “a depth of meaning that reaches far beyond that moment in time.” He wrote: “In Jesus, it is man himself that is manifestedIn Him is displayed the suffering of all who are subjected to violence, all the downtroddenHis suffering mirrors the inhumanity of worldly power, which so ruthlessly crushes the powerlessIn Him is reflected what we call ‘sin’: this is what happens when man turns his back upon God and takes control over the world into his own hands.”  

Pope Benedict goes on to say: “There is another side to this, though: Jesus’ innermost dignity cannot be taken from HimThe hidden God remains present within HimEven the man subjected to violence and vilification remains the image of GodEver since Jesus submitted to violence, it has been the wounded, the victims of violence, who have been the image of the God who chose to suffer for usSo Jesus in the throes of His Passion is an image of hope: God is on the side of those who suffer.” 

On this Good Friday, I invite you to consider that the meaning of what happened on this day reaches far beyond the time in which it took placeWhat happened on this day 2,000 years ago sheds light on the entire history of the human raceWhen we behold the man Jesus bloodied and scourged, we grasp the most profound understanding of sin and human sufferingWhen we behold the man Jesus, we see loveWe see GodWe see God’s Son, who was like us in all things but sin yet became a victim for sin in order to save usWe behold our God, who entered into solidarity with us sinners, even unto death. We see the Son of Man, who gave His life as a ransom for us 

On this Good Friday, let us behold the face of JesusLet us contemplate that holy face, that human face that is also God’s faceIt is the face of the Man of Sorrows who took upon Himself the burden of our sins and the anguish of death 

My brothers and sisters, Christ’s face is reflected in that of every person who is humiliated and offended, sick and suffering, alone, abandoned and despisedWhen we behold the man, may we not cry out “Crucify him!” When we behold His holy face, may we say instead: “Lord, what do you want me to do for you?” And Jesus will answer us with these words: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  

At the last judgment, we will behold the Son of Man in His gloryI pray that we will hear Him say to us: “Come, you who are blessed by my FatherInherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the worldFor I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”