All over the country, the airwaves are inundated with ads, sound bites, and newscasts. Whether it’s on the television, over the phone, on radio, or through loudspeakers at a gathering, we are asked to make a choice.
It’s that time again, when we prepare ourselves to make choices that will affect our daily lives, by ascertaining the relevant information we need to make these “informed” decisions. That’s right: its Lent! (Did you think I was going to say the elections?)
Lent is that time each year when we prepare ourselves for Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; through prayer, Penance, self-denial, and good deeds to help us renew our faith by recalling our baptism and repenting our sins, not only to better live our lives as Christians, but to give us the strength and understanding we need to face the decisions of our daily lives.
At the end of Lent and into the Triduum, we recall the Passion of our Lord. There is one specific event in the Passion that I feel we need to place ourselves at after spending the days of Lent preparing. Place yourself in Pontius Pilate’s courtyard some two-thousand years ago. Two men stand before you: Jesus the Nazarene and Jesus Barabbas (yes that was his full name, shortened to Barabbas in the Gospels). You stand there as part of the crowd, now the jury for Pilate, to decide the fate of these two men. This crowd, made up mainly, if not all, of members of the Jewish community readying themselves for the Passover, who not only feels enslaved from being under the tyranny of roman rule, but isolated for they fear that God has abandoned them. All they want is to be free; free from oppression and to once again feel God’s love, like their ancestors felt crossing the Jordon into the Promised Land. It’s your decision: Who lives? It is this moment that I wish to focus on, albeit brief as it will be, because this discussion can go on for pages.
Who do you chose? On one hand is Jesus, son of a carpenter from Nazareth, who just days before was being praised by the masses as he entered through the gates of Jerusalem. His fame has been spreading down from Galilee, through Samaria, and into Judea to the Holy City. His message is based on faith, hope, and love. He says we must look in ourselves, in our hearts, to repent and believe for the Scriptures are being fulfilled, God’s Kingdom is at hand. He speaks as one with authority, more so than the scribes and teachers, but the Sanhedrin are weary of him and want him crucified. Is he the promised one, the Savior, or is it all blasphemous?
On the other hand is Jesus Barabbas, who has been spending his days in prison by order of the Romans. He is seen as a revolutionary, trying to arouse the people to revolt against the Romans for our freedom. He has been charged with robbery and murder, sentenced by the Romans to death by crucifixion. He is notorious, known around here for being ruthless and selfish, yet passionate about his hatred for the Romans. Can he lead us over the Romans to freedom, or will he even try to and just fend for himself?
Let’s come forward two-thousand years to the present. We know the decision made and its outcome: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, was crucified, died and was buried, all according to God’s Will, to save us. Jesus Barabbas, whose last name means “son of the father”, was freed and did who knows what, but not long after, Jerusalem and the Temple were taken over and destroyed by the Romans in the first Jewish-Roman War. There is, however, one point from that scene two-thousand years ago; that I feel is the key to understanding what was happening at that moment: they took the easy way out.
How hard it must have been for the Sanhedrin and others in the crowd to except the fact that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Scripture; he was the Word made flesh.
Instead of searching deep in their hearts and their faith to understand and accept the Word of God, they found it easier to do what they needed to make their lives easier for the time being–so they chose to free Barabbas.
Every day we are faced with choices: some easy, some hard, and still some that we can’t even find the immediate answer for. Going back to the opening paragraphs, were you thinking I was talking about the elections? Indirectly, I was.
Who we vote for to represent us or how we vote on issues reflects our morals and faith, all having an effect, along with our other daily choices, on the outcome of our lives–not just yours, not just mine, but all of our lives as children of God!
Which Jesus will you choose?
Featured image: Stuart Miles/ freedigitalphotos.net