Friday, April 18, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena

Divine Mercy by James B. Janknegt (Austin, TX)
The Novena
Today marks the beginning of the Divine Mercy Novena. Many parishes organize praying of the novena after the Good Friday service. The Novena consists of a prayer for a particular group of people followed by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. For example, today we pray for all mankind, especially sinners in need of mercy. One easy way to gather all the resources you need, including praying the Divine Mercy Novena, is to download the free Divine Mercy App.  +Stacey Gonzalez and I have used the app in the past to lead us in the chaplet. Yes, it has an audio component!

By His Side
Tonight we heard in the Gospel that Jesus was pierced in His side and water and blood poured out. In that pouring of Himself we receive all of His grace and mercy. Lord, may we never be parted from your side!

Divine Mercy Resources
Below are some links to help you get started on the Novena and to explain a bit about the devotion of Divine Mercy and the wonderful promises associated with it. 

Stations of the Cross

St. Francis Catholic Church in Waco, TX
Tradition
It has been a long tradition for Catholics to gather together, normally at 3:00PM, to pray and reflect on the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Many practice this devotion on Fridays throughout the year. The Stations of the Cross originated in the 14th Century, but the images of the Stations could be found in many churches before this time. The devotion has its roots in the Way of the Cross or Via Dolorosa. Shortly after the death of Christ, people began making pilgrimages to Jerusalem and tracing Christ's path to His crucifixion.  Pious tradition holds that the Blessed Mother would daily visit the site of Christ's passion.

Reflections
One thing that is fairly well established is that there are a total of fourteen stations. While this may be generally the case, the way one prays or reflects on the Stations can vary greatly. There are a number of different reflections available to pray along with the stations. If you are not able to attend the Stations at Church, you can use one of these:


Virtual Stations and Apps
In the modern age we live in, there are other technological options to aid in praying the Stations. There a few very good iOS and Android apps (see list below). EWTN has its reflections available as an mP3 and Busted Halo has created a YouTube video of Stations. Here are some of those options:


Prayer
We adore you, O Christ and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Navarre Bible Commentary:
Good Friday

Crucifixion by Matthias Grünewald

John 18-19:42

Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

18 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, procuring a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he; so, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfil the word which he had spoken, “Of those whom thou gavest me I lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”

Jesus before the High Priest

12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him. 13 First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Ca′iaphas, who was high priest that year.[a] 14 It was Ca′iaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

Peter Denies Jesus

15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. As this disciple was known to the high priest, he entered the court of the high priest along with Jesus, 16 while Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the maid who kept the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The maid who kept the door said to Peter, “Are not you also one of this man’s disciples?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants[b] and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves; Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

The High Priest Questions Jesus

19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.”22 When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Ca′iaphas the high priest.

Peter Denies Jesus Again

25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, “Are not you also one of his disciples?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the servants[c] of the high priest, a kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed.

Jesus before Pilate

28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Ca′iaphas to the praetorium. It was early. They themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover.[d] 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”[e] 30 They answered him, “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”[f] 32 This was to fulfil the word which Jesus had spoken to show by what death he was to die.

33 Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” 37 Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Jesus Sentenced to Death

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, “I find no crime in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barab′bas!” Now Barab′bas was a robber.

19 Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. 2 And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; 3 they came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.4 Pilate went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.”[g] 8 When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; 9 he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”[h] But Jesus gave no answer.10 Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”

12 Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.” 13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gab′batha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol′gotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the scripture,
“They parted my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.[i]

28 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus’ Side Is Pierced

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; 33 but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.” 37 And again another scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced.”

The Burial of Jesus

38 After this Joseph of Arimathe′a, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicode′mus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight.40 They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid.42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Footnotes:

  1. 18.13 According to Jewish law the high-priesthood was for life. The Romans had deposed Annas, the legal holder, ina.d. 15, and appointed another in his place, but many Jews continued to recognize Annas.
  2. John 18:18 Or slaves
  3. John 18:26 Or slaves
  4. 18.28 They would have contracted a legal impurity by entering the house of a pagan.
  5. 18.29 See note on Lk 23.2.
  6. 18.31 Crucifixion was a Roman, not a Jewish, punishment.
  7. 19.7 At last, because of Pilate’s reluctance, they produce the real charge.
  8. 19.8-9 Pilate is afraid and asks Jesus where he comes from—not his country, but his mysterious origins, as implied in the charge.
  9. 19.27 took her to his own home: Joseph must now have been dead.

Cited in the Catechism:  In promulgating the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Blessed John Paul II explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum). Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism, in several paragraphs.
Commentary
Arrest of Jesus (18:1–12)
18:1. The previous chapter, dealing as it did with the glory of the Son of God (cf. Jn 17:1, 4, 10, 22, 24), is a magnificent prologue to our Lord’s passion and death, which St John presents as part of Christ’s glorification: he emphasizes that Jesus freely accepted his death (14:31) and freely allowed himself to be arrested (18:4, 11). The Gospel shows our Lord’s superiority over his judges (18:20–21) and accusers (19:8, 12); and his majestic serenity in the face of physical pain, which makes one more aware of the Redemption, the triumph of the cross, than of Jesus’ actual sufferings.

Chapters 18 and 19 cover the passion and death of our Lord—events so important and decisive that all the books of the New Testament deal with them, in some way or other. Thus, the Synoptic Gospels give us extensive accounts of what happened; in the Acts of the Apostles these events, together with the resurrection, form the core of the apostles’ preachings. St Paul explains the redemptive value of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and the catholic epistles speak of his salvific death, as does the book of Revelation, where the Victor, enthroned in heaven, is the sacrificed Lamb, Jesus Christ. It should also be noted that whenever these sacred writings mention our Lord’s death they go on to refer to his glorious resurrection.

St John’s Gospel locates these events in five places. The first (18:1–12) is Gethsemane, where Jesus is arrested; after this (18:13–27) he is taken to the house of Annas, where the religious trial begins and Peter denies Jesus before the high priest’s servants. The third scene is the praetorium (18:28–19:16), where Jesus is tried by the Roman procurator: St John gives an extensive account of his trial, highlighting the true character of Christ’s kingship and his rejection by the Jews, who call for his crucifixion. He then goes on (19:17–37) to describe the events which occur after the procurator’s unjust sentence; this scene centres on Calvary. St John then reports the burial of our Lord in the unused tomb near Calvary belonging to Joseph of Arimathea.

The climax of all these events is the glorification of Jesus, of which he himself has spoken (cf. Jn 17:1–5)—his resurrection and exaltation to his Father’s side.

Here is Fray Luis de Granada’s advice on how to meditate on the passion of our Lord: “There are five things we can reflect on when we think about the sacred passion. […] First, we can incline our hearts to sorrow and repentance for our sins; the passion of our Lord helps us do this because it is evident that everything he suffered he suffered on account of sins, so that if there were no sins in the world, there would have been no need for such painful reparation. Therefore, sins—yours and mine, like everyone else’s—were the executioners who bound him and lashed him and crowned him with thorns and put him on the cross. So you can see how right it is for you to feel the enormity and malice of your sins, for it was these which really caused so much suffering, not because these sins required the Son of God to suffer but because divine justice chose to ask for such great atonement.

“We have here excellent motives, not only to abhor sin but also to love virtues: we have the example of this Lord’s virtues, which so clearly shine out during his sacred passion: we can follow these virtues and learn to imitate them, especially his great humility, gentleness and silence, as well as the other virtues, for this is one of the best and most effective ways of meditating on the sacred passion—the way of imitation.

“At other times we should fix our attention on the great good the Lord does us here, reflecting on how much he loved us and how much he gave us and how much it cost him to do so. […] At other times it is good to focus our attention on knowledge of God, that is, to consider his great goodness, his mercy, his justice, his kindness, and particularly his ardent charity, which shines forth in the sacred passion as nowhere else. For just as it is a greater proof of love to suffer evils on behalf of one’s friend than to do good things for him, and God could do both […], it pleased his divine nature to assume a nature which could suffer evils, very great evils, so that man could be quite convinced of God’s love and thereby be moved to love him who so loved man.

“Finally, at other times one can reflect […] on the wisdom of God in choosing this manner of atoning for mankind: that is, making satisfaction for our sins, inflaming our charity, curing our pride, our greed and our love of comfort, and inclining our souls to the virtue of humanity […], abhorrence of sin and love for the Cross” (Life of Jesus Christ, 15).

18:1–2. “When Jesus had spoken these words”: this is a formula often used in the Fourth Gospel to indicate a new episode linked with what has just been recounted (cf. Jn 2:12; 3:22; 5:1; 6:1; 13:21; etc.).

The Kidron (etymologically “turbid”) was a brook which carried water only during rainy weather; it divided Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, on the slopes of which lay the garden of Gethsemane (cf. Mt 26:30; Lk 21:37; 22:39). The distance from the Cenacle, where the Last Supper took place, to the garden of Gethsemane was little more than a kilometre.

18:3. Because Judea was occupied by Romans, there was a garrison stationed at Jerusalem—a cohort (600 men) quartered in the Antonia tower, under the authority of a tribune. In the Greek what is translated here as “a band of soldiers” is “the cohort”, the name for the whole unit being used though only part is meant: it does not mean that 600 soldiers came out to arrest Jesus. Presumably the Jewish authorities, who had their own temple guard—referred to here as “officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees”— must have sought some assistance from the military. Judas’ part consisted in leading the way to where Jesus was and identifying the man to be arrested.

18:4–9. Only the Fourth Gospel reports this episode prior to Jesus’ arrest, recalling the words of the Psalm: “Then my enemies will be turned back in the day when I call” (Ps 56:9). Our Lord’s majesty is apparent: he surrenders himself freely and voluntarily. This does not, however, mean that the Jews involved are free from blame. St Augustine comments on this passage: “The persecutors, who came with the traitor to lay hold of Jesus, found him whom they sought and heard him say, ‘I am he’. Why did they not lay hold of him but fell back to the ground? Because that was what he wished, who could do whatever he wished. Had he not allowed himself to be taken by them, they would have been unable to effect their plan, but neither would he have done what he came to do. They in their rage sought him to put him to death; but he also sought us by dying for us. Therefore, after he displayed his power to those who had no power to hold him, they did lay hands on him and by means of them, all unwitting, he did what he wanted to do” (In Ioann. Evang., 112, 3).

It is also moving to see how Jesus takes care of his disciples, even though he himself is in danger. He had promised that none of his own should perish, except Judas Iscariot (cf. Jn 6:39; 17:12); although his promise referred to protecting them from eternal punishment, our Lord is also concerned about their immediate safety, for as yet they are not ready for martyrdom.

18:10–11. Once again we see Peter’s impetuosity and loyalty; he comes to our Lord’s defence, risking his own life, but he still does not understand God’s plan of salvation: he still cannot come to terms with the idea of Christ dying—just as he could not when Christ first foretold his passion (cf. Mt 16:21–22). Our Lord does not accept Peter’s violent defence: he refers back to what he said in his prayer in Gethsemane (cf. Mt 26:39), where he freely accepted his Father’s will, giving himself up to his captors in order to accomplish the Redemption.

We should show reverence to God’s will with the same docility and meekness as Jesus accepting his passion. “Stages: to be resigned to the will of God; to conform to the will of God; to want the will of God; to love the will of God” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 774).

Jesus before the chief priests. Peter’s denials (18:13–27)
18:13–18. Jesus is brought to the house of Annas, who, although he was no longer high priest, still exercised great religious and political influence (cf. the note on Lk 3:2). These two disciples, St Peter and the other disciple, probably John himself, are disconcerted; they do not know what to do, so they follow Jesus at a distance. Their attachment to him was not yet sufficiently supernatural; discouragement has displaced bravery and loyalty—and will soon lead to Peter’s triple denial. However noble his feelings, a Christian will be unable to live up to the demands of his faith unless his life has a basis of deep piety.

18:19–21. During his first interrogation—preliminary to his later examination by the Sanhedrin (Lk 22:66–71)—Jesus lays stress on the fact that he has always acted openly: everyone has had an opportunity to listen to him and to witness his miracles—so much so that at times he has been acclaimed as the Messiah (cf. Jn 12:12–19 and par.). The chief priests themselves have seen him in the temple and in the synagogues; but not wishing to see (cf. Jn 9:39–41), or believe (cf. Jn 10:37–38), they make out that his objectives are hidden and sinister.

18:22–23. Again, we see Jesus’ serenity; he is master of the situation, as he is throughout his passion. To the unjust accusation made by this servant, our Lord replies meekly, but he does defend his conduct and points to the injustice with which he is being treated. This is how we should behave if people mistreat us in any way. Well-argued defence of one’s rights is compatible with meekness and humility (cf. Acts 22:25).

18:25–27. Peter’s denials are treated in less detail here than in the Synoptic Gospels, but here, as there, we can see the apostles’ humility and sincerity, which lead them to tell about their own weaknesses. Peter’s repentance is not referred to here, but is implied by the mention of the cock crowing: the very brevity of St John’s account points to the fact that this episode is well known to the early Christians. After the Resurrection the full scope of Jesus’ forgiveness will be evidenced when he confirms Peter in his mission as leader of the apostles (cf. Jn 21:15–17). “In this adventure of love we should not be depressed by our falls, not even by serious falls, if we go to God in the sacrament of Penance contrite and resolved to improve. A Christian is not a neurotic collector of good behaviour reports. Jesus Christ our Lord was moved as much by Peter’s repentance after his fall as by John’s innocence and faithfulness. Jesus understands our weakness and draws us to himself on an inclined plane. He wants us to make an effort to climb a little each day” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 75).

The trial before Pilate: Jesus is King (18:28–40)
18:28. The Synoptics also report the trial before Pilate, but St John gives a longer and more detailed account: John 18:28–19:16 is the centre of the five parts of his account of the Passion (cf. the note on 18:1). He describes the events that take place in the praetorium, highlighting the majesty of Christ as the messianic King, and also his rejection by the Jews.

There are seven stages here, marked by Pilate’s entrances and exits. First (vv. 29–32) the Jews indict Jesus in a general way as an “evildoer”. Then follows the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus (vv. 36–37) which culminates in Christ stating that he is a King, after which Pilate tries to save our Lord (vv. 38–40) by asking the people if they want him to release “the King of the Jews”.

The centrepoint of the account (19:1–3) is the crowning with thorns, with the soldiers mockingly doing obeisance to Christ as “King of the Jews”. After this our Lord is led out wearing the crown of thorns and draped in the purple robe (vv. 4–7)—the shameful scene of the Ecce Homo. The Jews’ accusation now turns on Jesus’ making himself the Son of God. Once again, Pilate, in the praetorium again, speaks with Jesus (vv. 8–12) and tries to probe further into his divine origin. The Jews then concentrate their hatred in a directly political accusation: “Everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar” (Jn 19:12). Finally (vv. 13–16), in a very formal way, stating time and place, St John narrates how Pilate points to Jesus and says: “Here is your King!” And the leaders of the Jews openly reject him who was and is the genuine King spoken of by the prophets.

“Praetorium”: this was the Roman name for the official residence of the praetor or of other senior officials in the provinces of the Empire, such as the procurator or prefect in Palestine. Pilate’s usual residence was on the coast, in Caesarea, but he normally moved to Jerusalem for the major festival periods, bringing additional troops to be used in the event of civil disorder. In Jerusalem, at this time and later, the procurator resided in Herod’s palace (in the western part of the upper city) or else in the Antonia tower, a fortress backing onto the northeastern corner of the temple esplanade. It is not known for certain which of these two buildings was the praetorium mentioned in the Gospel; it was more likely the latter.

“So that they might not be defiled”: Jewish tradition at the time (Mishnah; Ohalot treatise 7, 1) laid down that anyone who entered a Gentile or pagan house incurred seven days’ legal defilement (cf. Acts 10:28); such defilement would have prevented them from celebrating the Passover. It is surprising that the chief priests had a scruple of this sort given their criminal inclinations against Jesus. Once more our Lord’s accusation of them is seen to be well founded: “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (Mt 23:24).

18:29–32. St John has omitted part of the interrogation which took place in the house of Caiaphas and which is reported in the Synoptics (Mt 26:57–66 and par.), which tell us that the meeting at Caiaphas’ terminated with Jesus being declared deserving of death for the blasphemy of proclaiming himself the Son of God (cf. Mt 26:65–66). Under the Law of Moses blasphemy was punishable by stoning (cf. Lev 24:16); but they do not proceed to stone him—which they certainly could have done, even though the Romans were in control: they were ready to stone the adulterous woman (cf. Jn 8:1–11) and a short time later they did stone St Stephen (cf. Jn 8:54–59)—because they wanted to bring the people along with them, and they knew that many of them regarded Jesus as Prophet and Messiah (cf. Mt 24:45–46; Mk 12:12; Lk 20:19). Not daring to stone him, they will shrewdly manage to turn a religious charge into a political question and have the authority of the Empire brought to bear on their side; they preferred to denounce Jesus to the procurator as a revolutionary who plotted against Caesar by declaring himself to be the Messiah and King of the Jews; by acting in this way they avoided risking the people’s wrath and ensured that Jesus would be condemned by the Roman authorities to death by crucifixion.

Our Lord had foretold a number of times that he would die in this way (cf. Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32–33); as St Peter later put it, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree’ ” (Gal 3:13; cf. Deut 21:23).

18:33–34. There is no onus on Pilate to interfere in religious questions, but because the accusation levelled against Jesus had to do with politics and public order, he begins his interrogation naturally by examining him on the main charge: “Are you the King of the Jews?”

By replying with another question, Jesus is not refusing to answer: he wishes to make quite clear, as he has always done, that his mission is a spiritual one. And really Pilate’s was not an easy question to answer, because, to a Gentile, a king of the Jews meant simply a subverter of the Empire; whereas, to a Jewish nationalist, the King-Messiah was a politico-religious liberator who would obtain their freedom from Rome. The true character of Christ’s messiahship completely transcends both these concepts—as Jesus explains to the procurator, although he realizes how enormously difficult it is for Pilate to understand what Christ’s kingship really involves.

18:35–36. After the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, Jesus refused to be proclaimed king because the people were thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom (cf. Jn 6:15). However, Jesus did enter Jerusalem in triumph, and he did accept acclamation as King-Messiah. Now, in the passion, he acknowledges before Pilate that he is truly a king, making it clear that his kingship is not an earthly one. Thus, “those who expected the Messiah to have visible temporal power were mistaken. ‘The kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17). Truth and justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. That is the kingdom of Christ: the divine activity which saves men and which will reach its culmination when history ends and the Lord comes from the heights of paradise finally to judge men” (St J. Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 180).

18:37. This is what his kingship really is: his kingdom is “the kingdom of Truth and Life, the kingdom of Holiness and Grace, the kingdom of Justice, Love and Peace” (Roman Missal, Preface of the Mass of Christ the King). Christ reigns over those who accept and practise the truth revealed by him—his Father’s love for the world (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 4:9). He became man to make this truth known and to enable men to accept it. And so, those who recognize Christ’s kingship and sovereignty accept his authority, and he thus reigns over them in an eternal and universal kingdom.

For its part, “the Church, looking to Christ who bears witness to the truth, must always and everywhere ask herself, and in a certain sense also the contemporary ‘world’, how to make good emerge from man, how to liberate the dynamism of the good that is in man, in order that it may be stronger than evil, than any moral, social or other evil” (John Paul II, General Audience, 21 February 1979).

“If we [Christians] are trying to have Christ as our king we must be consistent. We must start by giving him our heart. Not to do that and still talk about the kingdom of Christ would be completely hollow. There would be no real Christian substance in our behaviour. We would be making an outward show of a faith which simply did not exist. We would be misusing God’s name to human advantage. […] If we let Christ reign in our souls, we will not become authoritarian. Rather we will serve everyone. How I like that word: service! To serve my king, and through him, all those who have been redeemed by his blood. I really wish we Christians knew how to serve, for only by serving can we know and love Christ and make him known and loved” (St J. Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 181182).

By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows that the accusations laid against him were based on lies: it was he who was telling the truth, not his judges and accusers, and God confirms the truth of Jesus—the truth of his words, of his deeds, of his revelation—by the singular miracle of his resurrection. To men Christ’s kingship may seem paradoxical: he dies, yet he lives for ever; he is defeated and crucified, yet he is victorious. “When Jesus Christ himself appeared as a prisoner before Pilate’s tribunal and was interrogated by him … did he not answer: ‘For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth’? It was as if with these words […] he was once more confirming what he had said earlier: ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’. In the course of so many centuries, of so many generations, from the time of the Apostles on, is it not often Jesus Christ himself that has made an appearance at the side of people judged for the sake of the truth? And has he not gone to death with people condemned for the sake of truth? Does he ever cease to be the continuous spokesman and advocate for the person who lives ‘in spirit and truth’ (cf. Jn 4:23)? Just as he does not cease to be it before the Father, he is it also with regard to the history of man” (John Paul II, Redemptor hominis, 12).

18:38–40. The outcome of the interrogation is that Pilate becomes convinced of Jesus’ innocence (cf. Jn 19:4, 12). He probably realizes that the accusations made against Jesus were really an internal matter in which the Jews were trying to involve him; but the Jewish authorities are very irate. It is not easy for him to find a way out. He tries to do so by making concessions: first, he has recourse to a passover privilege, offering them the choice between a criminal and Jesus, but this does not work; so he looks for other ways to save him, and here also he fails. His cowardice and indecision cause him to yield to pressure and commit the injustice of condemning to death a man he knows to be innocent.

“The mystery of innocent suffering is one of the most obscure points on the entire horizon of human wisdom; and here it is affirmed in the most flagrant way. But before we uncover something of this problem, there already grows up in us an unrestrained affection for the innocent one who suffers, for Jesus, […] and for all innocent people—whether they be young or old—who are also suffering, and whose pain we cannot explain. The way of the cross leads us to meet the first person in a sorrowful procession of innocent people who suffer. And this first blameless and suffering person uncovers for us in the end the secret of his passion. It is a sacrifice” (Paul VI, Address on Good Friday, 12 April 1974).

The scourging at the pillar and the crowning with thorns (19:1–11)
19:1–3. Christ’s prophecy is fulfilled to the letter: the Son of man “will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise” (Lk 18:32f; cf. Mt 20:18f).

Scourging was one of the most severe punishments permitted under Roman law. The criminal was draped over a pillar or other form of support, his naked back exposed to the lash or flagellum.

Scourging was generally used as a preliminary to crucifixion to weaken the criminal and thereby hasten his death.

Crowning with thorns was not an official part of the punishment; it was an initiative of the soldiers themselves, a product of their cruelty and desire to mock Jesus. On the stone pavement in the Antonia tower some drawings have been found which must have been used in what was called the “king game”: dice were thrown to pick out a mock king among those condemned, who was subjected to taunting before being led off for crucifixion.

St John locates this episode at the centre of his narrative of the events in the praetorium. He thereby highlights the crowning with thorns as the point at which Christ’s kingship is at its most patent: the soldiers proclaim him as King of the Jews only in a sarcastic way (cf. Mk 15:15, 16–19), but the Evangelist gives us to understand that he is indeed the King.

19:5. Wearing the insignia of royalty, Christ, despite this tragic parody, still projects the majesty of the King of Kings. In Revelation 5:12 St John will say: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!”

“Imagine that divine face: swollen by blows, covered in spittle, torn by thorns, furrowed with blood, here fresh blood, there ugly dried blood. And, since the sacred Lamb had his hands tied, he could not use them to wipe away the blood running into his eyes, and so those two luminaries of heaven were eclipsed and almost blinded and made mere pieces of flesh. Finally, so disfigured was he that one could not make out who he was; he scarcely seemed human; he had become an altarpiece depicting suffering, painted by those cruel artists and their evil president, producing this pitiful figure to plead his case before his enemies” (Fray Luis de Granada, Life of Jesus Christ, 24).

19:6–7. When Pilate hears the Jews accuse Jesus of claiming to be the Son of God, he grows still more alarmed: his wife has already unnerved him by sending him a message, after a dream, not to have anything to do with this “righteous man”. But the shouting (v. 12) orchestrated by the Jewish authorities pressures him into agreeing to condemn Jesus.

Although technically Jesus is crucified for supposedly committing a political crime (cf. the note on Jn 18:29–32), in fact it is on clearly religious ground that he is sent to death.

19:8–11. Pilate is impressed by Jesus’ silence, by his not defending himself, and when the procurator says that he has power to release him or to condemn him, our Lord then says something quite unexpected—that all power on earth comes from God. This means that in the last analysis even if people talk about the sovereignty of the king or of the people, such authority is never absolute; it is only relative, being subject to the absolute sovereignty of God: hence no human law can be just, and therefore binding in conscience, if it does not accord with divine law.

“He who delivered me”—a reference to all those who have contrived our Lord’s death, that is, Judas, Caiaphas, the Jewish leaders, etc. (cf. 18:30–35). They are the ones who really sent Christ to the cross; but this does not exonerate Pontius Pilate from blame.

Pilate hands Jesus over (19:12–16)
19:13. “The Pavement”, in Greek lithostrotos, literally a “pavement”, a “flagged expanse”, therefore a yard or plaza paved with flags. The Hebrew word “Gabbatha” is not the equivalent of the Greek lithostrotos; it means a “height” or “eminence”. But both words refer to the same place; however, its precise location is uncertain due to doubts about where the praetorium was located: cf. the note on Jn 18:28.

Grammatically the Greek could be translated as follows: “Pilate … brought Jesus out and sat him down on the judgment seat”: in which case the Evangelist implies that Pilate was ridiculing the Jewish leaders by a mock enthronement of the “King of the Jews”. This would fit in with Pilate’s attitude towards the Jewish leaders from this point onwards (vv. 14–22) and with the purpose of the inspired writer, who would see in this the enthronement of Christ as King.

19:14. “The day of Preparation”, the Parasceve. The sixth hour began at midday. Around this time all leavened bread was removed from the houses and replaced by unleavened bread for the paschal meal (cf. Ex 12:15ff), and the lamb was officially sacrificed in the temple. St John notes that this was the time at which Jesus was condemned, thereby underlining the coincidence between the time of the death sentence and the time the lamb was sacrificed: Christ is the new Paschal Lamb; as St Paul says (1 Cor 5:7), “Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.”

There is some difficulty in reconciling what St John says about the sixth hour with the information given in Mark 15:25 about Jesus being crucified at the third hour. Various explanations are offered, the best being the Mark is referring to the end of the third hour and John to the beginning of the sixth hour: both would then be talking of around midday.

19:15. The history of the Jewish people helps us understand the tragic paradox of the attitude of the Jewish authorities at this point. The Jews were very conscious all along of being the people of God. For example, they proudly asserted that they had no Father but God (cf. Jn 8:4). In the Old Testament Yahweh is the true King of Israel (cf. Deut 33:5; Num 23:21; 1 Kings 22:19; Is 6:5); when they wanted to copy the neighbouring peoples and asked Samuel for a king (cf. 1 Sam 8:5, 20), Samuel resisted, because Israel had only one absolute sovereign, Yahweh (1 Sam 8:6–9). But eventually God gave in to their request and himself designated who should be king over his people. His first choice, Saul, was given a sacred anointing, as were David and his successors. This rite of anointing showed that the Israelite king was God’s vicar. When the kings failed to meet the people’s expectations, they increasingly yearned for the messianic king, the descendant or “Son” of David, the Anointed par excellence or Messiah, who would rule his people, liberate them from their enemies and lead them to rule the world (cf. 2 Sam 7:16; Ps 24:7; 44:4–5, etc.). For centuries they strove heroically for this ideal, rejecting foreign domination.

During Christ’s time they also opposed Rome and Herod, whom, not being a Jew, they regarded as an illegitimate king. However, at this point in the Passion, they hypocritically accept the Roman emperor as their true and only king. They also reject the “easy yoke” of Christ (cf. Mt 11:30) and bring the full weight of Rome down upon him.

“They themselves submitted to the punishment; therefore, the Lord handed them over. Thus, because they unanimously rejected God’s government, the Lord let them be brought down through their own condemnation: for, rejecting the domination of Christ, they brought upon themselves that of Caesar” (St John Chrysostom, Hom. on St John, 83).

A similar kind of tragedy occurs when people who have been baptized and therefore have become part of the new people of God, throw off the “easy yoke” of Christ’s sovereignty by their obstinacy in sin and submit to the terrible tyranny of the devil (cf. 2 Pet 2:21).

The crucifixion and death of Jesus (19:17–30)
19:17. “The place of a skull” or Calvary seems to have got its name from the fact that it was shaped like a skull or head.

St Paul points to the parallelism that exists between Adam’s disobedience and Christ’s obedience (cf. Rom 5:12). On the feast of the Triumph of the Cross the Church sings “where life was lost, there life has been restored”, to show how, just as the devil won victory by the tree of Paradise, so he was overpowered by Christ on the tree of the cross.

St John is the only Evangelist who clearly states that Jesus carried his own cross; the other three mention that Simon of Cyrene helped to carry it. See the notes on Mt 27:32 and Lk 23:26.

Christ’s decisiveness in accepting the cross is an example which we should follow in our daily life: “You yourself must decide of your own free will to take up the cross; otherwise, your tongue may say that you are imitating Christ, but your actions will belie your words. That way, you will never get to know the Master intimately, or love him truly. It is really important that we Christians convince ourselves of this. We are not walking with our Lord unless we are spontaneously depriving ourselves of many things that our whims, vanity, pleasure or self-interest clamour for” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Friends of God, 129).

As Simeon had prophesied, Jesus would be a “sign that is spoken against” (Lk 2:34)—a standard raised on high which leaves no room for indifference, demanding that every man decide for or against him and his cross: “he was going therefore to the place where he was to be crucified, bearing his own Cross. An extraordinary spectacle: to impiety, something to jeer at; to piety, a great mystery. […] Impiety looks on and laughs at a king bearing, instead of a sceptre, the wood of his punishment; piety looks on and sees the King bearing that cross for himself to be fixed on, a cross which would thereafter shine on the brows of kings; an object of contempt in the eyes of the impious, but something in which hereafter the hearts of the saints should glorify, as St Paul would later say, But God forbid that I should glory; save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (St Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 117, 3).

19:18. Knowing what crucifixion in ancient times entailed will help us understand better the extent of the humiliation and suffering Jesus bore for love of us. Crucifixion was a penalty reserved for slaves, and applied to the most serious crimes; it was the most horrific and painful form of death possible; it was also an exemplary public punishment and therefore was carried out in a public place, with the body of the criminal being left exposed for days afterwards. These words of Cicero show how infamous a punishment it was: “That a Roman citizen should be bound is an abuse; that he be lashed is a crime; that he be put to death is virtually parricide; what, then, shall I say, if he be hung on a cross? There is no word fit to describe a deed so horrible” (In Verrem, 2, 5, 66).

A person undergoing crucifixion died after a painful agony involving loss of blood, fever caused by his wounds, thirst, and asphyxiation, etc. Sometimes the executioners hastened death by breaking the person’s legs or piercing him with a lance, as in our Lord’s case. This helps us understand better what St Paul says to the Philippians about Christ’s humiliation on the cross: “[he] emptied himself, taking the form of a servant [or slave], being born in the likeness of men …; he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7–8).

St John says little about the other two people being crucified, perhaps because the Synoptic Gospels had already spoken about them (see the notes on Lk 23:39–43).

19:19–22. The “title” was the technical term then used in Roman law to indicate the grounds on which the person was being punished. It was usually written on a board prominently displayed, summarizing the official document which was forwarded to the legal archives in Rome. This explains why, when the chief priests ask Pilate to change the wording of the inscription, the procurator firmly refuses to do so: the sentence, once dictated, was irrevocable; that is what he means when he says, “What I have written I have written.” In the case of Christ, this title written in different languages proclaims his universal kingship, for it could be read by people from all over the world who had come to celebrate the Passover—thus confirming our Lord’s words: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world” (Jn 18:37).

In establishing the feast of Christ the King, Pope Pius XI explained: “He is said to reign ‘in the minds of men’, both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is Truth itself and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the holy will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free will as to incite us to the most noble endeavours. He is King of our hearts, too, by reason of his ‘charity which surpasseth all knowledge’, and his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him; for there never was, nor ever will be a man loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ” (Quas primas).

19:23–24. And so the prophecy of Psalm 22 is fulfilled which describes so accurately the sufferings of the Messiah: “They divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots” (v. 18). The Fathers have seen in this seamless tunic a symbol of the unity of the Church (cf. St Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 118, 4).

19:25. Whereas the Apostles, with the exception of St John, abandon Jesus in the hour of his humiliation, these pious women, who had followed him during his public life (cf. Lk 8:2–3) now stay with their Master as he dies on the cross (cf. the note on Mt 27:55–56).
Pope John Paul II explains that our Lady’s faithfulness was shown in four ways: first, in her generous desire to do all that God wanted of her (cf. Lk 1:34); second, in her total acceptance of God’s will (cf. Lk 1:46f); third, in the consistency between her life and the commitment of faith which she made; and, finally, in her withstanding this test. “And only a consistency that lasts throughout the whole of life can be called faithfulness. Mary’s ‘fiat’ in the Annunciation finds its fullness in the silent ‘fiat’ that she repeats at the foot of the Cross” (Homily in Mexico Cathedral, 26 January 1979).

The Church has always recognized the dignity of women and their important role in salvation history. It is enough to recall the veneration which from the earliest times the Christian people have had for the Mother of Christ, the Woman par excellence and the most sublime and most privileged creature ever to come from the hands of God. Addressing a special message to women, the Second Vatican Council said, among other things: “Women in trial, who stand upright at the foot of the cross like Mary, you who so often in history have given to men the strength to battle unto the very end and to give witness to the point of martyrdom, aid them now still once more to retain courage in their great undertakings, while at the same time maintaining patience and an esteem for humble beginnings” (Vatican II, Message to women, 8 December 1965).

19:26–27. “The spotless purity of John’s whole life makes him strong before the cross. The other apostles fly from Golgotha; he, with the Mother of Christ, remains. Don’t forget that purity strengthens and invigorates character” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 144).
Our Lord’s gesture in entrusting his Blessed Mother to the disciple’s care, has a dual meaning (see pp. 34ff). For one thing it expresses his filial love for the Virgin Mary. St Augustine sees it as a lesson Jesus gives us on how to keep the fourth commandment: “Here is a lesson in morals. He is doing what he tells us to do and, like a good Teacher, he instructs his own by example, that it is the duty of good children to take care of their parents; as though the wood on which his dying members were fixed were also the chair of the teaching Master” (St Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 119, 2).

Our Lord’s words also declare that Mary is our Mother: “The Blessed Virgin also advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim who was born of her. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to his disciple” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58).

All Christians, who are represented in the person of John, are children of Mary. By giving us his Mother to be our Mother, Christ demonstrates his love for his own to the end (cf. Jn 13:1). Our Lady’s acceptance of John as her son shows her motherly care for us: “the son of God, and your Son, from the Cross indicated a man to you, Mary, and said: ‘Behold, your son’ (Jn 19:26). And in that man he entrusted to you every person, he entrusted everyone to you. And you, who at the moment of the Annunciation, concentrated the whole programme of your life in those simple words: ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk 1:38): embrace everyone, draw close to everyone, seek everyone out with motherly care. Thus is accomplished what the last Council said about your presence in the mystery of Christ and the Church. In a wonderful way you are wherever men and women, his brother and sisters, are present, wherever the Church is present” (John Paul II, Homily in the Basilica of Guadalupe, 27 January 1979).

“John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, brought Mary into his home, into his life. Spiritual writers have seen these words of the Gospel as an invitation to all Christians to bring Mary into their lives. Mary certainly wants us to invoke her, to approach her confidently, to appeal to her as our mother, asking her to ‘show that you are our mother’ ” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 140).

John Paul II constantly treats our Lady as his Mother. In bidding farewell to the Virgin of Czestochowa he prayed in this way: “Our Lady of the Bright Mountain, Mother of the Church! Once more I consecrate myself to you ‘in your maternal slavery of love’. Totus tuus! I am all yours! I consecrate to you the whole Church—everywhere and to the ends of the earth! I consecrate to you humanity; I consecrate to you all men and women, my brothers and sisters. All peoples and all nations. I consecrate to you Europe and all the continents. I consecrate to you Rome and Poland, united, through your servant, by a fresh bond of love. Mother, accept us! Mother, do not abandon us! Mother, be our guide!” (Farewell Address at Jasna Gora Shrine, 6 June 1979).

19:28–29. This was foretold in the Old Testament: “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Ps 69:21). This does not mean that they gave Jesus vinegar to increase his suffering; it was customary to offer victims of crucifixion water mixed with vinegar to relieve their thirst. In addition to the natural dehydration Jesus was suffering, we can see in his thirst an expression of his burning desire to do his Father’s will and to save all souls: “On the cross he cried out Sitio!, ‘I thirst’. He thirsts for us, for our love, for our souls and for all the souls we ought to be bringing to him along the way of the Cross, which is the way to immortality and heavenly glory” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Friends of God, 202).

19:30. Jesus, nailed on the cross, dies to atone for all the sins and vileness of man. Despite his sufferings he dies serenely, majestically, bowing his head now that he has accomplished the mission entrusted to him. “Who can sleep when he wishes to, as Jesus died when he wished to? Who can lay aside his clothing when he wishes to, as he put off the flesh when he chose to?… What must we hope or fear to find his power when he comes in judgment, if it can be seen to be so great at the moment of his death!” (St Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 119, 6).

“Let us meditate on our Lord, wounded from head to foot out of love for us. Using a phrase which approaches the truth, although it does not express its full reality, we can repeat the words of an ancient writer: ‘The body of Christ is a portrait in pain’. At the first sight of Christ bruised and broken—just a lifeless body taken down from the cross and given to his Mother—at the sight of Jesus destroyed in this way, we might have thought he had failed utterly. Where are the crowds that once followed him, where is the kingdom he foretold? But this is victory, not defeat. We are nearer the resurrection than ever before; we are going to see the glory which he has won with his obedience” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 95).

Jesus’ side is pierced. The burial (19:31–42)
19:31–33. Jesus dies on the Preparation day of the Passover—the Parasceve—that is, the eve, when the paschal lambs were officially sacrificed in the temple. By stressing this, the Evangelist implies that Christ’s sacrifice took the place of the sacrifices of the Old Law and inaugurated the New Alliance in his blood (cf. Heb 9:12).

The Law of Moses required that the bodies should be taken down before nightfall (cf. Deut 21:22–23); this is why Pilate is asked to have their legs broken, to bring on death and allow them to be buried before it gets dark, particularly since the next day is the feast of the Passover.

19:34. The outflow of blood and water has a natural explanation. Probably the water was an accumulation of liquid in the lungs due to Jesus’ intense sufferings. As on other occasions, the historical events narrated in the Fourth Gospel are laden with meaning. St Augustine and Christian tradition see the sacraments and the Church itself flowing from Jesus’ open side: “Here was opened wide the door of life, from which the sacraments of the Church have flowed out, without which there is no entering in unto life which is true life. […] Here the second Adam with bowed head slept upon the cross, that thence a wife might be formed of him, flowing from his side while he slept. O death, by which the dead come back to life!! Is there anything purer than this blood, any wound more healing!” (St Augustine, In Ioann. Evang., 120, 2).

The Second Vatican Council, for its part, teaches: “The Church—that is, the kingdom of Christ—already present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world. The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 3).

“Jesus on the cross, with his heart overflowing with love for man, is such an eloquent commentary on the value of people and things that words only get in the way. People, their happiness and their life, are so important that the very Son of God gave himself to redeem and cleanse and raise them up” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 165).

19:35. St John’s Gospel presents itself as a truthful witness of the events of our Lord’s life and of their spiritual and doctrinal significance. From the words of John the Baptist at the outset of Jesus’ public ministry (1:19) to the final paragraph of the Gospel (21:24–25), everything forms part of a testimony to the sublime phenomenon of the Word of Life made Man. Here the evangelist explicitly states that he was an eyewitness (cf. also Jn 20:30–31; 1 Jn 1:1–3).

19:36. This quotation refers to the precept of the Law that no bone of the paschal lamb should be broken (cf. Ex 12:46): again John’s Gospel is telling us that Jesus is the true paschal Lamb who takes away the sins of the world (cf. Jn 1:29).

19:37. The account of the Passion concludes with a quotation from Zechariah (12:10) foretelling the salvation resulting from the mysterious suffering and death of a redeemer. The evangelist thereby evokes the salvation wrought by Christ, who, nailed to the cross, has fulfilled God’s promise of redemption (cf. Jn 12:32). Everyone who looks upon him with faith receives the effects of his passion. Thus, the good thief, looking at Christ on the cross, recognized his kingship, placed his trust in him and received the promise of heaven (cf. Lk 23:42–43).

In the liturgy of Good Friday the Church invites us to contemplate and adore the cross: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which was nailed the salvation of the world”, and from the earliest time of the Church the crucifix has been the sign reminding Christians of the supreme point of Christ’s love, when he died on the cross and freed us from eternal death.

“Your crucifix.—As a Christian, you should always carry your crucifix with you. And place it on your desk. And kiss it before going to bed and when you wake up: and when our poor body rebels against your soul, kiss it again” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 302).

19:38–39. Our Lord’s sacrifice produces its firstfruits: people who were previously afraid now boldly confess themselves disciples of Christ and attend to his dead body with exquisite refinement and generosity. The evangelist mentions that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus used a mixture of myrrh and aloes in lavish amount. Myrrh is a very expensive aromatic resin, and aloes a juice extracted from the leaves of certain plants. They were used as an expression of veneration for the dead.

19:40. The Fourth Gospel adds to the information on the burial given by the Synoptics. Sacred Scripture did not specify what form burial should take, with the result that the Jews followed the custom of the time. After piously taking our Lord’s body down from the cross, they probably washed it carefully (cf. Acts 9:37), perfumed it and wrapped it in a linen cloth, covering the head with a sudarium or napkin (cf. Jn 20:5–6). But because of the imminence of the sabbath rest, they were unable to anoint the body with balsam, which the women planned to do once the sabbath was past (cf. Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1). Jesus himself, when he praised Mary for anointing him at Bethany, had foretold in a veiled way that his body would not be embalmed (cf. the note on Jn 12:7–8).

19:41. Many of the Fathers have probed the mystic meaning of the garden—usually to point out that Christ, who was arrested in the Garden of Olives and buried in another garden, has redeemed us superabundantly from that first sin which was committed also in a garden, the Garden of Paradise. They comment that because Jesus was the only one to be buried in this new tomb there would be no doubt that it was he and not someone else that rose from the dead. St Augustine also observes that “just as in the womb of the Virgin Mary none was conceived before him, none after him, so in this tomb none before him, none after was buried” (In Ioann. Evang., 120, 5).

Among the truths of Christian doctrine to do with Christ’s death and burial are these: “one, that the body of Christ was in no degree corrupted in the sepulchre, according to the prediction of the Prophet, ‘Thou wilt not give thy holy one to see corruption’ (Ps 16:10; Acts 2:31); the other … that burial, passion and death apply to Christ Jesus not as God but as man, yet they are also attributed to God, since, as is clear, they are predicted with propriety of that Person who is at once perfect God and perfect man” (St Pius V, Catechism, 1, 5, 9).

Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome