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Ecce homo

Thursday, April 18, 2019

You may have heard those words, “Ecce homo!” and you will probably hear them translated as, “Behold the Man!” We might hear these words in a grandiose manner, pronounced in great gravity and enunciation. Yet, “ecce homo” might also be translated, “Look! It’s THIS man!” and spoken with an air of frustration, desperation, and confusion.

Pontius Pilate has been seeking to release Jesus knowing that the Jewish Authorities have not the slightest shred of evidence against Him. There are a lot of Jesuses and Joshuas and similar sounding names out there. Perhaps the massing crowd baying for the release of Barabbas don’t know which Jesus this is. If they will surely know Him as the teacher, the moralist, even the wonder-worker! If he just shows Jesus to the crowd, perhaps this injustice will stop. “Look! It’s THIS man!”

Pilate is not the first to give an “ecce homo”. These words don’t have to be spoken. They can be communicated by a kiss. “Look! THAT’s the man!” The words are followed by a rattling of swords, an ear cut off and an ear restored. Jesus is led away to some more “ecce homo”s. “Look! THAT’s the man who would destroy the temple!” “Look! THAT’s the man who blasphemes” “Look! THAT’s the man!”

The phrase “Ecce homo” can be found in the eighth verse of the fifty-second psalm.

“ecce homo qui non posuit Deum adiutorem suum sed speravit in multitudine divitiarum suarum et praevaluit in vanitate sua”

“Lo, this is the man that took not God for his strength: but trusted unto the multitude of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.”

It is this verse the Devil – the accuser – might use of each one of us. We are the ones who have failed to trust God completely. In his malice, the Devil points out to God our sins as if God does not know what they already are. We stand accused as fingers point at us “Look! THAT’s the man!” “Look! THAT’s the woman!”

We need not stand alone in our accusation for we can choose to stand with Christ and thus have Him stand with us. In this simple phrase, “ecce homo” time and space are bent and warped in dimensions that physics cannot reach. If we, in the twenty-first century, can stand with Christ in His passion whereby our sinful selves are nailed with Him to the Cross, our presence must be bound up with His. This is not a figurative act. This is a real bending of the fabric of Reality.

As the Israelites had to make many sacrifices and send many scapegoats out into the desert, only one sacrifice of Christ can take place for us all. It happens once, and it happens for everyone, past present and future. Just as the Israelites must partake of the sacrifice for it to have any effect, so we must partake of the single sacrifice of Christ. It is St John the Baptist who first points out Our Lord with the words, “ecce agnus Dei!” – “Look! THAT’s the Lamb of God.”

Behold that Lamb of God! Behold Him that taketh away the sins of the World! The Mass that Our Lord instigates on this Maundy Thursday is precisely the single sacrifice that binds all Christians throughout Time to Eternity itself. “Look! THIS is my body!” “Look! THIS is my blood!” There are so many who cannot or will not accept the utter reality of Christ as present at the Mass as we are, if not more so. We are truly given His flesh. We are truly given His blood. We truly partake of that sacrifice of Maundy Thursday and the great sacrifice of Good Friday! We are there with Him and while many will point at the Crucified Lord and catcall, “Look! THAT’s the man!” we will look and say, “Yes! THAT’s Him who is destroying our sins!”

And then, they will look at us and say “Look! THAT’s the man” “Look! THAT’s the woman!” and we will know that we are truly with Him this day in paradise!

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