On Good Friday, Pontius Pilate was not the only one who had a choice to make. The very same choice was brought both to the people of the world then, as well as to the people of the world now. We may be unaware of this choice, but that’s why the Church in her wisdom has us hear Pontius Pilate pose the very same question to us this weekend. He brings before us the one called Jesus of Nazareth, and the one known as Barabbas. The two seem like they couldn’t be more different, until we recognize that Bar-abbas literally means “son of the father”. Here then is our choice and question: Which son of the father will we follow? Will we choose to follow Jesus Christ, the son of the Father of sacrificial love, or will you follow Bar-abbas, the son of the father of the passions?
Surprisingly, we participate in the Palm Sunday liturgy by crying out, “Barabbas!” It’s a painful moment each year no matter how many times we’ve done it, because if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we all too often choose our own passions over our Lord. Like the crowds before Pilate, we too choose to act selfishly over being selfless. In a sense, whenever we choose sin, we once again choose Bar-abbas!
To admit this is hard. It’s very sobering. It first of all takes a certain about of self-awareness—and then, very quickly, a lot of humility. To be willing to look in the mirror and humbly submit our understanding of right vs. wrong to the God of all, rather than to what we’d like to think is right or wrong. When we put aside our attempts at justifying ourselves and our actions, the reality is clear: in our human brokenness, we don’t always do what is right! St. Paul describes this experience so well: “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Rom 7:15) What then do we do? Do we just surrender, give up, and resign ourselves to a life of sin? NO! “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Rom 8:15) In Christ we have forgiveness; in Christ we have hope. Just look at St. Peter! He himself who was hand-picked by Jesus to be the rock upon which the Church was built denied our Lord 3 times. The head of the apostles himself had at one point ‘chosen Barabbas’. Yet,
The Church is founded upon forgiveness. Peter himself is a personal embodiment of this truth! She is held together by forgiveness, and Peter is the perpetual living reminder of this reality: she is not a communion of the perfect but a communion of sinners who need and seek forgiveness. ~ Pope Benedict XVI
As we experience Palm Sunday, let us never be afraid to acknowledge our brokenness, seek forgiveness, and turn with confidence to our true Father through His one eternal Son!