The Awful Curse

The efforts of the Governor to save our Blessed Saviour proved unavailing, and he was finally forced to yield to the clamors of the mob, urged on by their Priests and the Ancients. "And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, taking water washed his hands before the people, saying: 'I am innocent of the Blood of this just Man, look you to it. And the whole people answering said: His Blood be upon us and upon our children!'"

Had Pilate from the start determined to handle the case submitted to him on the principles of justice and not upon those of expediency, the enemies of our Lord would not have won the day. Had he taken a firm attitude making it clear that nothing would have any weight with him but the truth, had he set aside a course of policy which was willing to sacrifice the life of an innocent man to motives of political expediency, and had he threatened the rabble with the sword as had often been done by Roman Governors before, the issue of the appeal to him would have been quite different from that narrated in the Gospel pages. Following a policy of compromise, with his thoughts fixed upon his status in Rome, and the fear of a tumult among the people, he was no match for the stubbornness of the mob, urged on by their unscrupulous leaders. At last he unwillingly yielded to their clamorings, and sitting down pretended to wipe from his soul by a useless ceremony the guilt of a judicial murder for which he was soon to be responsible.

No water could wash away that guilt. All the water in earth's great oceans could not purify the stained soul of Rome's representative. The crime about to be committed could be cleansed away only by the Blood for the shedding of which before the sun is half way down the slope of the sky Pilate must answer. This childish, unmeaning ceremony he performed in the sight of the whole multitude and under the eyes of our Blessed Saviour. Our Lord looked on quietly and silently. His eyes rested upon the Governor, then upon the Priests, and lastly upon the impatient, threatening mob. In those meek, dark eyes there was no anger, no reproachfulness, but a gentle look of unceasing, unaccusing love.

To Pilate's protest of innocence there came back a wild cry from the Jews. "The whole people answering said: 'His Blood be upon us, and upon our children!'" They had seen His garments stained with blood and like wild beasts thirsted for it. It was a universal cry, which born in the hearts of the mob lived on the lips of the "whole people," and echoed through the colonnades and precincts of the Temple on Mount Moriah. That cry not of Scribe, Ancient, Priest, Pharisee, Sanhedrin, but of the "whole people" struck the slopes of Olivet, re-echoed through the streets of the city and died away among the tombs and graves of the Hinnom valley to the south.

"His Blood be upon us!" was wild, thrilling, unanimous. It was like the cry of those who fled from the rising waters of the Flood and perished in the Deluge. It was like the shriek of terror and despair from the lips of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah when the fire from Heaven licked up the cities of the plain. It was like the wail of despair that goes up from the victims of a sinking ship at sea. Then silence fell upon the mob, a silence which brooded over them as the quiet which hung over Egypt at midnight before God's angel flew in the darkness over the land of the Nile, shedding the blood of the firstborn.

Through it all what anguish there was in the Heart of the uncomplaining Saviour! How could anguish so bitter and grief so deep be so beautiful! He was silent, for He would not sentence or condemn them. By that cry they had sentenced and condemned themselves. But a few days ago when He wept from the mountain-top over the ill-fated city He had thought of this hour of pain. His Heart went out to that mob with depths of infinite love.

Yet that awful cry caused an unutterable pain to the Sacred Heart. All sin pains and smites that sinless Heart. It is infinitely sensitive to the slightest stain or blemish, and this cry on Good Friday, "His Blood be upon us and upon our children!" was an immense sin, gigantic in its ingratitude, and it surged in relentlessly upon the sensitive soul of our Saviour with overwhelming force. The crashing of the wind and storm-swept ocean against unshaken cliffs is like the caress of a mother to a sleeping, sick child, compared to the force and overwhelming strength of the crashing of that sin of ingratitude upon the gentle spirit of our suffering Saviour.

Think of the vision which must have flashed before the mind of our Saviour. How He loved His people! He had led them out of Egypt and fed them for forty years in the desert. He had gone before them in a cloud of smoke by day and through the dark night in a pillar of fire. He had led them on and guided their footsteps. He had brought them into the Land of Promise, a land flowing with milk and honey. He had said to them: "Ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and ye men of Juda, judge between Me and My vineyard. What is there that I ought to do more to my vineyard that I have not done to it?" And now this people whom He had loved, whom He had watched as a mother watches her child, this people rejects Him, and calls down a curse upon themselves and upon their children.

In the past they had wandered in the wilderness, but He had led them on. Today they cast Him off. They will not have that Man reign over them, and in the future they will wander over the earth homeless and outcast, a people without a sanctuary. Down through the years He can see them solitary and lonesome, with the effect of this curse upon them. Wanderers from land to land and from century to century they bear it with them wherever they go, and its weight seems to press upon them and upon their children.

Did He also think of the unworthy Communions and the sacrilegious profanations of His Precious Blood when that Blood would become not a blessing, but a curse? He loved His Sacred Blood so tenderly. The very last drop of it would in a few hours trickle down His side from His Sacred Heart. Into ten thousand chalices it was to flow, but when it is received in sin in the hearts of men the pain in the Sacred Heart is ten thousand times keener and deeper than that which smote Him when the "whole people" cried out, "His Blood be upon us and upon our children!"

Did Mary in the quiet of the Cenacle hear that curse? If so, with what surprise! It was such an incredible wonder to her that these people did not love Him. How could they help loving Him! He was so beautiful and amiable. That dear Mother had many sorrows since the shadows fell last night over Jerusalem, but none which pierced and stabbed her soul so cruelly. Others more cruel and greater awaited her before the set of sun.

But that wild cry was also a source of joy to the Heart of our Blessed Saviour, who thirsted we know to lay down His life on Mount Calvary at the ninth hour. On that holy mount and at that hour He was to pay in full the price of our redemption and blot out the handwriting against us. This calling down of His Blood upon them removed the last obstacle that stood in the way of His Sacred Passion. It was the last attack upon Pilate's resistance and under it he broke and gave way. It showed the Governor that all further parley was useless, and so his opposition ceased and he prepared to give sentence. To our Lord thirsting to shed His Blood for us it was then a source of comfort that now He could run his course like a giant, and testify by His death His love for man. Just as a generous soul rejoices in the wealth and abundance he has to give away, so our Lord was glad that the last obstacle to the giving up of His life and the shedding of His Blood for our sakes had been set aside.

He was glad, because that curse was for all time to be changed into a blessing, a prayer ascending unto the throne of the Father. Henceforth two prayers would go up like fragrant incense from the heart of man to the Heart of God. One, the Lord's Prayer, He taught long ago with His own Divine lips on a hill in Galilee. It was near the Lake redolent with so many sacred memories that He spoke for the first time those sacred words, when the people thronged out from the lake-shores, towns and villages and asked Him to teach them to pray. In a voice sweeter than a mother s, humming her child to sleep, He said: "When you pray, thus shall you pray; Our Father who art in Heaven.';" and on that day He taught the prayer which has strengthened and consoled millions of hearts and which shall live on through the life of the Church till the end.

The second prayer is that hoarse, wild malediction, that awful cry which the "whole people" in their drunken frenzy of hate uttered that first Good Friday in the streets of the Sacred City. That curse has been changed into a blessing, that blasphemy to a worship and a prayer. On down through all the ages, at every hour, every day and every night, over the whole earth from countless human hearts that cry has gone out pleadingly to the throne of God. It is no longer a cry of hatred, no longer a savage yell for the spilling of human blood, but it is the eloquent plea of Christian faith, the expression of unshaken confidence in the power of the Precious Blood for the redemption of mankind. It is a humble petition that the Precious Blood may not have been shed in vain.

Long years ago when the Israelites were about to leave Egypt they were bidden by God to kill a lamb and mark their door-posts with its blood. In virtue of this marking of their doors with the blood of a lamb God promised to spare them. "I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and will kill every firstborn in the land of Egypt. . . . The blood shall be unto you for a sign in the houses where you shall be. And I shall see the blood and shall pass over you; and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you when I shall strike the land of Egypt." "And the children of the Israelites going forth did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, and it came to pass at midnight the Lord slew their firstborn in the land of Egypt from the first-born of Pharao who sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive woman that was in the prison, and all the firstborn of the cattle. And Pharao arose in the night and all his servants and all Egypt; and there arose a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house wherein there lay not one dead."

Such was the favor God granted to the blood of the Paschal lamb in the Old Dispensation; but that blood was only a type, a figure of the Blood of the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, and shed on Mount Calvary on Good Friday. If the shadow in Egypt had such efficacy what must be the power of the Son of God poured out in the New Dispensation, poured out on the cross, poured out daily in the chalice from the rising to the setting of the sun on more than ten thousand altars? Saint Paul tells us very emphatically of this power when he writes to the Hebrews: "For if the blood of goats and of oxen and the ashes of a heifer being sprinkled sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh, how much more shall the Blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost offered Himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?"

In the supper chamber on the last night of His life, when His Apostles were gathered around Him for the last time and His spirit was saddened by the betrayal of Judas and the dark vision of the morrow, "taking the chalice He gave thanks and gave to them saying: 'Drink ye all of this, for this is My Blood of ,the New Testament which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sin.'" Here our Blessed Saviour poured out the Precious Blood into the chalice before that wild cry clamoring for His death rang through Jerusalem's streets. Before that awful cry was uttered and before He hung for three hours bleeding His life away so great was His love, so ardent His longing to testify that love for us that He devised this miracle of His affection to forestall the clamors of His enemies and to anticipate His murderers designs. He bids us drink of that chalice for the remission of sins, bids us approach the Holy Table for our cleansing and our strengthening. He told us earlier in His life, on the shore of the Lake, that unless we drank His Blood we should not have life within our souls. This then is His dying wish and testament, His last request, a plea made to us as the shadows of death on Calvary are thickening over Him, that we should love Him and serve Him faithfully, and having parted company with sin and its allurements kneel down before His altar morning after morning and drink His Precious Blood.

- from The Mountains of Myrrh, by Father John O'Rourke