Pattern: Every Sunday morning in Lent you will receive, as you are receiving here, a Meditation to activate your prayerful interest in the Gospel text chosen in the Catholic Lectionary. What is offered you each Sunday follows the pattern that you see below: Text, Points, Quotation, and Habit to Practice. A “point” for Prayer is a “location” in the biblical text to perceive more attentively, or a single thought to consider arising from that text. A “point” is meant to slow you down, to pique your interest in an effort of attention to the scripture which the Spirit desires for you to be “living and effective.”
Text: Mark 15:1-15, Pilate before Jesus
1As soon as morning came,b the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council [made their plans]. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” 3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” 5 Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. 6 Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.c 7 A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion. 8 The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed. 9 Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” 10 For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what [do you want] me to do with [the man you call] the king of the Jews?” 13 *They shouted again, “Crucify him.” 14 Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified. 
First Point: We learn important things in our experiences by attending closely to what is there – to that which has caught our attention, and when “caught,” towards which we direct it, giving all of our powers to exploring it.
“The catbrier is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
But sometimes what catches our attention is not what is there, but what is not there … and yet, we are convinced, should be. In our particular case, what we notice in Mark’s presentation of this remarkable scene is that Pontius Pilate never comes to a “verdict” about the case of Jesus of Nazareth who that day came to stand before him. Morna Hooker noticed this:
The so-called trial before Pilate is hardly properly so described. Although the members of the Sanhedrin bring accusations against Jesus (which he refuses to answer), sentence is never passed.
Something, then, is not there that is supposed to be there. Why is it not there? Hooker suggests that Mark wanted to make it clear that the “verdict” that mattered had already been spoken, by the Sanhedrin, a few hours earlier in the depth of night. Jesus was found guilty and condemned by them, by His own people and religion – “They all condemned Him as worthy of death” (Mark 14:64). Mark, tellingly, perceives envy as the motivating energy driving all of this (v 10). Pilate, as a result, became the “tool” of the Sanhedrin to get the murder done that they wanted. But historical evidence about the personality of Pontius Pilate would make it highly unlikely that he would let himself be such a tool of the Jews. His refusal to give a verdict about Jesus (in fact, his active resistance to being manipulated in this way), his offer of a way around such a verdict – Barabbas – and his keen insight that envy was driving the Sanhedrin’s commitment to get Jesus killed – all of this magnifies the significance of a verdict never given about Jesus by Pilate. But then consider this. Pilate did give his verdict, but it was not about Jesus, but about the Sanhedrin, about their envy (and their malicious intentions)? We are looking in the wrong direction in this particular Courtroom of the world, and the lack of Pilate’s verdict about Jesus tells us this.
Second Point: Then there is the near complete silence of Jesus that we notice from the moment of Jesus’ arrest on through to his burial and the end of the Gospel. We are perhaps surprised by this. Why? Because if we suddenly knew that our death was nigh, then would we not want (or need) to say exactly what was on our mind, because at such a point “there is nothing to lose”? Or, we imagine our deathbed, and our dearest friends gathered around it (if we were to be granted such a blessing). Lying there, we consider what “final words” we would need to say to those gathered around – our “last words”, a summation, an expression, finally, of something really worth saying. In short, does it not seem surprising that Jesus had so little to say, or that what He said was laconic at best? He remains silent. Why?
Mark 15: 4 Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” 5 Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
But what if we have made the mistake of construing the silence of Jesus as a refusal to speak … instead of considering that He might be choosing to listen for something, or to Someone, in a comprehensively focused way? We see Him move inward, and toward, the (Trinitarian) relationship that was the bedrock of His identity and His greatest source of strength. His silence, which He was loath to have disturbed or intruded upon by the banality of envy or the cowardice of power, reveals to us His profound habit of communion (“abiding”, as John loves to repeat in his Gospel) with His Father – “Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 17:21). He was seeking His Father – the most trustworthy “place” that He knew.
One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.
In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
– ah, the sheer grace! –
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.
On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.
This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
– him I knew so well –
there in a place where no one appeared.
Third Point: But what, then, is the effect of Jesus’ silence on the characters before whom He is compelled to stand throughout his “trial”? In other words, we have considered how the silence of Jesus may express the inexpressible, and probably for us incomprehensible, depth of love and communion happening between Him and His Father:
I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.
Yet, the effect of Jesus’ silence on everyone else was to expose the malignancies operative in their inner lives. What is meant by this? The effect of Jesus’ silence is identifiable in their reactions to Him. Jesus’ majestic silence, because they could not abide it or endure it, made them endeavor to make Him say something, or to react something. But as they so endeavored – condemning, mocking, scolding, hating, beating, wrecking, fearing – they were revealed, not Jesus. (Jesus’ hiddenness was complete!) Must we not consider that the whole language of “the trial” of Jesus is wrong, inasmuch as it misses completely what actually was happening, what the God-Man was actually doing? The effect of the silence of Jesus was that it transformed utterly “the trial” of Jesus of Nazareth into a trial of, and verdict given concerning, the whole world. It was not Jesus’ trial. It was about us who were made to stand before Him, the Holy One – “Ecce! homo.” O fearsome trial that is! We thought that we were looking at Him. In fact, He was looking at us.
… for there is no angle from which it cannot see you. You have to change your life. 
Quotation: 1 Kings 19 (NABRE)
11 cThen the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound [NRSV – “the sound of sheer silence”; KJV – “a still small voice”; REB – “a faint murmuring sound”].* 
Habit to practice during the Sixth Week of Lent
Read the Passion account found in Mark’s Gospel, chapters 14 and 15. And if you are able to read it aloud with one or two people, then do so – prayerfully and antiphonally, where one reads for a bit and then the other picks it up and reads from there, and so forth. But as you begin to read it, notice the “instructions” Mark himself gives (13:35-37) about how to read it –
35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’ ” 
 “A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the worship of the people of God. Lectionaries were known and used in the fourth century, where major churches arranged the Scripture readings according to a schedule which follows the calendar of the church’s year. This practice of assigning particular readings to each Sunday and festival has continued through the history of the Christian Church.”
 Hebrews 4:12 – “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (NABRE)
b Jn 18:28.
c Mt 27:15–26; Lk 23:17–25; Jn 18:39–40.
* Crucify him: see note on Mt 27:22.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mk 15:1–15.
 Such an interesting, and descriptively rich, expression: something “catches” our attention. The Oxford English Dictionary at the verb “to catch” (transitive verb form) appears early in English (c. 1225) where it has the meaning that is the basis of all of its later and related meanings: “To capture or lay hold of (that which tries or would try to escape, as a man or animal). This may be done by superior speed and force, by surprise, by any snare or engine of capture. (The proper word for this action, which is also its main sense, and lies at the base of most of the others.)” What I find interesting about the expression – “to catch our attention” – is that it suggests that there is a deliberate agency sent to “catch” our wandering or unfocused attention, “laying hold” of it as if capturing a wild boar in the wilderness and making it stay still. This both captures, on the one hand, something that the Zen traditions of the East observe about human consciousness that is never still – the so-called “monkey mind” – unless trained to become still as a habit, and, on the other hand, it is something about “things sent” (who sends?) to “capture” our attention, that we might be taught by them.
 Mary Oliver’s poem, “Yes! No!”. Oliver, Mary. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (p. 264). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. This poem is taken from a series of prose-poems that she wrote, playing with the idea of a “poem” (and its poetic form) and a “prose” text presented within the same “poem.”
 Consider the common mistake that because an author does not write X for us to find it in his or her text does not mean that the author does not think X, hold X, care about X. All it means that for a reason not immediately apparent to us the readers, the author did not write X for us to find. Often an author will not explicitly state X, because we are meant to reason to it ourselves, picking up on the clues and cues given us by what the author does write down for us to read.
 I operate from the long-tested conviction among scholars (not all of them, but most) that the Gospel of Mark is the first of its form. A “gospel” as a literary “form” was invented, it appears, by Mark, and “published” (i.e., made available) around the year 70 CE (the year the great Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, stone by stone, by the Romans).
 The Oxford English Dictionary concerning the noun “verdict” gives its etymology – “Etymology: < Anglo-Norman verdit (= Old French voirdit), < ver, veir true + dit, past participle of dire to say, speak. Hence medieval Latin verdictum (veredictum), to which the modern spelling and pronunciation are due.”
 Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel according to Saint Mark, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 1991), 366. I have always particularly esteemed this Commentary of the Gospel of Mark. It is sensible, learned, enough but not too much, and the author not lacking humility and spiritual availability.
 Morna Hooker writes: “Certainly the effect of his narrative is to suggest that the sentence was pronounced by the Sanhedrin, in 14:64, and that Pilate was simply the instrument through whom they were able to carry it out.”
 See J. R. Beck, “Envy,” ed. David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 403 – “Envy has several components. First, at least two persons are involved: the envier and the person being envied. The presence of envy can be completely unknown by those around the envier, since no verbal communication regarding the envy must occur in order for it to be present. Second, the envier must be aware of some feature or facet of another’s life that he or she regards as good and that the envier feels is missing in his or her own life. Envy can occur only when a person perceives himself or herself in a position inferior to another. Hence the issue of self-esteem is related to the problem of envy. Third, the envier experiences a sadness that the missing feature is not present in his or her own life. When envy is a major feature of one’s own personality, life becomes a constant, dreary calculation of how others are better, and the self is saddened because of it.
 Obviously, Pilate himself would have had no temptation to envy Jesus.
 Yet it remains puzzling that the Jews seemed at other places in the New Testament record to have little reticence about murdering their own (but always given warrant by the Mosaic Law and its interpretations), or the Romans who had subjugated them. Those in Nazareth sought to stone Jesus at the moment he first spoke of His mission to them in the synagogue. They sought to stone the woman caught in adultery. Saul, later called St. Paul, actively murdered Christians, asking no help from the Roman powers. Why, suddenly here, the Sanhedrin’s commitment to make sure the murder was done properly, letting the Romans do it for them? These riddles suggest to me that there is more going on here, that God Himself was up to something in bringing the divine Son before the “worldly powers”, causing the Sanhedrin to decide to seek Rome’s help. Typically, when “blasphemy” was concluded about someone of their own, they had no need to ask of the Romans permission to act.
 Silence is a word worth exploring. The Oxford English Dictionary at the noun “silence” at 1.a “The fact of abstaining or forbearing from speech or utterance (sometimes with reference to a particular matter); the state or condition resulting from this; muteness, reticence, taciturnity.” This first meaning references a person as the source of noise, or in this case, of “shaped noise” that we call speech or utterance. But then at 2.a “The state or condition when nothing is audible; absence of all sound or noise; complete quietness or stillness; noiselessness.” In this case, silence is something in itself, a positive state of noiselessness or of stillness that a person can “hear”. We recall Simon and Garfunkel’s song that made them famous (and album name) of 1964 – The Sounds of Silence (the album) and “The Sound [singular!] of Silence” (the song): “… Within the sound of silence…. And touched the sound of silence…. Disturb the sound of silence…. And echoed in the wells of silence…. And whispered in the sound of silence.” In that last phrase I hear an echo, or direct quotation, from 1 Kings 19 – about Elijah and something that was being taught to listen for, and in which to recognize God, on Mount Horeb. (See the Quotation section towards the end of this Meditation.)
 “Nigh” is a very old English adverb (i.e., an Anglo-Saxon word, also called an “Old English” word) meaning “near”. In this case, it means that “our death is near.” I find “nigh” somehow a more beautiful, evocative adverb than “near.” I don’t know why it strikes me this way.
 Think of the alarmingly uncensored speech of some elderly people. They blurt out the most unapologetically frank comments! Isn’t it likely that the reason they do this is that they know that they are nearing their dying time, and that they have finally gotten just plain tired of always having to “frame” their words, feeling pressure “not to offend” someone. And so they quit doing that. They say what comes to their mind to say … and let other people deal with it as they must or can … or won’t. By the way, we notice how in John’s Gospel, Jesus does have a great deal to say by way of “last words” – the so-called “Farewell Discourse” in John 13-17.
 The ancient Greek region of Laconia, more commonly referenced as Lacedaemonia, names the southeastern region of the Peloponnese peninsula, the “home field” of the Spartans (also called, “Lacedaemonians”). And so the adjective “laconic” refers to a characteristic way of communicating that the other Greeks associated with the way of the Spartans. The Oxford English Dictionary at “laconic” – “Following the Laconian manner, esp. in speech and writing; brief, concise, sententious. Of persons: Affecting a brief style of speech.”
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mk 15:4–5.
 And every biblical commentator that I have ever read concerning the silence of Jesus in the Passion accounts.
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the verb “to construe” – “To give the sense or meaning of; to expound, explain, interpret (language).”
 Surely this is how the Sanhedrin understood Jesus’ silence (as impudence?), as did Pontius Pilate (as fear?).
 The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the original meanings (c. 700 CE) of this adjective “loath” (also spelled “loth”) are “repulsive, unpleasant, hateful, or ugly.” But some centuries later (14th century), it was used to describe a person, in the way that I have used it above, as “averse to, disinclined to, reluctant to, or unwilling to” do something.
 Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, revised edition, 1991: pages 358-359 (Kindle Locations 9686-9701). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition. This text is from the opening four stanzas of the poem “The Dark Night”.
 I think that we very often make the mistake of assuming that the suffering that we think that we are inflicting on Jesus – “See, look how we are yelling at Him, beating Him, mocking Him, rejecting Him, etc.” – is the suffering that Jesus, the God-Man, is actually suffering! We think it is about the pain, the awful physical pain, and the psychological violence and humiliation – “that is why and what Jesus is suffering so much”! I am suggesting that this is mostly not the nature of the God-Man’s central suffering in the Passion. I am thinking that we have little comprehension what it meant for the God-Man to suffer Love’s suffering, because we allow ourselves to get so distracted by the personalities of the perpetrators, and by the physical and psychological violence they inflicted on the body and life and self of the God-Man. St. John of the Cross saw much more deeply into the truth of the God-Man’s suffering than anyone I have known.
 How often in the long tradition of the interpretation of the Passion of Jesus has the abandonment of Jesus by His Father been assumed, argued, wondered about, and which has remained to today a source of genuine worry in those who think this way about the nature of the Father who would abandon His Beloved Son! What if it turns out that the most important “abandonment” has been overlooked, which is that of Jesus who in absolute Love – “love’s urgent longings” – abandoned Himself, completely, in a profound act of self-giving … and ecstasy? His complete letting go of Himself, falling into the hands of His Father, even as He let Himself be “handed over” into the hands of men, is the abandonment we ought to take more into account than we do.
 Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, revised edition, 1991: page 359 (Kindle Locations 9713-9717). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition. This text is from the eighth, and concluding, stanza of the poem “The Dark Night”.
 I recall something I heard a woman named Tori say today. “When a person feels shame, that is all that he or she is able to see.” What a perceptive observation this is!
 Obviously, to call these moments in the Passion account “the trial of Jesus” is not wrong in the sense of incorrect, because it is clear that the Sanhedrin, in particular, were convinced that they were “trying” this man Jesus, so that they could get on with His condemnation. But I am suggesting that it is wrong in the sense of completely insufficient as a description for what Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, is doing here (what the whole Trinity is doing here).
 Or, as I might, taking some liberties with the Latin, translated: “Behold! Here is a real human being.”
 Perhaps Pontius Pilate gave no verdict that morning concerning Jesus, because he knew that this innocent man was not He who was on trial that day – “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:38 NIV)
 See: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2010/nov/15/apollos-archaic-torso-sarah-stutt. Rainier Marie Rilke, his poem called “Apollo’s Archaic Torso,” translated by Sarah Stutt. In this poem, Rilke speaks to the experience we all have when going to a museum to see artwork therein. We think that we are there to “look at” it, and perhaps to come to our assessment as to whether we “like it” (or not). Rilke is at a museum that has this famous armless and legless marble statue from the Greek classical period – a statue of Apollo, but which over time got badly damaged – no arms, head, and legs lost at the knees. He imagines that he is there to “look at” it. But what happens is that suddenly he realizes that this sculpture, though profoundly “wounded”, has a greatness in it (from the hand of the sculptor), a greatest that is greater than he, Rilke, is. Suddenly he experiences the uncomfortable fact that the statue is looking at, and assessing, him!
c Ex 33:18–23; 34:5–6.
* Compare these divine manifestations to Elijah with those to Moses on the same mountain (Ex 19:16–19; 33:18–23; 34:5–6; Dt 4:10–15). Though various phenomena, such as wind, storms, earthquakes, fire, accompany the divine presence, they do not constitute the presence itself which, like the “silent sound,” is mysterious and ultimately ungraspable. Moses and Elijah, the two figures who experienced God’s theophany on this mountain, reappear with Jesus on another mountain at his transfiguration (Mt 17:1–9; Mk 9:2–9; Lk 9:28–36).
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), 1 Ki 19:11–12.
 Notice how each of these time designations give an overture to each discrete moment – sort of like “Stations” – Jesus’ arrest, His “trials”, His final “handing over” to be killed, and His crucifixion (he was affixed to the Cross at 9 AM, and there would remain for six hours before His death at 3 PM … as if He were recapitulating all six days of Creation.)
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mk 13:35–37.
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