The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. (Is 50:7)
“Death, comes for us all, even for kings he comes”. These are the words of St. Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s screenplay, A Man for All Seasons. More speaks these words as he is tried for high treason in July of 1535 for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy which for one thing bound its takers to recognize the king as overseer of the church in England.
Thomas More was once Lord Chancellor of England, highest law official in the realm, until he fell into social disgrace for refusing to agree to Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage. However, St. Thomas did not behave in a disgraced manner before his accusers and condemners. Instead, in the words of Bolt, he “clamored liked a champion” for Christ; for the Lord was his help and his shield. When St. Thomas More arrived at the chopping block, he forgave his executioner “right readily” and before his soul was detached from its head, More stated, “I am His Majesty’s good servant, but God’s first”. Thomas More was brought low, losing his title and office and his life, brought seemingly to a place of shame; yet he could not truly be put to shame for his imitation of Christ.
Christ predicted that his followers would stand before worldly authorities and face unjust condemnations (Lk 21:12). Jesus stood up first and faced this evil fate. He came to His Passion through His Father’s constant protection. Our Lord Jesus might have been killed well before His trial. He could have been taken by the mob (Lk 4:29) or by the religious authorities (Mt 12:14). Yet it was His destiny as judge of the world to be judged by the world for the sake of those who would believe in Him (Jn 3:16). Jesus did this to overcome the world (Jn 16:33) and Satan who had once mastered it (Jn 14:29). Jesus also did what He did to set us an example so that we too might, in flesh and in spirit, overcome the evil authorities of the world.
For this Passion and Palm Sunday, we place on our bulletin cover a work by the Milanese Renaissance painter Andrea Solario entitled Ecce Homo. Milan was uplifted in art in the 15th century through the long stays there of Leonardo da Vinci. Solario became one of his most avid followers.
“Ecce homo” are the Latin words “Behold the man!” spoken by Pontius Pilate to the crowd after he had Jesus scourged and the Roman soldiers handed Our Lord a reed scepter and placed a crown of thorns upon His head (Jn 19:5). Close examination of Solario’s painting reveals the thorns penetrating Our Lord’s forehead, blood dripping down just before they mingle with tears. Solario lifts the hands of Jesus into this Passion portrait so we can see the bindings about his wrist. Jesus barely touches the reed, refusing this sign of a weak kingdom easily snapped. Most striking in this visage are the dejection and the shame stressed by the tilted Sacred Head. Yet, Christ is not put to shame. His human nature has not an iota of shame for never having done anything shameful. It is our shame he bears. He brings our shame to the Holy Cross. By Thy Holy Cross, O Lord, Thou hast redeemed the world.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services