Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Paul or Pilate

We all remember, and not in good way, Pontius Pilate washing his hands of responsibility for the death of Jesus. It was his job to render the decision and no gesture of hand washing could change that truth.

On the other hand we have St. Paul, who shows us that there are times when it is appropriate to not take responsibility. In today's first reading St. Paul says to the people,

And so I solemnly declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.

St. Paul can rightly say he is not responsible because he has done what he can do. He has proclaimed the entire truth to them. What they do in response to that truth is personal responsibility of each individual.

All too often, particularly when dealing with family, we feel responsibility to help them, and by help them we mean fix them. We erroneously believe that being a good Christian means doing everything possible for our loved ones.

In fact, St. Paul reminds us today that we can advise others but ultimately each person has to be responsible for their own actions, for how they do or do not follow the way of the gospel. This also means that each person must accept the consequences of their choices.

We often want to keep others from all suffering. St. Paul proclaims the opposite. He knows that the very act of embracing the gospel is going to lead to suffering and, for some, death. Suffering is part of human life, and in a special way, the Christian life.

It is not always easy to discern when we are being Paul and when we are being Pontius Pilate. Prayer and often spiritual direction can assist us in the process, but ultimately we have to listen to the voice of our well-formed conscience.