Part 4 – God the Son – Week 3

Part 4 – God the Son – Week 3
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried (2)

Today’s text is a short but very beautiful one, and it concludes Ratzinger’s brief commentary on the meaning of Christ’s Passion for us as Christians. Recalling the Greek philosopher Plato’s famous ‘prophecy’ that the truly just man would suffer in this world – precisely because his very presence and goodness questions and silently ‘accuses’ our own injustice – Ratzinger describes the Cross as the revelation of both who we are and who God is. It is only by contemplating Jesus Crucified that we can begin to understand the truth about ourselves, that we catch a glimpse of the true ugliness, brokenness, and deformity that fills our lives as sinners, he says. And only in this way can we then also see the Cross as the highest revelation of God’s love, he then concludes: it is the image of the depths to which God is willing to go to rescue us, of the ‘inexhaustible abyss of divine love.’


“The Cross is revelation. It reveals, not any particular thing, but God and man. It reveals who God is and in what way man is. There is a curious presentiment of this situation in Greek philosophy: Plato’s image of the crucified “just man”. In the Republic the great philosopher asks what is likely be the position of a completely just man in this world. He comes to the conclusion that a man’s righteousness is only complete and guaranteed when he takes on the appearance of unrighteousness, for only then is it clear that he does not follow the opinion of men but pursues justice only for its own sake. So according to Plato the truly just man must be misunderstood and persecuted in this world; indeed, Plate goes so far as to write: “They will say that our just man will be scourged, racked, fettered, will have his eyes burned out, and at last, after all manner of suffering, will be crucified.” This passage, written four hundred years before Christ, is always bound to move a Christian deeply. Serious philosophical thinking here surmises that the completely just man in this world must be the crucified just man; something is sensed of that revelation of man which comes to pass on the Cross.

The fact that when the perfectly just man appeared he was crucified, delivered up by justice to death, tells us pitilessly who man is: Thou art such, man, that thou canst not bear the just man—that he who simply loves becomes a fool, a scourged criminal, an outcast. Thou art such because, unjust thyself, thou dost always need the injustice of the next man in order to feel excused and thus canst not tolerate the just man who seems to rob thee of this excuse. Such art thou. St. John summarized all this in the Ecce homo (“Look, this is [the] man!”) of Pilate, which means quite fundamentally: This is how it is with man; this is man. The truth of man is his complete lack of truth. The saying in the Psalms that every man is a liar (Ps 116 [115]:11) and lives in some way or other against the truth already reveals how it really is with man. The truth about man is that he is continually assailing truth; the just man crucified is thus a mirror held up to man in which he sees himself unadorned.

But the Cross does not reveal only man; it also reveals God. God is such that he identifies himself with man right down into his abyss and that he judges him by saving him. In the abyss of human failure is revealed the still more inexhaustible abyss of divine love. The Cross is thus truly the center of revelation, a revelation that does not reveal any previously unknown principles but reveals us to ourselves by revealing us before God and God in our midst.”


  1. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2004 [1968], 292-293.



Take this opportunity to do a deep examination of conscience before a crucifix. Look at the reality of sin in your life – without trying to justify it or hide it behind the appearance of false innocence. Ask the Lord with all humility for forgiveness and renew your complete trust in His love for you, thanking Him for the unmerited gifts He has always showered upon you. If you have not been for sacramental Confession in some time, ask yourself – in the light of today’s reading – if it is perhaps not time to ‘take advantage’ of this incredible and transforming offer of love, healing, and forgiveness, that Jesus offers us through His Church.



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