Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Msgr. Ronald Knox, on Pontius Pilate
from The Creed in Slow Motion .

"There are only two human beings-merely human beings--who are referred to by name, whether in the Apostles' Creed or in the Nicene Creed which is said at Mass. One is our Blessed Lady, and that is natural enough. She is the touch-stone of Christian truth. I bet you don't know what a touch-stone is, though it's a word you are always coming across in books; I didn't myself till I looked it up just now in the dictionary. If you want to test the amount of gold or silver there is in something made of alloyed metal, a wristwatch it may be, or a half-crown, you get hold of a particular kind of stone, which is dark black, and you scratch your piece of metal along it-probably it makes a very unpleasant squeak, but that can't be helped-and you can tell by the colour of the scratch it makes whether your piece of metal was pure gold, pure silver, or how much it was alloyed with other metals. And when I call our Lady the touch-stone of Christian truth, I mean this-that if you remember to call our Blessed Lady the Mother of God, you won't be likely to fall into any error about the doctrine of the Incarnation. And if you meet somebody whom you suspect of holding queer views about the Incarnation, the best thing is to say, 'Of course, you do admit that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the Mother of God, don't you?' And if they hum and haw about it, you know that their ideas of the Incarnation are not good, hundred percent Catholic doctrine; your touch-stone has found them out.

But when it comes to Pontius Pilate, poor Pilate wasn't the touch-stone of anything; certainly not of truth-he didn't even believe in truth. I call him poor Pilate, because that is the way he always strikes me in the Gospel story. I know you see pictures of him, in the Stations of the Cross, for example, which seem to represent him as a very wicked man; but I can never think of him except as a hopelessly weak man, a fuffler and a shuffler who never ought to have got his job as procurator at all. The trouble about him, I suppose, was that he was so anxious to please everybody. He wanted to please Caiphas, he wanted to please the Jewish mob, he wanted to please his wife, he wanted to please Herod, he wanted to please our Lord, he wanted to please St. Joseph of Arimathea; and, like most people who want to please everybody, he pleased nobody....."

The entire sermon may be found here


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