At the Passion of the Lord, we see the true futility of humanistic hopes. Here is assembled representatives of the best humanity has to offer: Roman Law, Greek Philosophy, Jewish Faith, and they all utterly fail.
The Law that was the bedrock of the Roman Empire, and indeed of all human institutions, proves impotent. Pilate knows Jesus is innocent; he declares him innocent. Yet he has him crucified anyway. Why? Because “a riot was breaking out.” The Law only works when people obey it; in the face of mob violence, it becomes impotent. This is a fact that has been demonstrated time and time again, from Jerusalem and Alexandria to Ferguson and Berkley; however strong the law is, a mob of angry and ignorant people is always stronger.
There is no hope in the law.
Greek Philosophy breathed into Roman life and created the sophisticated society that now ruled the known world. It had begun as a search for truth…but now, with Truth staring him in the face, Pilate, the representative of that society, can only ask, “what is truth?” The very idea of discovering the truth simply doesn’t make sense to him, at least compared with the need to deal with the political situation facing him.
No hope in Philosophy.
Jewish religion was the most advanced and developed faith in the ancient world; the one true faith that worship the one true God. Yet here are its chief representatives utterly failing to abide by their own religion. Not only do they fail to recognize the Messiah, but they then proceed to prostitute their faith to political convenience with a sham trial and the shameful declaration “We have no king but Caesar.” Nor does pagan faith fair any better. Pilate is warned by his wife not to have anything to do with Jesus, for she’d had a dream portending great evil. But he dismisses this omen and proceeds on cold political calculation.
And right there is the common thread; the reason why humanism fails. Because anything that is not focused on God ultimately will be focused on the self, or on some extension of the self. Humanism will always boil down to mere politics, politics to the will of the mob, and the mob to unreasoning emotions. Humanism fails because humans are not what they would be. We aren’t as clever or as rational as we would like to think ourselves. As St. Paul says, “What I would do, I do not, and what I would not do, I do.”
That is the true horror of our situation, which Christ came to rescue us from; we are rational beings that cannot behave rationally. We see what we ought to be, but cannot be it. Even if certain individuals achieve a rough approximation, they remain outliers unable to do anything to save the larger community from itself.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the result of original sin.