Take time to notice what is going on inside yourself
- Start today’s prayer by becoming physically still. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to stand up, sit comfortably, or lie down. Just take up a position in which you can be, for a few minutes, both reasonably relaxed and yet alert. Stay quietly there for a moment or two.
- Now take time to notice what is going on inside yourself, in your mind and heart. What thoughts do you notice passing through your mind? What feelings are you aware of? When you take time to become more still, as you are doing now, what do you find crowding in upon your consciousness?
- As you stay with these thoughts and feelings for a few moments, you’ll probably notice how they come and go, swirling around like ripples on a flowingriver. Some, perhaps, seem more important and long-lasting. Others are simply fleeting impressions, come and gone quickly. For a little while, just continue to watch the ebb and flow of these thoughts and feelings as they pass through you.
- From this perspective, be aware that you are watching the river of these thoughts and feelings – you yourself are not the river, but the watcher. As the one who watches, you can peacefully observe all that is going on, without the need to get immediately involved. So let the river of thoughts and feelings continue on their journey. Meanwhile, from your quiet position overlooking the stream, listen to the account of another nameless woman who features in Jesus’ Passion, the wife of Pontius Pilate.
Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’
We may still wonder what kind of woman Pilate’s wife was
- Charged by the Sanhedrin with blasphemy, Jesus is brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. His consent is needed if the death sentence is to be carried out. At first, Pilate is very reluctant to agree to the Sanhedrin’s demands. Matthew tells us that“he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him” and it is at this point that he receives a message from his wife: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” The message is important because it seems to heighten Pilate’s concern and increase his reservations about the guilt being attributed to Jesus. For a moment place yourself in Pilate’s position. How does that feel?
- Only Matthew mentions Pilate’s wife, and he simply devotes one line to her involvement in the Passion. How did Matthew know about her dream? Perhaps the servant or slave who brought the message may have told others and rumours circulated. We don’t know. According to the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church, her name was Claudia Procula and she later became a Christian martyr. We may still wonder, what kind of woman was Pilate’s wife?
- It must have taken a lot of courage for her to interrupt her husband’s work in order to send this urgent message. Her dream was very powerful, so powerful that she endured some type of suffering, yet she felt that she must speak up. What kind of dream was it that so impelled her to try to influence her husband’s decision?
Talk to God
Have you found yourself in a situation when you felt called to speak out in the face of injustice?
- Immersed in the Old Testament, Matthew would have understood the significance of dreams to his Jewish listeners. For Matthew and his listeners, Pilate’s wife would have been seen as God’s messenger. She is portrayed as a woman of determination, action, integrity and strength. She knew an injustice was being done. She was not asking for mercy. She believed Jesus to be innocent. She was trying to persuade Pilate at least to act justly regardless of the consequences. She was Jesus’ sole advocate. She had been inspired by God to command that innocence be respected, but the cries of the powerful triumphed, her voice was not strong enough to overcome the forces of evil represented by those who handed Jesus over to Pilate. Have you found yourself in a situation when you felt called to speak out in the face of injustice? Like Pilate’s wife, did you experience suffering? Did your words go unheeded? Or did you remain silent? Have you ever had a dream that you felt compelled to act on?
- Perhaps you could end this prayer session by remembering all those in positions of authority who are called to make difficult, and sometimes agonizing, decisions. Ask the Lord to give them wisdom as they try to reach just conclusions and pray that you too may have the courage to stand up for those unjustly accused.