Reflecting on this passage, I thought, everytime we fail to see what is sacred and give reverence and respect to what is sacred, we are guilty of the very sinfulness that led the people of Jesus' time to crucify him. Everytime in our own lives we fail to recognize God in our midst, we crucify Christ. We crucify Christ in our blindness or apathy toward the suffering of the innocent. The cross is not about God substituting punishment of Jesus for punishment of us; it is our false judgment of God - a judgment not based on truth, but on our arrogance and underhanded conspiracy, our attempts to protect the status quo, to maintain our power and control -- in a word, what we call original sin. Pilate asks, "What is truth?" In the passion narrative, Pilate does not recognize truth when it is right in front of him. Peter denies the truth. Judas betrays the truth.
In a certain sense one could say that confronted with our human freedom, God decided to make himself "impotent." And one could say that God is paying for the great gift bestowed upon a being He created "in his image, after his likeness" (cf. Gn 1:26). Before this gift, He remains consistent, and places Himself before the judgment of man, before an illegitimate tribunal which asks Him provocative questions: "Then you are a king?" (cf. Jn 18:37); "Is it true that all which happens in the world, in the history of Israel, in the history of all nations, depends on you?"
We know Christ's response to this question before Pilate's tribunal: "For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth" (Jn 18:37). But then: "What is truth?" (Jn 18:38), and here ended the judicial proceeding, that tragic proceeding in which man accused God before the tribunal of his own history, and in which the sentence handed down did not conform to the truth. Pilate says: "I find no guilt in him" (Jn 18:38), and a second later he orders: "Take him yourselves and crucify him!" (Jn 19:6). In this way he washes his hands of the issue and returns the responsibility to the violent crowd.
Therefore, the condemnation of God by man is not based on truth, but on arrogance, on an underhanded conspiracy. Isn't this the truth about the history of humanity, the truth about our century? In our time the same condemnation has been repeated in many courts of totalitarian regimes (p. 65, italics in original).
God's reaction to our sinfulness is not wrathful punishment, but rather is to embrace it in a willing acceptance of the cross and to redeem it through an outpouring of love for us. God brings resurrection out of our crucifixions of God. In that is the forgiveness of our sins - that God looks at us, sees us for who we truly are (sees the truth) and all that we have done and failed to do, and loves us unconditionally. God enters into solidarity with us, into union with us, and draws us into the divine embrace of the Trinity. Through our baptism we are always, already forgiven all that we do, because by the Spirit we are united to Christ on the cross and our sinfullness is redeemed and transfigured in the resurrection. In our baptisms, we are plunged into the death and resurrection of Christ. At reconciliation we experience and celebrate that unconditional love and forgiveness that calls us to be and reminds us that we always can be more. At Eucharist we renew and rejoice in our unity with God and one another through receiving and being the Body of Christ; and in accepting the cup, we accept God's mercy and forgivenenss, renewing the covenant, surrendering to God, and joining our "Amen" to God to the Amen of Christ on the cross. As we renew our baptismal vows this Easter, may all of our sinfulness be transformed and transfigured by the love God has poured out for us on the cross.