“Behold.” This word calls us to stop what we are doing and watch an event that is beyond words.
In September, the world witnessed the burial of Queen Elizabeth II. In this weeklong pageant of sorrow and gratitude, the world witnessed processions, songs, prayers and speeches. On the streets of London, citizens and tourists craned their necks and lifted their cell phones to catch a glimpse of the funeral of a monarch who reigned for 70 years.
Behold. We behold a glorious sunset. Orange and red fade to purple and blue; it takes our breath away. We marvel at the birth of a child—causing us to stop, to be silent, to thank God for the miracle of life.
“Behold your King!” Pilate proclaims to the crowds. He points to Jesus, beaten and scourged. Pilate is the unlikeliest prophet in the New Testament. His words are true.
“Behold!” This is the true King of the human race. Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father, born of Mary. But, does Pilate believe his words? We certainly do. On the last Sunday of ordinary time, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. The Gospel passage at this Mass is jarring and unexpected: we see Jesus crucified.
“Behold.” The word from Pilate rings in our ears as we look upon the God of life, dying for us. This is our King. We stop, we watch, and in silence we adore him.
“I’m talking to the Body of Christ, the Church, as I behold the Body of Christ, the Eucharist. I’m holding Christ in my hands, lifting Jesus so that all may behold him.”
“Behold.” We hear this word at every Mass. The priest holds up the Eucharist and says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It is a moment of adoration, prayer, and silence. This moment is always powerful for me as a priest. I’m talking to the Body of Christ, the Church, as I behold the Body of Christ, the Eucharist. I’m holding Christ in my hands, lifting Jesus so that all may behold him. I pause for a moment, just for a moment, so that we all may worship him. Then I cry out with the people, “Lord, I am not worthy!” It’s true! And we continue, “but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
We look at the Eucharist and cry out to him, “Lord!” This is a conversation. We’re not just looking; we are speaking and listening. Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. We behold him as he beholds us. He shares His Body and Blood with us at every Mass.
This moment is spiritually demanding. Our eyes tell us that we are only looking at a simple piece of unleavened bread. Yet through the Church, the Holy Spirit tells us that there is something far more powerful here—Someone powerful is here. Pilate and the soldiers see in Jesus only a wounded criminal; accordingly, they go about their grim duties. How wrong they are!
This is the Eternal King, who comes among us as a humble carpenter. The judge of all is judged and condemned. God is so humble! He becomes the Bread of Life; bread and wine are transformed into his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity at every Mass as he offers himself in the Eucharist. For Pilate, Christ’s humility was an indication that he was not God. For us, his humility shows the depth of his divine love for us.
Soon we will begin the season of Advent. We celebrate the mystery of God becoming man for us, taking flesh in the womb of our Mother Mary. Here, too, God was often overlooked, ignored, and rejected. The innkeeper offered no room to the Christ Child. Herod tried to kill this newborn king, seeing him as a rival and enemy. But Mary welcomed him with an open heart. Joseph accepted him as his adopted Son. The shepherds honored him. The three kings adored him. Children and beggars rejoiced at his coming.
Behold our King. With Mother Mary, we look upon him with love. We see Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. We behold him and adore him.
Fr. Joe Laramie, SJ is the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer (the Pope’s Prayer Network). He is also a National Eucharistic Preacher for the Eucharistic Revival and the author of the new book, Love Him Ever More: a 9-Day Personal Retreat with the Sacred Heart of Jesus [Ave Maria Press, 2022].