There’s a moment in Jeff Cavin’s video series, Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible, that caught me off-guard and left me speechless. (Spoiler alert!)

When Jesus was standing before Pilate awaiting final judgement, Pilate made one last gesture to the people, as if to say, “Do you really want to go through with this?”

He had another prisoner brought out and, in the tradition of the time, offered to release one of the condemned men. “No, not him,” we said, “release him and crucify Jesus.”

Jeff Cavins draws our attention to the name of the man to be saved at Jesus’ expense – Barabbas. What does this man’s name mean?

Bar” means ‘son of’, and “Abba” means ‘father.’

Barabbas signifies you and me, and when the last moment came, we said to God the Father, don’t crucify us, crucify him.

Contemplating the Crucifixion: Who Nailed Jesus to the Cross?

Jeff’s insight reminded of a pilgrimage I was blessed to go on, traveling through Greece, Turkey, and on to Rome.

At one point I was particularly struck by the humility of St Peter who, when he was martyred, would not permit his executioners to crucify him in the same manner as Christ.

These thoughts gave way to contemplation of the crucifixion of Our Lord and, strangely, the person who nailed Jesus to the Cross; that is to say, the actual person, the one who physically drove the nails into his flesh.

A Nail Used in the Crucifixion

There is a basilica in Rome called Holy Cross in Jerusalem containing several relics of the Cross, which were brought back to Rome by St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine.

Since doing some pre-pilgrimage research, I knew that among the relics is one of the nails used in Our Lord’s crucifixion, I became consumed by the anticipation of venerating it for days in advance.

When we finally arrived, I made a beeline for the reliquary, my head filled with wondering about the identity of the person who nailed Jesus to the Cross.

As it came into view, I knew immediately who it was.

It was me.

My sins sent Jesus to the Cross. The Son of the Father spent himself on me.

At that moment, I was filled, not with guilt, which he had borne, but with awe and gratitude.

Who Nailed Jesus to the Cross, And What We Should Do About It

Well, Lent is upon us, with its anticipation of the Cross. I don’t know about you, but I often outsmart myself in regard to Lenten sacrifices.

I think, maybe I should just do what I can comfortably manage. There’s so much to do, after all – go to Mass, pray the Rosary, do what Our Lady of Fatima tells us, learn about the theology of the body, raise my kids to be Catholic, and so on.

To heck with comfortably manage! Go hard, I say.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving is what the Church directs us to. Magnanimously embracing each of these will bring untold graces, but I’d like to specify two graces in particular.

First, prayer, fasting and almsgiving provide clarity of vision. If your life is too cluttered, even with Catholic stuff, these will focus you on Christ and others, and off yourself.

Second, these are the weapons to fight sin and grow in holiness. We are, starting with the end in mind, called to be saints. Virtuous heroism is not a lofty ideal, but the Christian norm.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving will break our pride and restore us to true humility.

I’ve asked St. Peter to walk with me through this Lent; that he may teach me to repent my sins, as he did his own, and to be truly humble before Jesus who spent himself to the last drop.


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