(See the readings for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, March 24)
The drama of the Lord’s passion is proclaimed and remembered in today’s liturgy. At the beginning of Mass we have the blessing of palms and the proclamation of the Gospel account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. During the Liturgy of the Word we hear the Lord’s passion proclaimed (this year it is the Lucan account). The festive and triumphant entry into Jerusalem quickly turns as the week progresses and Jesus is arrested, tried, sentenced and put to death.
As we remember these events we enter into the experience of Jesus’ passion. In our liturgical celebration we enter into the mystery of salvation. Earlier in the Gospel Jesus told his disciples, “everyone who wants to be my disciple must take up his cross daily and follow me.”
As we prepare for this liturgy we bring with us the continual dying and rising of Christ which we live day in and day out. We come from our various backgrounds and situations. We come with a variety of crosses. We come with a variety of joys. As we come to this liturgy with our own experiences we join them with the Lord’s and we find meaning in life and hope. We give thanks for the great love and mercy that we are continually experiencing in life.
The following are some items for reflection from the Passion according to St. Luke.
“Do this in memory of me,” Jesus instructs His disciples as He offers His final preparations for the passion. He continues to predict His passion and in the meal He shares with His apostles He transforms or rather fulfills the Passover celebration by associating it with His upcoming passion.
Through His passion, death and resurrection, He will redeem mankind from the power of sin and free them from the sting of death. The celebration of the Eucharist, established here, will be the memorial of the “new covenant” through which His disciples in all times and places will be able to experience His saving love and mercy.
“Simon, Simon … but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” Jesus speaking to Peter refers first to his fall but then to his turning back. In this “turning” is Peter’s repentance that Jesus foresees. His mercy is conveyed in His instruction “strengthen your brothers.”
Peter’s role in leading the apostles and disciples is confirmed even as Jesus predicts his denial. The mercy that Jesus offers heals sins and strengthens Peter for his mission.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” The gravity of the unfolding events weighs heavily on Jesus as the passion looms. Yet, fully aware of what He will endure, He submits Himself to the will and care of His heavenly Father. His faith and confidence in the Father’s love is unshaken. He finds solace and strength in His Father’s love.
“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” The heartbreaking scene of the betrayal is heightened by the use of an intimate sign of affection as the means of the betrayal.
“Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter … he went out and began to weep bitterly.” Jesus looks at Peter as the final denial is announced. Peter sees Jesus and is moved to repentance.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” The Mercy of God speaks as He is dying. The message of the cross is one of mercy.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus’ final words are ones of trust and reliance on His Father. He places His life in His Father’s hands as He hands over His spirit.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Morrisville.
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