(Readings of the Holy Mass – Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion)
“From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” There is a penitential practice that many people take up on Good Friday by “keeping silent” from noon until three in commemoration of Jesus’ hours on the cross.
The time reference comes from the passion account in The Gospel According to Matthew which is proclaimed today. I remember growing up that we were not allowed to turn on the television or any radio or music. It was a period of quiet.
This is a challenge today as the society we live in has moved away from an appreciation of silence, even respect for the “commemoration” or memory of the Lord’s passion has waned and Good Friday is just another day.
Despite the challenge the practice still offers us a tremendous way to pray for silence is necessary for listening.
Silence in response to the celebration of the Passion, whether today, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, or on Good Friday, is entirely appropriate, and in a certain sense, necessary. The proclamation of the Lord’s passion wells up in us tremendous sadness as we see the burdens of the Cross piled on Jesus, well before he takes up the wood.
Well aware of what is happening, He is alone in the midst of his disciples, friends and the crowds. His only intimate companion on this final journey will be His Father. He makes the preparations for His entry into the Holy City knowing where that path will lead. Jubilation turns to deceit. Popular acclaim to popular damnation. His final meal is a celebration of God’s faithfulness; and a prelude to His sacrifice, which will become man’s faithful response: “Take this all of you and eat of it; this is my body which will be given up for you.”
Jesus’ sees that His Passover will be initiated by betrayal. He will be abandoned by His friends and denied by His closest. The injustices of the world are then placed on His shoulders as the rule of this world tries and condemns the One who alone is Just. Somberly we have listed as he is mocked, denigrated, scorned, abused, beaten, scourged and tortured. Silently we kneel as he dies.
In silence we listen. In silence we can hear our heavenly Father say: this was for you, that you may know my love, that you may be healed, that you may have life. “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.”
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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