Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.” On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. Even Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” (Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder.) Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished. As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the Temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.
Introductory Prayer: Heavenly Father, I look to you with great confidence as I set out this week to walk the path to Calvary accompanying your Beloved Son on his way to redeeming us. I know this period is an opportunity to see my difficulties and trials as ways to conform my life better to that of your Son. Here I am Lord, ready and desiring to learn from you and imitate you.
Petition: Lord Jesus, let my thirst for happiness be quenched by your love.
- The Search for Happiness: Everyone is passionately fond of liberty, but there is one thing we crave even more, and without which existence and even liberty is painful: happiness. It is one of life’s greatest paradoxes that as much as people seek to be free, they still wish to be a slave; not a slave in the sense that their liberty is denied to them, but in the sense that they yearn for something they can worship, something that will solicit their will, pull at their heartstrings, tempt their energies and command their affections. They want to be free to choose between various kinds of happiness, but they do not want to be free from happiness; they wish to be its slave.
- Two Ways: There are two ways of responding to this hunger of the soul and this thirst of the heart: one is the way of the world, the other is the way of Christ. Before we indulge in the pleasures of the world, they seem desirable and appear to be all that we will need to make us happy. But after we have them, they become disappointing and sometimes even disgusting. The contrary is true of the pleasures of Christ. Before we have them, they are hard, unattractive, and even repulsive. But after we possess them, they are satisfying and become all our heart could ever desire.
- Jesus Christ Is the Answer: What the world deems success is really failure and unhappiness. What the world deems failure and defeat is really success and victory. This reality is played out in Our Lord’s Passion. Jesus is the happiness we seek and the answer to all our desires. His way is the way of the cross, and therefore, as his followers, we must follow the same path. Jesus assures us that the poor shall not always be poor; the crucified shall not be always on a cross; the poor shall be rich; the lowly shall be exalted; those who sow in tears shall reap in joy; those who mourn shall be comforted; and those who suffer with Christ shall reign with him. In the words of the poet Francis Thompson, Christ says to you, “All which I took from thee I did but take, not for thy harms, but just that thou might’st seek it in my arms. All which thy child’s mistake fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: Rise, clasp my hand, and come!”
Conversation with Christ: Jesus, come and be the king of my heart. During this week of your Passion I want to grow in my love and appreciation for you and all you do for me. Help me with your grace to be a faithful follower and give me the strength to take up my cross with love and generosity.
Resolution: I will visit Our Lord in the Eucharist, renewing my desire to be totally his and praying that Jesus be totally mine.