- to be celebrated on 22-3-2015 -
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
The Passion (Shorter form) :Mark 14:1-15:47
First thing in the morning, the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ it is you who say it’ he answered. And the chief priests brought many accusations against him. Pilate questioned him again, ‘Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you!’ But to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.
At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate the customary favour, Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?’ For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. Then Pilate spoke again. ‘But in that case,’ he said to them ‘what am Ito do with the man you call king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’‘Why?’ Pilate asked them ‘What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together. They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes.
They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.
They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charge against him read: ‘The King of the Jews’. And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.
The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’ The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king Of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe. Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.
When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen he is calling on Elijah’. Someone ran and 5oaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying, ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
(All kneel and pause a moment.)
And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.’
We have three commentators available from whom you may wish to choose . Click on the name of the commentator required.
Michel DeVerteuil: A Recently deceased Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Wales, Lampitor
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and taught at Blackrock College and now work’s with Le Chéile
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels
Lord, we thank you for those precious moments
when you allowed us to experience
that we played a significant part in your work of grace:
– we were there when a holy person was dying, and said the final prayers;
– a national crisis arose, we were in the right place
and did our duty to the country;
– members of our community shared their sorrows with us;
– we were at prayer and suddenly felt our solidarity
with the suffering of the world.
It was a fleeting moment but the memory remains.
It must have been like that for Simon of Cyrene
when he happened to be passing by,
coming in from the country, and they enlisted him
to carry the cross of Jesus.
Thank you, Lord.
Lord, you often make a place of death the source of new life:
– we were abandoned by our friends,
but learned how deep our inner resources were;
– a parent died and the family came together as never before.
You teach us that you always bring life,
and this is why your Son Jesus was not afraid
when they brought him to a place called Golgotha,
which means the place of the skull.
Lord, we thank you for the members of our church who are not afraid
to be associated with those whom society labels disreputable:
– those who work with AIDS patients;
– movements like St Vincent de Paul and the Legion of Mary;
Often they are criticized and mocked,
but we see in them Jesus crucified with two robbers,
one on his right and the other on his left.
It can be rightly said of them that their only interest is in saving others,
and that, like Jesus, they are not unduly concerned with saving themselves.
“It was essential that Jesus should become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion.” Hebrews 2:17
Lord, people sometimes think that those of us who are leaders in the church
must always be calm and composed.
We thank you for teaching us that when you yourself seem to be silent
we can cry in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”
“To destroy human power nothing more is required than to be indifferent to its threats and to prefer other goods to those which it promises.” R.H. Tawney
Lord, how true it is that success and popularity are not really important in life.
The only important thing is that some unbelieving centurion,
seeing how we live and die, could say, “In truth, this was a son of God.”
Lord, when great people remain faithful unto death,
showing no anger or resentment to their enemies,
but on the contrary continuing to love and forgive,
it shows us how false are the barriers we set up
to separate people into bad and good;
the veils we have erected in your temple are torn in two from top to bottom.
Lord, we thank you for faithful followers of Jesus,
those who, like the women in the gospel,
look after him in Galilee where it is safe,
and then come up to Jerusalem with him, even though it is dangerous,
and are there watching with him as he hangs on the cross.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
The Passion in the Liturgy: The demands of celebration
Twice each year, on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, the reading of the gospel becomes visibly a liturgical event in its own right. On these occasions the dramatic reading with several voices may replace the solitary tone of the deacon/ priest. Yet in most parishes this is not only a missed opportunity to do something which can enhance the whole celebration, but actually becomes something counter productive. At the very least it can become a shambles of voices coming in off-cue, lines-lost, or confused mumbling (‘Whose line is itT ‘Whose that voice supposed to represent?’). At worst it can send hidden signals to the congregation about how we view the passion, the Jews, and the ministry of proclamation.
Introduction to today’s Celebration
The text in the Missal (p. 123: ‘Dear friends in Christ …’) cannot be bettered. However, care should be taken to read it as if it were one’s own notes so as to stress the notion that we are entering into the Great Week, accompanying Christ in the Paschal Mystery.
This is not just another Sunday: it is the beginning of a week with Christ that culminates next Sunday. It recalls all the pointers in the gospels (e.g. Mk 10:32-3) to the journey that the Lord must make to Jerusalem to perform his great work.
The liturgy of Holy Week is a participation in this work at Jerusalem: today the church building is a symbol of the city (hence we begin outside it, and then enter it),
then there are the final days (Monday to Wednesday),
then the final meal and the commissioning of the apostles (Thursday), the time in the garden and the passion
(Thursday night/ Friday until 3 pm), the exaltation on the Cross which is recalled by the church as a victory celebration (the Good Friday liturgy),
the tomb (Saturday), the resurrection (the Vigil) and its announcement (Sunday). This is the symbolic week, in the sense that we by participating in the liturgy are not just on-lookers engaged in a pageant, but are uniting ourselves with Christ now in his Great Work. Everything that is said or done in today’s liturgy must aim at conveying this sense of a week of participation.
So while the Missal still thinks (compiled in 1970) of a’principal Mass’ and then other Masses, we must be aware that in our pastoral situation few places have this rigid dichotomy of celebration: whatever Mass people are attending is the principal Mass for them. So that whether it is the vigil Mass on Saturday evening, or any Mass on the Sunday, there should be the full entry celebration: the introduction and blessing of palms somewhere other than the main building where the Eucharist will be celebrated; and then the procession into the church/ Jerusalem/ this week. Unless we set the scene of a week with Christ todaythe great liturgies later in the week are held without their proper context. They stand as individual ‘bits’ (one ‘bit’ today – a pageant of one episode in the gospels, another ‘bit’ (‘the first Mass’) on Thursday, etc.) because the introduction to the whole has been missed. In such a fractured presentation the liturgy cannot convey the message of the Paschal Mystery shared in by the baptised, and becomes a bunch of historical commemorations more akin to anniversaries of ancient events (e.g. the way we recall events like ‘the first Dail,’ ‘the battle of the Somme,’ ‘the day Jack met Jill’) rather than a week that somehow presents us with the basis of Christian faith and a foretaste of the New Jerusalem (cf Gal 4).
In many parishes there is a feeling that this is just an ordinary Sunday plus a few extras, and that careful planning and arranging special things like extra readers, assembling outside the church, decorations, and so forth, does not have to start until Thursday. The hard fact is this: if you do not start the extra work that ‘the Easter Ceremonies’ involve today, then by Thursday it is too late, and all the worries about readers, thuribles, and what not, is more a desire to fulfill rubrics than as attempt to adequately create the ritual environment which allows us to grow in our understanding of the mystery of the Christ.
The Missal (p. 132) says that a brief homily may be given.’ There is definitely a case today for taking up this permission to omit the homily altogether; not because such an omission might shorten an already long liturgy, but since we have just come through one of the longest verbal elements in the whole of the liturgy (the passion), another verbal event (a homily) does not bring contrast or help the gospel reading to sink in. A better way to highlight what has been read would be a couple of moments of structured silence (e.g. ‘Let us now reflect in silence on the passion of our Saviour’) before standing for the Creed. On the subject of the length of today’s liturgy we should remember that length of time is one of the key non-verbal ritual cues that humans use to indicate special importance: a crucial symbolic event that is over in a moment, or takes just the same length of today’s liturgy we should remember that length of time as an ordinary event is an anti-climax – do not forgetChristmas dinner must take longer than an everyday meal. Because this is a special day opening a special week, it should and must take a noticeably longer time than an ordinary Sunday.
If one does preach, then the brief comments should be directed to introducing the week as a whole rather than particular comments on the readings. This could take its starting point from the gospel outside – that Christ has arrived at, and entered Jerusalem, and that ‘his hour’ has arrived. As Christians we are sharers in this event.
If the situation calls for a meditation rather than a homily, then a suitable meditation is provided in the Christ-hymn (the second reading) as a way of interpreting the events narrated. However, rather than re-reading it directly from the lectionary it can be broken up into its verses and read with pauses. The version used in the Office is better for such use than either the RSV or JB. Better still, have it sung by a soloist and simply introduce it as the earliest christian meditation we possess on what we have just recalled about the death of Jesus.
Let the reader understand
Gospel/ Passion Commentary : Mark 14:1-15:47
The account of the passion in Mark is very stark. Jesus is portrayed as alone, abandoned by his closest friends and perhaps even by God. He dies on the cross with a loud cry on his lips and darkness covers the whole earth. Yet at this precise moment the Roman centurion who was guarding him, having seen how he died, makes the great confession of faith: ‘Truly this man was God’s Son.’ Throughout his ministry Jesus had tried to teach his followers that the way of the kingdom was the way of self emptying love. They had to become servants, slaves to one another and forget about greatness as the world understands it. Repeatedly they failed to understand him and eventually they ran away. So we are left with this foreign outsider to tell us the meaning of Calvary. Through his faithfulness to the kingdom Jesus finally tears away the veil that separates God and suffering humanity. By his prayer of abandonment Jesus has shown us that, far from abandoning us, God has identified totally with our struggle.
Suffering is part and parcel of being human and, while we must readily acknowledge this fact, it is also true that we usually do all in our power to avoid it. The readings for today are an invitation to reflect on how it is that passion of Jesus can change our outlook on suffering. Our Saviour may be seen in these texts as a model of patient endurance and of faithfulness. We are not asked to believe that suffering is good in itself but to see that good can come of it and to recognise in Jesus God’s solidarity with all those who endure suffering for doing what is right.