– 2–4–2023 –
PALM SUNDAY of the Lord’s Passion
Gospel text : Matthew 21:1-11
Procession Gospel text
vs.1 When they were near Jerusalem and had come in sight of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
vs.2 saying to them, “Go to the village facing you, and you will immediately find a tethered donkey and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.
vs.3 If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, ‘The Master needs them and will send them back directly’.”
vs.4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy:
vs.5 “Say to the daughter of Zion: Look, your king comes to you; he is humble, he rides on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
vs.6 So the disciples went out and did as Jesus had told them.
vs.7 They brought the donkey and the colt, then they laid their cloaks on their backs and he sat on them.
vs.8 Great crowds of people spread their cloaks on the road, while others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in his path.
vs.9 The crowds who went in front of him and those who followed were all shouting: “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heavens!”
vs.10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil. “Who is this?” people asked,
vs.11 and the crowds answered, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
We have four sets of homily notes to choose from.
Please click on the one required or scroll down the page.
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, Specialist in Lectio Divina
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Wales. Lampeter.
John Littleton: Director of the Priory Institute Distant Learning, Tallaght
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger *******************************************************
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels
The gospel reading for this Sunday is the passion of Jesus, St Matthew’s version. The story of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which is read during the ceremony of palms, is not merely a highly significant event in the life of Jesus, it gives us the key to interpreting all that subsequently happened to him. Meditating on this story is therefore an excellent start to Holy Week.
To understand this event it is essential to read two passages from the Old Testament:
– Psalm 118, a song of thanksgiving as a victorious pilgrim enters Jerusalem and the temple;
– Zechariah 9:9, 10, where the prophet paints a picture of God’s chosen one coming to save his people.
Verses 1 to 3 of Matthew’s text show us that Jesus made a deliberate choice to enter Jerusalem according to his own value system, and he was conscious that he was in line with Zechariah’s vision.
You can meditate on the story from the point of view of Jesus: when have you experienced someone – perhaps yourself – making the choice that Jesus made? You can focus on the crowds instead: how does it feel to welcome someone (an experience or a reading) that clearly comes “in the name of the Lord”?
The climax to the story in verses 10 and 11 is significant too: this is the kind of thing that happens when God’s messenger enters a city.
“We must develop absolute patience and understand the fears of others.” …Nelson Mandela
Lord, we thank you for the great public figures of our time
who have chosen the way of nonviolence,
– Gandhi and his successors in India,
– Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement,
– Nelson Mandela,
– Caribbean people who resisted slavery and colonialism by peaceful means.
They have been for the modern world Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey.
Like him they fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah,
coming to the children of Zion with humility,
banishing chariots and horses and all the bows of war
and proclaiming peace to all.
It is through people like these that your empire will stretch from sea to sea,
from the River to the ends of the earth.
“Forgive us, Lord, that we speak more of your death and ours, instead of the life and victory you have won for us all.” …Archbishop of Khartoum, 1994
Lord, we thank you for the times that you sent us someone who transformed our lives:
– a great leader emerged in our nation or church community;
– our family life was disintegrating and a counselor brought us all together;
– we read a great book;
– a friend gave us back our courage.
We felt a great joy, like the people when they saw Jesus entering their city,
we welcomed this messenger who came in the name of the Lord,
and cried out “Hosanna in the highest heavens!”
Lord, give us the gift of final perseverance,
that like Jesus we may come to the end of our lives
faithful to what you have called us to be,
and enter Jerusalem as he did,
knowing that we come in your name and welcomed by all the saints.
Lord, we pray for nations that are suffering from civil war.
Send them leaders who will come to them humbly as Jesus did,
banishing chariots and horses and the bows of war
and proclaiming peace for their nations,
so that their people may come out in great crowds
to celebrate and shout with all their hearts,
“Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heavens!”
“God does not want to be an idol in whose name one person kills other people.” …Closing message of the African Synod, 1994
Lord, we pray for the Church. Often we are tempted to enter the modern world with the methods that prevail there,
putting our trust in money or advertising or threats.
Help us, like Jesus, to deliberately choose our way,
concerned only that we are fulfilling the prophecies
and that we seek the blessings of those who come in your name.
Lord, we thank you that in many countries today the Church is taking a radical stand,
rejecting horses and chariots and all the apparatus of earthly power
and identifying rather with the lowly.
Naturally the whole nation is in turmoil,
but when people ask, “Who is this?”
the crowds can answer truthfully,
“This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
Introduction to the 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.
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 we use to indicate special importance: a crucial symbolic event that is over in a moment, or takes just the same length of time as an ordinary event is an anti-climax – do not forget that Christmas 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.
Journeying through the Year of Matthew
The long gospel reading (including the gospel preceding the entrance procession) in the Palm Sunday liturgy provides us with an introduction to the scandalous events of Holy Week. These events range from the people’s adulation of Jesus to their demands that he suffer a humiliating and shameful death at the hands of the Romans. Palm Sunday and Holy Week present us with bewildering contradictions in how the people treated Jesus.
At first, the people treated him like a king. There was tremendous joy and excitement among them when he entered Jerusalem — triumphantly in their estimation. They greeted him as the Messiah. In John’s Gospel, the crowd is portrayed as having heard Jesus refer to himself as the ‘Resurrection and the Life’ and they knew that he was ‘the one who is to come’.
Less than one week later, however, the crowd, according to Matthew’s Gospel, insisted that Jesus be crucified. Their attitude towards him had changed fundamentally and irrevocably. We might well ask: Why? The reason was that he had challenged them to change their lifestyles in imitation of his example, although some scholars suggest that the basis for Jesus’ death was his actions in the Temple which had infuriated them. In any event, what a fickle and unreliable people!
Many of us today would not admit to being fickle or to having a superficial faith. We claim to be very different from those people who demanded Jesus’ death because we think that we would have behaved differently towards him. However, we forget that it was our sins and the sins of all people that Jesus took on himself when he was crucified.
Therefore, each one of us is partially culpable for Jesus’ betrayal and death. We cannot blame his Jewish contemporaries for the scandal of his death. We too are God’s beloved people. Yet we have betrayed God’s love when we have sinned
In contrast to us, God is loyal, steadfast and completely dependable. Fortunately God’s love for us is not dependant on our positive response to him. God’s love for us in Christ is unfaltering. Jesus died ‘for our sins’ (1 Cor 15:3). In doing so, he emptied himself totally for our sake, and for the sake of all people of every time and place — although his self-emptying also includes the Incarnation (see Phil 2). Thus he brought us life on the cross even though he lost his own life there. In the face of human betrayal he proved that God’s love for us is endless.
The crucial questions for us during Holy Week are: How do we treat Jesus? In what ways do we praise him and welcome him when we meet him in our churches and as we celebrate the sacraments? Sometimes we betray him as we quickly return to our sinful ways. As we accompany him on his final journey to Jerusalem, will we stay with him or will we abandon him like many other people? Can we accept the challenge to become repentant or will we avoid the discomfort of God’s will leading us where God wants us to be instead of where we want to be?
There are so many questions. But, then, Holy Week is the week for questions in the lives of Christians everywhere.
My Father, if it possible, let this cup pass from me.
Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it. (Jn 26:39)
Fr Donal Neary, S.J
Gospel Reflections for the Year of Matthew
He has endured the cross
Our gospel today is long; it is the first of two readings of the passion and death of Jesus; we hear many sayings and notice events that are familiar to us and to all Christians. Maybe during the week we could take time to reread the gospel account, and watch what happens, going a bit behind the externals.
We will see Jesus being mocked, tortured, hurt, ridiculed, beaten and killed. We notice his fear in the garden of his agony, and also his willingness to go to the end for what he believes in and sees as his mission in life. We see him being treated unjustly, and a notorious thief being chosen over him for release. We see him on the cross, when he seems to feel neglected by his Father.
We notice also the help he received – the silent sympathy and love of his mother, Simon’s help carrying the cross, the sympathy of the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’, and even the faith of the Roman who said he was a good man, a ‘son of God’. We wonder about how he felt with the mockery and with the help he received.
We can identify with much of his suffering, in our own lives and the lives of people close to us. He is the one who ‘has endured the cross and despised its shame’ (Hebrews).
We can often take comfort and consolation from the fact that he identifies with the suffering of the human race, and that his resurrection is the basis of our faith, hope and love.
Look at or imagine a crucifix, and pray as you feel drawn.
Lord, by your cross and resurrection,
you have set us free;
you are the Saviour of the world.