Abbot Richard’s Gospel Reflection.
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – 9 April 2017
Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11 & 26:14 – 27:66
For the sake of the future, he endured the cross
There are two Gospel passages presented to us in the Sunday Mass this week – Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and St Matthew’s account of the Passion of the Lord. The contrast between the two could not be greater. In the first Jesus is fully in control, commandeering a donkey and a colt as transport, and being hailed by the crowds as a prophet. But in the account of the Passion Jesus seems powerless in the face of the authorities and almost everyone, even his closest friends, abandon him.
I have always felt much more comfortable with the first story. It’s easy to follow someone in the good times, to be supporting the winning team, but much harder to stick with them when times get tough. Even from Jesus’ point of view the triumphal entry into Jerusalem must have given him a great buzz. Although he knew what lay ahead of him in the city, he still allowed the crowds to make such a commotion.
If we look a little closer at the story of the Passion we discover a recurring theme running through the narrative – when things get tough Jesus always keeps going for the sake of what lies in the future. We see this first when Jesus is praying in Gethsemane ‘if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done’ and then when the men come to seize him and one of his followers cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear, and again when the high priest asks Jesus if he is the Son of God. Though in most cases Jesus hardly says anything, it is clear that he is enduring all these things to realise something much greater.
If we think back to the story of the Transfiguration on the second Sunday of Lent we see a similar contrast between the two parts of that story. The disciples were excited by the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus and wanted the moment to last but were terrified when the scene changed and they heard the thunder and saw the clouds. In that story Jesus reassures them and tells them not to be afraid just as in the story of the Passion he keeps going despite the difficulties and suffering and does not give up.
The challenge for us is the stick with Jesus in the good times as well as the not so good ones. Though Jesus had been abandoned by most of his followers he did not give up. Though he was stripped and beaten he kept going. Though he was taunted and abused he did not retaliate. For the sake of the future, he endured the cross.
Fr Richard Purcell ocso
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At Jerusalem in the fourth century, on the very spot where the event took place, was read today the passage from the Gospel which describes the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when He was hailed by the people as Son of David and King of Israel. A bishop, mounted on an ass next rode up to the Church of the Resurrection on the Mount of Olives surrounded by the crowd bearing branches of palms and singing hymns and antiphons. The Church of Rome adopted this practice about the ninth century and added to it the blessing of palms.
The Palm Sunday procession is formed of Christians who, in the fullness of faith make their own gesture and endow it with its full significance. We proclaim Christ as a Victor …. Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. But by our faith we know, as they did not, all that His triumph stands for. He is the Son of David and the Son of God. He is the sign of contradiction, acclaimed by some and reviled by others. Sent into this world to wrest us from sin and from satan. He underwent His Passion – the punishment for our sins, but issues forth triumphant from the tomb, the victor over death making our peace with God and taking us with Him into the kingdom of His Father in heaven.
Antiphon for the Blessing of Palms:
Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. O King of Israel. Hosanna in the highest.
Introit at Holy Mass:
O Lord keep not Thy help far from me; look to my defence; delikver me from the lion’s mouth, and my lowness from the horns of unicorns. Ps: O God, my God, look upon me; why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my salvation are the words of my sins. – Lord, keep not.
The Passion: Matthew 26. 36-75; 27. 1-60
Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, Thy will be done.
By the virtue of this mystery, Lord, may our sins be purged away and our rightful desires fulfilled. Through our Lord.