Reflection for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord-Lent-Cycle B-2018

from: The Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert.

Image result for palm sunday

FIRST READING          Isaiah 50:4-7

The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.  Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.  I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.  The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

SECOND READING                          Philippians 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

GOSPEL: The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark 14:1-15:47

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days time.  So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death.  They said, Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people.  When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard.  She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.  There were some who were indignant.  Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?  It could have been sold for more than three hundred days wages and the money given to the poor.  They were infuriated with her.  Jesus said, Let her alone.  Why do you make trouble for her?  She has done a good thing for me.  The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could.  She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.  Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.  Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.  When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money.  Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.  On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?  He sent two of his disciples and said to them, Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, The Teacher says, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?  Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.  Make the preparations for us there.  The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.  When it was evening, he came with the Twelve.  And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.  They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, Surely it is not I?  He said to them, One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.  For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would be better for that man if he had never been born.  While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, Take it; this is my body.  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  He said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.  Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.  Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Then Jesus said to them, All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written:  I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed.  But after I have been raised up,  I shall go before you to Galilee.  Peter said to him, Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.  Then Jesus said to him, Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.  But he vehemently replied, Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.  And they all spoke similarly.  Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, Sit here while I pray.  He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.  Then he said to them, My soul is sorrowful even to death.  Remain here and keep watch.  He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.  When he returned he found them asleep.  He said to Peter, Simon, are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing.  Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him.  He returned a third time and said to them, Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?  It is enough.  The hour has come.  Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.  Get up, let us go.  See, my betrayer is at hand.  Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.  His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.  He came and immediately went over to him and said, Rabbi.  And he kissed him.  At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.  One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priests servant, and cut off his ear.  Jesus said to them in reply, Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me?  Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.  And they all left him and fled.  Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.  They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.  Peter followed him at a distance into the high priests courtyard and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.  The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none.  Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.  Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.  Even so their testimony did not agree.  The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, Have you no answer?  What are these men testifying against you?  But he was silent and answered nothing.  Again the high priest asked him and said to him, Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?  Then Jesus answered, I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.  At that the high priest tore his garments and said, What further need have we of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy.  What do you think?  They all condemned him as deserving to die.  Some began to spit on him.  They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, Prophesy!  And the guards greeted him with blows.  While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priests maids came along.  Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.  But he denied it saying, I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.  So he went out into the outer court.  Then the cock crowed.  The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, This man is one of them.  Once again he denied it.  A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.  He began to curse and to swear, I do not know this man about whom you are talking.  And immediately a cock crowed a second time.  Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.  He broke down and wept.  As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council.  They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.  Pilate questioned him, Are you the king of the Jews?  He said to him in reply, You say so.  The chief priests accused him of many things.  Again Pilate questioned him, Have you no answer?  See how many things they accuse you of.  Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.  Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.  A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.  The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.  Pilate answered, Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?  For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.  Pilate again said to them in reply, Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?  They shouted again, Crucify him.  Pilate said to them, Why?  What evil has he done?  They only shouted the louder, Crucify him.  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.  The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.  They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.  They began to salute him with, Hail, King of the Jews!  and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.  They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Unus, to carry his cross.  They brought him to the place of Golgotha which is translated Place of the Skull.  They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.  Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.  It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.  The inscription of the charge against him read, The King of the Jews.  With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.  Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.  Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, He saved others; he cannot save himself.  Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.  Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.  At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?  which is translated, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Some of the bystanders who heard it said, Look, he is calling Elijah.  One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink saying, Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.  Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.  The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he  breathed his last he said, Truly this man was the Son of God!  There were also women looking on from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.  These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him.  There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.  When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Pilate was amazed that he was already dead.  He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.  And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.  Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock.  Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.

My sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,

We enter Holy Week.  Christ dies for us.  Christ is raised for us.  We walk with the Lord through His passion and death to rejoice in His Resurrection.  This is the most sacred and wonderful week of our whole year.  Let us be people who listen to God’s word and allow it to form us.

The first reading is from the Prophet Isaiah:  “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.  The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”

We also must not shield ourselves from the horror of the sufferings of Jesus.  The more we can understand the absolute degradation of this death on the Cross, the more we can understand that which seems impossible:  He rises from the dead.  Today in our liturgy we look at His suffering.  Yes, we know He will rise, but we leave that aside for now.

The second reading, from the Letter to the Philippians, again focuses us on death:  “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  The early Christians invite us to believe their testimony:  he died.

The narrative of the Passion from the Gospel of Mark is a simple retelling of what the early Christians experienced and passed on to us.  The simple details of anointing his head before death, the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, the preparation for the Passover meal, the celebration of the Passover meal, the institution of the Eucharist, the going to the garden and praying there, the arrival of Judas, the handing over, the condemnation, Peter’s denial, the way of the Cross, the crucifixion, the death, the burial.  And so it was finished.

All hope seemed extinguished and gone.  This is where we are today.  All hope for our world, for our Saviour, for our faith—all seems extinguished and gone.  Let us be in silence and trust in the Lord.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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24 Responses to Reflection for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord-Lent-Cycle B-2018

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    More than usual this year I seem to be experiencing the pain from my handicap and the mental pain that comes not entirely, but greatly, from out of it, not just as my ongoing Lenten experience, but in the midst of the Mass especially as a thorn in my side to remind me of Christ’s Suffering within His Joy — and to see my reliance upon my pilgrim’s staff to simply remain upright during the Consecration and the entire Eucharist of the Congregation (up to the last drop taken by the priest) as being a meditation and insight into the general suffering of the congregations and the churches and the Catholicity and the individual Christian, Lay, Religious, Clergy, in these times and mores which we are pierced into.

    Usually this is meditative — today, it was (and is still) more meditatively stigmatic.

    We are called to pain and suffering, and death — we are called to the Cross.


  2. Toad says:

    So sorry to hear you are not well, Jabba. I too, need a baston these days.

    ”Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.”
    What is that all about?

    This text raises a host of questions:
    ”Jesus said to them … … … Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; ..”
    In which case, if they knew him that well, why was it necessary to have Judas identify Christ?

    Maybe the text is designed to raise questions.
    We shall see. Maybe.


  3. There is much, much wisdom, as always, in Abbot Philip’s reflection here.


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    Yes, Robert, much wisdom here. I hope to visit the Monastery of Christ in the Desert someday for a retreat.

    “For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

    “In perhaps the most radical part of [our Holy Father’s just published book,”Our Father: Reflections On The Lord’s Prayer”] he suggests there are two possible endings to the life of Judas. One is ‘despair’: in shame, the traitor hanged himself. The other is redemption: in acknowledging his guilt, Judas was saved by a God who forgives ‘everything’. The Church, concludes Francis, must lead people away from despair and towards the Father.”
    Pope Francis: A Revolutionary message.

    I do truly hope Pope Francis is right. Granted, it’s a forlorn hope, when we read Jesus’ own words. But then I remember the successful Allied Siege of Badajoz in 1812, which was also a Forlorn Hope.
    JabbaPapa: May you have a blessed Holy Week 🙂


  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Toad (18:49)
    “…he left the cloth behind and ran off naked…”

    You ask: “What is that all about?”

    Are you really interested in exegetical riddles, or are you simply making a juvenile joke?

    If you are really interested, there are many published commentaries on this passage that you can consult. Please do come back and report the results of your research after you do.


  6. geoffkiernan says:

    JH at 2028…Are you espousing the ‘hell is empty’ theory?? Please tell me you are not.


  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Geoff: I do not believe that Hell is empty, but I do hope it’s close to being so.
    “…and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.”


  8. johnhenrycn says:

    When a relative, friend or merely close acquaintance of yours dies who you think was not Catholic and who might even have been a bad person, do you pray for them? If you do not, you act contrary to our Faith. If you do, and if Jesus hears your prayers, why do you rule out the idea that all men are saved?

    My 100 year old grannie died a Lutheran on 28 March 2002. Is my Mass intention for her this Wednesday a pointless thing?


  9. geoffkiernan says:

    JH I wouldn’t presume to know the mind of God or the state of a soul when the two meet at the point of Death. And nor should anyone else.
    Your 100 year old Grand mother, providing she was not some unconfessed axe murderer but a genuine and sincere soul who served/sought her God faithfully,I feel sure would attain the beatific vision, not because she was a Lutheran mind you, but in spite of that fact. So no your Mass intention would not be a pointless exercise. If she has no need of the Graces generated by your intention the Church holds that they would be assigned to the benefit of another.
    I feel everyone has the potential to attain Heaven and yes I/we do frequently(daily) pray for everyone. I/we have many family members, past and present, neighbors,acquaintances,friends in need of prayers.
    “Why do you rule out the idea that all men are saved?”…. because there are ample examples to the contrary given by Church teachings/tradition and scripture .
    Again, against the current trend of this nice catholic church I dont believe that God’s mercy is unconditional. Genuine repentance and reparation are two conditions I can think on.
    There are others on this site better qualified and versed in Church teachings than I am. I hope they will correct me should I need it. I speak of the likes of Kathleen, Gertrude, mmvc etc.


  10. kathleen says:

    the pain from my handicap and the mental pain that comes…from out of it,”

    Dear Jabba, I do not understand exactly what you mean by these words, nor of what your “handicap” consists (although I have an idea), nor how it leads onto “mental pain” for you. Perhaps you understandably wish to keep such details private.
    However, it is clear from the rest of your comment (that moved me very much) that this “experience” of suffering at the foot of the Cross is not being wasted or uselessly fought against. There are sometimes sufferings which befall us that are inevitable and unchangeable. Is this not a valley of tears where we each one have “to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” – (Philippians 2:12)?

    In the paradox of the mystery of suffering you are converting what is seen as a great evil in the eyes of the world into a great blessing.

    Ave crux spes unica


  11. mmvc says:

    “I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self… I do not want to be a saint by halves. I’m not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for I choose all that You will!”

    St. Thérèse of Lisieux


  12. mmvc says:

    Geoff, I could never claim to be better qualified/versed in Church teaching than you, but FWIW, your reply to JH rings true and makes complete sense to me.

    There is a compilation of sobering quotes by some of the great saints on hell and its inhabitants on this site:


  13. JabbaPapa says:

    In the paradox of the mystery of suffering you are converting what is seen as a great evil in the eyes of the world into a great blessing

    The paradox is quite plain — as on the other hand, today I succeeded in making the first 12 kilometre hike that I’ve been capable of in nearly three years — and so far without any grotesque pain from out of it, as has all too often been my experience since the second knee gave out.

    But we’ll see how my legs behave tonight and tomorrow … sigh …

    The suffering comes and it goes, but you’re right mmvc to put your finger on the fact that God has become One with our suffering through the Incarnation and through the Passion and the Cross, which in many ways are words that we use to distance ourselves from His Pain and His Torture and His Execution and His horrid Death.

    Suffering by mortals is not a Virtue, but only the Will to transcend that suffering is one — the only Virtuous Suffering that has ever existed is the Passion of the Lord. Our own mortal sufferings can be sanctified by His Pity, and His Presence ; in our love for Him, in our exuberance for the Sacraments of His Church, in our Fidelity to her Dogma.

    Until the Cross, absolutely, in Communion with His Death.

    This has become possibly my strangest Lent since the one just before I was Baptised.


  14. JabbaPapa says:

    oops — I see that it was one of your comments kathleen, not mmvc


  15. JabbaPapa says:

    jh : I do not believe that Hell is empty, but I do hope it’s close to being so.

    I really do wish that people would just do away with this motif.

    If you examine what Cardinal von Balthasar actually wrote in his examination of the question : “Is there a reasonable hope that all men are saved ?” …

    His actual final answer is — No, any such hope is not reasonable.

    That such men as Bishop Barron, notwithstanding his own personal qualities, are so insistent on using the Cardinal’s pro arguments as if he had never contrasted them with any contra, as well as to simply pretend that his conclusion either does not exist or is simply irrelevant and to be ignored, is contrary to the Duty of the Holy Magisterium.


  16. geoffkiernan says:

    mmvc at 1550: Thanks for that link. It should be compulsory reading for all. Sobering indeed.


  17. geoffkiernan says:

    Not wishing to inflict any further pain upon Jabba, anymore than he can endure…..But I, like Kathleen at 1250 have some difficulty understanding him at 1429 and a little less so at 1919. His penchant for the long sentence and the avoidance of the ‘full stop’, may I suggest has everything to do with that lack of understanding. Your writing style ( no disrespect intended. I concede it is maybe, simply a product of an incompetent English teacher in your youth) at times does little to clarify….Or is it just my feeble brain?
    But I equally concede that this is really not the point. The fact is you are suffering and that is something you have in common with someone else (As Kathleen points out) given the fast approaching events of Good Friday. ‘Time spent suffering in this life means less in the next’ – Who said that?
    God Bless you


  18. JabbaPapa says:

    Your writing style ( no disrespect intended. I concede it is maybe, simply a product of an incompetent English teacher in your youth

    Always a pleasure to wake up to a nice little ad hominem


  19. geoffkiernan says:

    Dear Jabba, I apologize for calling your English teacher incompetent….. You dont concede that punctuation has a part to play in making the written word a little easier to understand? It must be my feeble brain ( how’s that for a self inflicted ad hominem)


  20. kathleen says:

    Good friend, Geoff…
    To be honest, I found Jabba’s comment at 14:29 (on March 25th) about suffering and the Cross very profound and meaningful. He had already recognised his suffering as being part of our lives as followers of Christ:
    “We are called to pain and suffering, and death — we are called to the Cross.”
    My “difficulty” in “understanding” him was only referring to the cause of his suffering now and it’s link to “mental pain”, although I knew about the grave problems he has been having with his knees. As a longtime pilgrim whose heart has always been in walking towards God (both physically and spiritually) it is a heavy cross indeed when the first half of this way of life is no longer possible for him. But “the better part” will always remain.

    The beautiful words of St Thérèse of Lisieux (in the link mmvc posted at 14:26 yesterday) should be echoed by us all. We all have this tendency (I know I do) to say to Our Lord, “yes, Lord, take away everything you want from me…., but only please not *** or ***; yet any other suffering I will willingly accept from You!”
    This is wrong! It means we are still clinging on to what we love most. God, and the Holy Will of God, must be our first and Greatest Love. Only then will we be truly free from all earthly attachments holding us down.”Our Father… Thy Will be done”!


  21. kathleen says:

    Just after writing my comment to Jabba yesterday, I then wrote a long reply to JH, Geoff, etc., about the questions asked on Hell… only for my internet connection to fail just when pressing “send”, and I lost the whole thing! How frustrating! (“These little things sent to try us”, eh? 😉) Family demands meant I had no time to rewrite it, but mmvc’s link and Jabba’s reply should be satisfactory for most in accepting the true teaching of the Catholic Church which comes from Christ’s own Words: No, it is NOT reasonable to assume that all Men are saved!


  22. geoffkiernan says:

    Kathleen: I genuinely found his initial comments baffling, I concede that it may have been a result of the pain he was enduring. Bowing to the great respect I have for your ability ( and others at CPS) to disarm and to neutralize most all contentious issues I withdraw anything that has offended anyone, except that pesky frog (smiling face here) and apologize to Jabba and wish him well. The second half of mine at 0448 from “I equally concede ……to…… Who said that?” still stands.
    All God’s blessings to you and all at CPS and of course to Jabba.


  23. Toad says:

    Forget the ”pesky frog,” Geoff.
    He is now virtually as good as dead, as far as commenting on CP&S goes.
    Good thing, too.
    Serves him right. For disagreeing.

    [Moderator – We’re keeping a tighter rein on you Toad, not because as a non-believer you naturally disagree, but because your never-ending relativistic comments, when not sacrilegious, are tiringly monotonous and add zero all to the conversation.]


  24. JabbaPapa says:

    2 Maccabees {2:33} … For it is foolish to go on and on before the account, when the account itself is succinct.


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