My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We are, once again, at the beginning of the most solemn week in the Liturgy of the Church. Our Lenten journey has taken us to this lonely mountain outside of Jerusalem. Here we have seen Jesus lifted up on his cross.
Today’s reading of the Passion prepares us to accompany Jesus these coming days. As we look at him in his suffering, we know that he is hanging on this cross for us. We know that he has laid down his life for each one of us. For you. For me.
That’s why our liturgy for Passion Sunday is always so personal. That’s why every year on this Sunday and again on Good Friday we are asked to become characters in the Gospel story — to each play a part as we relive the drama of Jesus’ last days.
My brothers and sisters, we re-live this history to remember: Jesus died for those men and women in the crowds in Jerusalem. And he also died for you and me.
So we play the part of the ones who followed Jesus in those crowds in Jerusalem. We are the ones who go with him, waving palm branches and singing hymns as he enters into Jerusalem.
But then, as we know, something happens. The mood turns in the crowd. And we can see ourselves in this role, too. We’re never as strong as we think we are. Like those people in the crowds in Jerusalem, we can get confused by events, we can fall to peer pressure.
So that’s why we also play the part of those who go along with the crowd. We are also the ones who agree that Jesus must die, even though he didn’t do anything evil. We are the ones shouting, “Crucify him.” We are the ones standing by while others mock him on his cross.
This is the drama we have just re-lived in our Procession and in our Gospel today. It is history, the story of what happened back then. But it is our story, too.
During this Holy Week, we can never forget that God is in charge of history. It may look like others are in control, like the fate of Jesus is being determined by violent men and violent crowd. But Jesus is delivered up according to the mystery of God’s plan. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him.2
That is why we heard the first reading today from the prophet Isaiah. Because God unfolds his plan in stages and signs throughout history. He foretold the coming of Jesus in the writings of the Old Testament.
The Suffering Servant who speaks in today’s first reading is pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the one who gives his body to be beaten and his face to be struck. Jesus is also the one who is speaking in the Psalm that we sung today. He tells us of cruel men who pierce his hands and pierce his feet. He tells us how they gamble for his clothing and scoff at him with cruel lips.
But we have to remember: He is the Lord of history. He is not a victim. No one takes his life from him. He lays it down of his own accord.3 Jesus freely chooses to make his life into a prayer, an act of love, a gift that he offers to God our Father — for your sake and for mine.
That is what St. Paul is talking about in the second reading that we heard today. Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient ... even death on a cross.”
There is no greater love, my brothers and sisters! That’s the meaning of this beautiful Palm Sunday.
May his great love touch all of us today in a new way. May his love open our hearts, and bring us to a new conversion! So that we may follow Jesus more closely. So that we may humble ourselves and take up our cross, and imitate his example of love and self- sacrifice.
So my brothers and sisters, let’s try this week to really walk with Jesus. To accompany him as he goes up to Jerusalem to celebrate his last Passover.
Let’s stay close as he makes himself the paschal Lamb who is sacrificed — offering his Body and Blood in the gifts of bread and wine on Holy Thursday.
Let’s stay near him in his agony in the garden and through his trial and scourging on Good Friday. Let’s help him carry his cross through the sad streets on his way to Calvary.
As we accompany Jesus on his journey this week, we need to remember that this story does not end at the cross. We are on our way to the empty tomb of Easter morning!
So let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary — who walked with her Son every step of the way, who kept vigil at the foot of his cross — let us ask her to teach us courage, so that we can follow him through our whole lives, along this way that leads to the Resurrection.
1. Readings (Passion Sunday, Year B):Isa. 50:4-7; Ps. 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24; Phil. 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47.
2. Mark 14:21; Catechism, 599.
3. John 10:17-28