Preparing for Mass, Palm Sunday

April 14, 2019 by Deacon Michael Houtchen

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Gospel Luke 23:1-49

The elders of the people, chief priests, and scribes arose and brought Jesus before Pilate.  They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.”  Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  He said to him in reply, “You say so.”  Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.”  But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.”

On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time.  Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign.  He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer.  The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly.  Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate.  Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly.  Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt.  I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us.  So no capital crime has been committed by him.  Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man!  Release Barabbas to us.”  — Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. —

Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting,

“Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done?

I found him guilty of no capital crime.  Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed.  The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted.  So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

As they led him away, they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus.  A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.  Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’  At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?”  Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left.  Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  They divided his garments by casting lots.  The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”  Even the soldiers jeered at him.  As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”  Above him, there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us.”  The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun.  Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.  Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this, he breathed his last.

[Pause for a short time, and think about what just happened]

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.”  When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.

Own it

The story in the Gospel reading above, happens this coming Friday, but today is the beginning of Christ’s Passion.  It’s the beginning of Holy Week.  Today, Palm Sunday, Jesus, riding in on a donkey, would be welcomed to Jerusalem.  He will be greeted by palm branches being thrown on the path before Him and with people shouting Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest.  Before the week is out, most of these would be screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Make the entire week part of your Easter Celebration.  Own it.  Breathe it.  Travel with Jesus this week.  It begins Holy Thursday.  That night Jesus will show us how to be humble servants when he washes the disciple’s feet.  That night, He will give us the great gift of the Eucharist; which is His body and His blood.  Do this in memory of me.  That night, He will be betrayed by one sitting among us.

Later, journey with Him to the garden.  Will you fall asleep like the other disciples, or will you be able to stay awake?  Will you see him sweat drops of blood?  Will you hear Him ask His father to take away this cup?  Will you hear Him say, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

It’s now Good Friday, and the soldiers have come for Him.  Will you run away?  Will you deny Him, like Peter?  Will you watch from the sidelines as he is condemned, beaten, led away to the Place of Skulls?  Will you watch Him being crucified?  Will you hear him say, “This is your mother; your son?”  Are you close enough to hear him say, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they do.”  Will you see Him take his last breath?  Will you follow at a distance and watch as He is laid in a borrowed tomb, and a great stone is rolled across the entrance to seal Him in?

It’s Holy Saturday.  Are you in the upper room with His followers wondering what just happened?  The lamps are turned down.  The windows shuttered and locked.  Are you as terrified as they, knowing any minute, the soldiers could come for you?

It’s now Easter morning.   What will you think when the women return from the grave saying it’s empty.  Will you run with Peter and John to find out?  Later, when Jesus appears, will you want to put your fingers in the wounds in his hands and feet?  Will you fall to your knees, saying, “My Lord, my God?”

Easter is here, but it’s more than just one day.  It’s a week.  Holy Week.  Make it your week.