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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion 04-01-07

Scripture Readings
First Isaiah 50:4-7.
Second Philippians 2:6-11. The
Gospel Procession Gospel: Luke 19: 28-40.
The Passion of Our Lord: Luke 22:14-23:56 or 23:1-49.

Prepared by: Fr. Stephen Dominic Hayes, OP

1. Subject Matter
• The liturgy contrasts the triumphal procession of disciples that accompanies the Lord into
Jerusalem with their desertion of him during his agony and passion.
• In his glorious death upon the cross, Jesus fulfills all the ancient prophecies of the servant
of God who will be rejected by his own people and their leaders, and suffer a criminal’s
death, being hanged on a cross. The tree of the cross, which is death for him, becomes the
tree of immortal life offered to our first parents, removed from them in their sin, and now
given back as the means by which we feed on the life-giving fruit that hangs from it, the
Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ
• The liturgy, in the procession with palms and in the reading of the Passion, invites us to
stand within the story of Jesus’ glorious suffering and death and to find our own place and
response to him within it. This comes to a climax in our participation in the manifestation and
proclamation of his death within the sacrament of the Eucharist.
• For the sake of us sinners, Jesus Christ embraced the most painful and infamous death
of the cross, choosing the instrument of a slave's death to be the means by which he would
raise humanity to eternal glory. By virtue of his incarnation as man, the Son of God,
deathless by nature, was able to taste death in his humanity, and, free among the dead,
made sons for God of us who were enslaved to death and sin.
• By joining the holy Eucharist to his sacred passion and death upon the cross, Jesus
makes the one perfect sacrifice he offered once for all present to us in the Church perpetually
as the sign and instrument of our participation in that saving atonement.

2. Exegetical Notes:
• Isaiah 50:4-7:
™ This passage, the third of the Suffering Servant’s songs , has its origin in the post-
Exilic period. It speaks with resignation, sadness and darkness of the violent
persecution of the Servant. The word of God remains the source of salvation. The
section finishes (vv.8-9) with the Servant facing Israel herself at as an adversary in
court before the Lord; who is close to the Servant and gives him his vindication.
• On Philippians 2:6-11:
™ Morphē here indicates outward form, not internal constitution or nature. Morphē
theou, the extensions seems to refer to the outward splendour of God's manifestations
in the Old Testament ; to these Jesus also has a right. Nevertheless he refuses to
stand on this dignity, preferring to manifest himself as one of the slaves to sin and
death that he would save on the cross. For this he empties himself (v.7) without any
exceptional privileges. This kenosis is not only humbling and humiliating, but heroic, “
death on a cross” expressing the point farthest removed from his glorious and godly
status.
• On the Procession Gospel: Luke 19: 28-40:
™ Luke's account of the procession points towards the struggle within Jerusalem and
eventually its destruction by Roman power. The crowd that accompanies him is
composed of his disciples, who alone give him kingly honors.
• On the Passion of Our Lord: Luke 22:14-23:56 or 23:1-49:
™ Among the Synoptic Gospels, Luke has a greater affinity to John than to Matthew and
Mark. This is particularly notable in the passion narrative, in which Luke seems to
move away from what was his major written source throughout the Gospel. This
affinity to Johannine material is more in the nature are shared ideas rather than an
identity of words or phrases. Some similarities, negative in quality can be seen as
shared by both Luke and John: no explicit naming of the garden as "Gethsemane" (Lk
22:39); no nighttime deliberation by the Sanhedrin; omission of the cry of Jesus
quoting Ps. 22, “ O God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Positive similarities
include: the attitude of the apostles at the announcement of Jesus’ betrayal; the
farewell discourse (Lk 22: 24-38); mention of Jesus' custom of praying in the garden
(Lk 22:39); the triple declaration of by Pilate of Jesus’ innocence (Lk 23: 4,14,22.)
™ (Stuhlmueller) (For Luke), each liturgical celebration of the Eucharist becomes a new
manifestation of the glorious Lord. A till now Luke has consistently presented the
Kingdom of Jesus as "within" (17:20-21), i.e., not yet fully manifested externally. … the
eschatological demands of the Kingdom, however, are felt already within the Church
because Jesus, having ascended to the right hand of the Father, with full regal power
pours forth the Spirit within the Church. The Spirit is even now bringing the Church to
glory, as it brought Jesus, through the agonizing struggles of the cross.
™ Luke's presentation of Jesus in the garden present him as reflected, praying kneeling,
not prostrate. He specifically mentions Jesus custom of praying in the Garden of
Olives (22:39). In general, Luke's Gospel emphasizes Jesus persistence in prayer,
and recommends of the apostles themselves continue in prayer during their long
period of testing. As usual, Luke also suppresses the details more embarrassing to
the apostles, such as that Jesus three times found the apostles asleep. Luke, with
John, specifically, and alone among the Evangelists, remembers the curing of the right
ear of Malchus.
™ Luke's passion narrative presents Satan as active in the testing of Christ and of his
Church, whom he puts into the crucial goal like Job. Jesus tells Peter and that Satan
wishes to " sift him" like wheat (22:31-32); Jesus anticipates both Peter’s denials and
his own forgiveness. Like the Lord, the Church must be tested and proved by
suffering. Peter discovers Jesus’ prophecy about his denials coming true; his
repentance begins as Jesus turns and looks at him (v.61), and he himself turns away,
weeping bitterly.
™ The simplified account of Jesus trial before the Sanhedrin, culminates in the
interrogation of Christ by the elders as to whether he is the Son of God (22:70-71).
Stuhlmueller suggests that they “ meant no more by this title than it signified in the OT
– the specially chosen one, particularly the Davidic King, through whom God's
promises to the nations would reach fulfillment; … that this humiliated, rejected man
to presume to reveal and mediate the Lord's glory to Israel was a supreme irreverence
to God.” A stronger reason, however, for their reaction might be the result of a
connection to Johannine material: The Lord says “You say that egó eimi,” i.e. the
divine name “I AM” , revealed by God to Moses in the appearance in the burning bush
in Exodus 3.
™ Luke’s Gospel makes the chief priests, rulers and elders of the people the chief
instigators of his crucifixion. Pilate tries to avoid the problem by sending Jesus to
Herod (an event mentioned only in Luke), and in fact tries to release him three times.
He is in for the sake of his own reputation and career. 23:25 “ he handed over to their
will, not only emphasizes the responsibility of the Jewish authorities, but is an allusion
to Isaiah 53:6,12, and shows Jesus to be the Suffering Servant foretold by the
prophet.
™ Jesus last words are to the thief crucified with him, who has continued to ask him for
mercy; Jesus assures him that he will be “with him” (meth’ emou), i.e., sharing Christ’s
regal glory. Jesus forgiveness, and mission of bringing God's pardon is a constant
theme in Luke's Gospel

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church


• 443: … to [Jesus’] accusers before the Sanhedrin, "are you the son of God, then?"
Jesus answered, "You say that I AM." Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as "the
Son" who knows the Father, as distinct from the "servants" God had earlier sent to his
people; he is superior even to the angels. He distinguishes sonship from that of his disciples
. whenever saying, "our Father," except to command them: but "You, then, pray like this:
"Our Father," any of the size this distinction, saying "my Father and your Father."
• 461: Taking up the St. John's expression, "the Word became flesh," the Church calls
"Incarnation" the fact that the son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish
our salvation in it. (Cf. Philipians hymn )
• 596: … The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer and
having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of
political revolt, a charge that puts him the same category as Barabbas had been accused of
sedition.
• 598: In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her Saints, the Church
has never forgotten that, " sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the suffering that
the Divine Redeemer endured. Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ
himself, the Church does not hesitate to into two cushions the gravest responsibility for the
torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the
Jews alone…
• 610: Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal
shared with the Twelve Apostles "on the night he was betrayed ." But on the eve of his
passion, well still free, Jesus transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the
memorial of his voluntaries offering to the Father for the salvation of men: "This is my body,
which is given for you." "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for
the forgiveness of sins."
• 623: By his loving obedience to the Father, "unto death, even death on a cross
(Phil,2:8), Jesus fulfills the atoning mission… of the suffering Servant, who will "make many
righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11; cf Rom. 5:19).
• 713: The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all, in the "Servant songs."
These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus' passion and show how he will pour out the Holy
Spirit to give life to the many; not as an outsider, but by embracing our "form as slave."
Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
• 1365: because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The
sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: "This is my
body, which is given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant
in my blood." In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the
cross, the very blood which he "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
• 1429: St. Peter's conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to
this. Jesus' look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord's
resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him.
• 2605: When the our income for him to fulfill the Father's plan of love, Jesus allows a
glimpse of the boundless depths of his filial prayer, not only before he freely delivered himself
up ("Abba.. not my will, but yours.", but even in his last words on the cross, where prayer and
the gift of self are but one: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; "Truly, I
say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise"….
• 2824: In Christ, and through his human will, the will of the Father has been perfectly fulfilled
once for all. Jesus said on entering into this world: "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God."
Only Jesus can say: “I always do what is pleasing to him." In the prayer of his agony, he
consents totally to this will: "not my will, but yours be done." For this reason, Jesus " gave
himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God
and Father." "And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of
Jesus Christ once for all."

4. Patristic Commentary
• St. Ambrose (Commentary on Luke 10,60): When he says: "not my will but thine be done,”
he is referring to his own human will, while the fathers is the will of the Godhead. The will of
the Man is temporal, but that of the Godhead is eternal. The will of the Father is not one
thing and the will of the Son another; for there is but one will where there is one Godhead.
• Ibid., 10,88: Peter was sorrowful and he wept because, being a man, he had strayed. I do
not find that he said anything: but I do find that he wept. I read about his tears, but I do not
read about any satisfaction. But what cannot be defended can be washed away. Tears
washed clean the fault, which he would have blushed to confess in words… (89): Those are
good tears which cleanse from guilt.
• St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 13,6: [Our Lord] did not give up his life by
compulsion, nor was he put to death by a butchery of his life, except it were voluntary. …
well then, he came of set purpose to his passion, rejoicing at the noble deed, smiling at the
Crown, cheered by the salvation of men. He was not ashamed of the cross, for it was
effecting the salvation of the world. Indeed, it was no common man who was suffering. It
was God made man, striving for the prize of his endurance.
• Ibid.,13,33: The Savior endured these things, and made peace through the blood of the
Cross for things in heaven and things on earth. We were enemies of God through sin, and
God had appointed the sinner to die. It was necessary, then, that one of two things should
happen: either that God, in his truth, should destroy all men, or that in his loving kindness he
should blot out the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God: he preserved both the truth of
his sentence, and the exercise of his loving kindness. Christ bore our sins in his body on the
tree, so that by his death we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He who died for us
was of no small account. He was not literally a sheep; nor was he merely man. Neither was
he only an angel. Indeed, he was God made man. The transgression of sinners was not so
great as the righteousness of him that died for them. The sin which we committed was not
so great as the righteousness worked by him who laid down his life for us, who laid it down
when he pleased, and took it up again when he pleased. Do you wish to know that he did
not lay down his life by its being violently wrested from him, and that he did not give up the
spirit unwillingly? He cried to the fathers saying, "Father, into your hands, I commend my
spirit; I commend it, so that I may take it up again." Then having said these things, he gave
up the spirit; but not for any great length of time, because he quickly rose again from the
dead.
• St. Augustine of Hippo, The Confession 10,43,68: Christ was shown to holy men of old,
that they might be set by faith in his passion to come, just as we are saved by faith in his
passion already past. Inasmuch as he is a man, he is Mediator; inasmuch as he is the Word,
he is not something in between, because he is equal to God, God with God, and together
one God. How much you have loved us, good Father, that you spared not your only son, but
delivered him up for the sake of impious man! How you have loved us! For us, he decided
not to cling to his equality with you, but was made obedient even unto death on the cross, he
alone, who was free among the dead, having the power to lay down his life as well as that of
taking it up again. For us he was to you both Victor and Victim, and Victor because he was
Victim. For us he was to you both priest and sacrifice, and priest because he was sacrifice.
From slaves he made us your sons, by his being a slave to you, who was born of you.
• St. John of Damascus, De fide orth., 3,27: By the fact that at Christ's death his soul was
separated from his flesh, his one person is not itself divided into two persons; for the human
body and soul of Christ have existed in the same way from the beginning of his earthly
existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death, although separated from each
other, both remained with one and the same person of the Word.
• St, Cyprian of Carthage, The Advantage of Patience, #7: But in that very hour of His passion
and cross, before they had come to the cruel act of His slaughter and the shedding of His blood, what
violent abuses He listened to with patience, and what shameful insults He endured! He was even
covered with the spittle of His revilers, when, but a short time before, with His own spittle He had
cured the eyes of the blind man. He Himself suffered the lash, in whose name His servants now
scourge the devil and His angels. He who now crowns the martyrs with eternal garlands was Himself
crowned with thorns; He who now gives true palms to the victors was beaten in the face with hostile
palms; He who clothes all others with the garment of immortality was stripped of His earthly garment;
He who has given the food of heaven was fed with gall; He who has offered us the cup of salvation
was given vinegar to drink. He the innocent, He the just, nay rather, Innocence Itself and Justice Itself
is counted among criminals, and Truth is concealed by false testimonies. He who is to judge is judged,
and the Word of God, silent, is led to the cross. And although the stars are confounded at the
crucifixion of the Lord, the elements are disturbed, the earth trembles, night blots out the day, the sun
withdraws both its rays and its eyes lest it be forced to gaze upon the crime of the Jews, yet He does
not speak, nor is He moved, nor does He proclaim His majesty, even during the suffering itself. He
endures all things even to the end with constant perseverance so that in Christ a full and perfect
patience may find its realization.

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars


• St. Andrew the Apostle: A sixth C. account of his own crucifixion has him accept his cross
with these words: "Hail, O cross, inaugurated by the body of Christ, which has become
adornment of his members, as if they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you,
you caused an earthly terror. However, now, gifted with a celestial love, you have become a
gift. Believers know how much joy you possess, how many gifts you offer. Confident,
therefore, and full of joy, I come so that you will also receive me exultant as disciple of him
who hanged from you. Blessed cross, which received the majesty and beauty of the
members of the Lord, take me and lead me far from men and hand me to my Master so that,
through you, he will receive me who through you has redeemed me. Hail, O cross, yes, truly,
hail!"
• St. Francis of Assisi: Admonitio 5,3: Since our sins made the Lord Jesus Christ suffer the
torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son
of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be
seen that our crime in this case is greater than in the Jews. As for them, according to the
witness of the Apostle, "None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they
would not have crucified the Lord of glory." We, however, profess to know him. And when
we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him. Nor did
demons crucify him; it is you who crucify him and crucify him still, when you delight in your
vices and sins.
• St. Ignatius Loyola: If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans
for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.
• St. Gregory of Elvira: The tree of the cross, however, clearly represents an image which to
some seems as hard and rough as wood, because on it the Lord was hung so that our sins,
which came to us from the tree of transgression, might be punished by being affixed- again it
is through the same Man- to the tree of the cross.. To others … it stands for shade and
refreshment, because believers are protected from the heat and rigor of persecution, and
there refreshed.
• St. Gregory Nazienzen: You shall see… Jesus… crucified and crucifying my sin, as a lamb
offered and as a priest offering, as a man buried and as God rising again, and afterwards
ascending, whence he will come again in his own glory. How many festivals there are in
each of the mysteries of Christ! And all of them have one main point: By perfection and
reformation, and return to the [original condition of the] first Adam.
• St. John Chrysostom: For this blood molds us ina royal image, it suffers not our nobleness
and soul to waste away, moreover it refreshes the soul, and inspires it with great virtue. This
blood puts to flight the devils, summons angels, and the Lord of angels. This blood poured
forth washed the world, and made heaven open. They that partake of it are built up with
heavenly virtues, and arrayed in the royal robes of Christ; indeed clothed by the key himself.
And thus if you come clean, you have come healfully ; if you come polluted by an evil
conscience, you come to your own destruction, to pain and torment. For if they would to file
the imperial purple, are not in with the same punishment as those who terror to center, it is
not unreasonable that they do with an unclean heart receive Christ, should be beaten with
the same stripes as they were who pierced him with nails.
• 6. Quotes
• Benedict XVI: God's passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a
forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here
Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God's love for
man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and
love. ( Deus Caritas Est, #10.)
• Benedict XVI: For the Fathers of the Church, the parable of the lost sheep, which the
shepherd seeks in the desert, was an image of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The
human race – every one of us – is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the
way. The Son of God will not let this happen; he cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a
condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of
the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross. He takes it upon his shoulders and carries
our humanity; he carries us all – he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the
sheep. ( Inauguration Mass, Homily Of His Holiness Benedict XVI, St. Peter's Square,
Sunday, 24 April 2005)
• John Paul II: What is it that “draws” us to the Condemned One in agony on the Cross?
Certainly the sight of such intense suffering stirs compassion. But compassion is not enough
to lead us to bind our very life to the One who hangs on the Cross. How is it that, generation
after generation, this appalling sight has drawn countless hosts of people who have made the
Cross the hallmark of their faith? Hosts of men and women who for centuries have lived and
given their lives looking to this sign? From the Cross, Christ draws us by the power of love,
divine Love, which did not recoil from the total gift of self; infinite Love, which on the tree of
the Cross raised up from the earth the weight of Christ’s body, to counterbalance the weight
of the first sin; boundless Love, which has utterly filled every absence of love and allowed
humanity to find refuge once more in the arms of the merciful Father.
May Christ lifted high on the Cross draw us too, the men and women of the new millennium!
In the shadow of the Cross, let us “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for
us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). Stations of the Cross at the
Colosseum, A.D.2000.
• John Paul II: (on (Lk 23:28-31) These are the words of Jesus to the women of
Jerusalem who were weeping with compassion for the Condemned One. “Do not weep for
me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” At the time it was certainly difficult to
understand the meaning of these words. They contained a prophecy that would soon come
to pass. Shortly before, Jesus had wept over Jerusalem, foretelling the terrible fate that
awaited the city. Now he seems to be referring again to that fate: “Weep for your children . . .”
Weep, because these, your very children, will be witnesses and will share in the destruction
of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem which “did not know the time of her visitation” (cf. Lk 19:44).
If, as we follow Christ on the way of the Cross, our hearts are moved with pity for his
suffering, we cannot forget that admonition, “For if they do this when the wood is green, what
will happen when it is dry?”
For our generation, which has just left a millennium behind, rather than weep for Christ
crucified, it is now the time for us to recognize “the time of our visitation”. Already the dawn of
the resurrection is shining forth. “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day
of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).
To each of us Christ addresses these words of the book of Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the
door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat
with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I
myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (3:20- 21). Stations of the
Cross at the Colosseum, A.D.2000.

7. Other Considerations
• The mechanics of Jesus’ crucifixion provides a moving subject matter for the instruction of
modern people unfamiliar with this form of execution; the usual bloodless and freeze-
frame presentation of the crucifixion in art does not do justice to the Lord's horrible
sufferings in this matter.
• In his incarnation, the Eternal Son put off the manifestation of Godhead to which he was
rightly entitled, and became the image of sin by manifesting himself as one of us, who are
slaves to sin and death; in his glorious passion, and I death upon the cross he made of
our humanity . a perfect sacrifice to the Father; this sacrifice continues to be manifested in
holy Church; he now shows himself manifested as if he were mere bread and wine, so
that he may become our Passover and source of eternal life, and communicate to us the
grace of what he has won by his passion.
Recommended Resources
Brown, Raymond E., S.S., Fitzmeyer, Joseph, S.J., and Murphy, Roland E., O. Carm. The
Jerome Biblical Commentary. Two Vols. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
1968.

Jurgens, William A. The Faith of the Early Fathers. 3 Vols. Collegeville, Minnesota: The
Liturgical Press, 1979.
Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected out of the
Works of the Fathers. Volume III- Pt. II: St. Luke. Albany, N.Y.: Preserving Christian
Publications, Inc., 2001.

Barbet, Pierre. A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ As Described by a
Surgeon . Reprint. Ft. Collins, CO:Roman Catholic Books, Sep 1993.