Palm Sunday C – The Passion and Us                                                                                                                                     

The old rule about standing for the reading of the “long gospel” of Palm Sunday used to make my legs and back ache a lot and often distracted me from the level of listening and attention this Gospel calls for.  It is exceedingly rich in content, symbolism, metaphor and allusion – through all of which Jesus becomes eminently real and tangibly current and contemporary. It’s about God hidden in our lives and especially in our sufferings, our losses and our tears.  It’s about us and our world symbolised by the woman caught in adultery, it’s about us hidden in Jesus’ call of the fishermen; hidden in Simon Peter’s struggle to answer the question “Who do you say I am?” It is about God and us hidden in the paralytic, in the leper, in the blind man at Jericho….

The Passion Gospel for Palm Sunday (Luke 22: 14  – 23: 56) invites us to join the dots and reflect on how the Spirit of God who led Jesus to Calvary leads us to prayer and the depths of things and to sharing the of Good News of things. We can pray through this Gospel in small bites, reading and reflecting on one section at a time or focussing on one or other of the various characters and groups: Pilate who found no basis for a crime in Jesus (Luke 23: 4 & 14) yet handed him over to be crucified; Joseph of Arimathea who dared ask Pilate for the dead body of Jesus so he could give it a decent burial; Herod, who had wanted to meet Jesus and have him perform miracles at his court (Luke 23:8), and was disappointed when Jesus refused even to answer his questions….

While reading and listening to Luke’s account of the Passion, various characters and groups caught my attention. Simon of Cyrene, who was up from the country for the Passover, was made carry the cross with Jesus. There were women wailing and beating their breasts in old Middle-Eastern fashion and to whom Jesus uttered a mysterious prophecy. Two criminals were led away and put to death with him. One derided Jesus, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” “Have you no fear of God? This man has done nothing wrong,” rebuked the other. And then, “Jesus, remember me….” And Jesus reply, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Death-bed conversion!

The leaders of the people who had followed all the way to Calvary scoffed at Jesus – “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah.” The Roman soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” There was an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”  During the three hours of darkness that came over the earth the curtain of the temple was torn in two, and Jesus cried in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” When the centurion saw with his inner eye what had taken place, he alone recognised what had happened and said, “Certainly, this man was innocent.”

Fr. QQ – 04/05/2022




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