Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Cycle C
Jesus Gives Up His Life.
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Dear brothers and sisters,
since the beginning of Lent until now
we have prepared our hearts
by penance and charitable works.
Today we gather together to herald
with the whole Church
the beginning of the celebration of our Lord’s paschal mystery,
that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection.
For it was to accomplish this mystery
that he entered his own city of Jerusalem.
Therefore, with all faith and devotion,
let us commemorate the Lord’s entry into the city
for our salvation,
following in his footsteps,
so that being made by his grace partakers of the Cross,
we may have a share also in his Resurrection and in his life.
If palm crosses have been prepared, or palm branches or other branches are being held, the Leader prays:
Let us pray
Almighty ever-living God,
may these branches be a sign of your blessing,
that we who follow Christ the King in exultation,
may reach the eternal Jerusalem through him
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
When they drew near to Jerusalem,
to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two of his disciples, and said to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied,
on which no one has ever sat;
untie it and bring it.
If any one says to you, “Why are you doing this? ‘
say, “The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.”
And they went away, and found a colt tied at the door out in the open street;
and they untied it.
And those who stood there said to them,
“What are you doing untying the colt?”
And they told them what Jesus had said;
and they let them go.
And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it,
and he sat upon it.
And many spread their garments on it;
and others spread leafy branches which they cut from the fields.
And those who went before and those who followed cried out,
“ Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!
Hosanna in the highest!
The Gospel of the Lord
Almighty and eternal God,
when you sent our Saviour into the world,
you gave us all an example to follow:
in humble obedience he took upon himself a body like ours
and gave himself up to death on the cross.
In your mercy, grant us the grace
to learn from the example of his passion
and to share in the glory of his resurrection.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7
Introduction to the reading: Chapters 40-55 of the book of Isaiah contain the message of a prophet who spoke to God’s people during their exile in Babylon. Several times the prophet speaks about a Servant who will one day deliver God’s people. Because the Servant is portrayed as suffering, Christians have traditionally identified Jesus with him.
A reading from the Book of Isaiah
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him that is weary.
Morning by morning he wakens,
he wakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught.The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I hid not my face
from shame and spitting.
For the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been confounded;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 22:8-9.17-18a.19-20.23-24 (R. 2a)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm.
R/. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
All who see me deride me;
they curl their lips, they toss their heads:
“He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him, for in him he delights.”
For dogs have surrounded me;
a band of the wicked besets me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet;
I can count every one of my bones.
They divide my clothing among them,
they cast lots for my robe.
But you O Lord, do not stay afar off;
my strength, make haste to help me!
I will tell of your name to my kin,
and praise you in the midst of the assembly;
“You who fear the Lord, give him praise;
all descendants of Jacob, give him glory;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel.
R/. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
Introduction to the reading: In the years following Christ’s death and resurrection, Christians began to develop the prayers and hymns that would become part of their rituals. In today’s passage from the letter to the Philippians, Paul appears to be quoting an early Christian hymn celebrating the dying and rising of Christ.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a servant,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient unto death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
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.
The word of the Lord.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
Christ became obedient for us unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him: and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
Gospel: Luke 22:14-23:56
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
When the hour came, Jesus sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a chalice, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it was that would do this.
A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
“You are those who have continued with me in my trials; as my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.”
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has its fulfilment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and captains of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance; and when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a maid, seeing him as he sat in the light and gazing at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later some one else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and asked him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him.
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes; and they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” And they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” And they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
Then the whole company of them arose, and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, “I find no crime in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length; but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then, arraying him in gorgeous apparel, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
All kneel and pause for a moment.
Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance and saw these things.
Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
When we listen to Luke’s gospel, many times we have heard Jesus say, “I must go up to Jerusalem.”
Today we remember how Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. Today we hear of the final part of his journey to the holy city. He is riding a colt and greeted by “the whole multitude of his disciples” who praise God, “for all the mighty deeds they have seen.” This is a climatic moment for Jesus and his disciples. Their journey to Jerusalem is ending and another is about to begin— the excited disciples have no clue what is about to happen. We have arrived at a climatic moment. With Jesus and his disciples we are entering Holy Week.
Jesus enters the city from the East, from the same direction as the rising sun. A new day is beginning. Old ways are being put aside. Darkness is overcome. Today a new day is beginning; today Jesus enters Jerusalem. Today speaks clearly to us: have no doubts, God is not indifferent to human plight; human suffering has not fallen on deaf ears. God has heard our cry for help. Today, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem.
In Jesus’ time, going to Jerusalem was an important and joyful event. Devout Jews went to the city to observe important feasts and rituals. Jerusalem had great symbolic power for believers, for the Temple was in Jerusalem and it was in and around the Temple that important ceremonies were performed. But the power of the Roman Empire was there too. Jesus and his disciples knew how dangerous this fateful journey would be.
Why go up to Jerusalem at all? Why not “lay low” and stay our of trouble? Or, continue preaching – but from a safe distance. By his entering Jerusalem Jesus challenges our accommodation to all kinds of power – our “modern Jerusalems,” – our misplaced respect for: The need of power and status; or the selfishness of consumerism and many other ills of our society.
This week I saw a Madam and Eve cartoon. The first panel announced: The state of disaster has been lifted. And then you see petrol R22 a litre,A vandalised Metrorail station, A Car in a pothole, Unemployment, Eskom with power stations not working, A Mugging, Shack dwellers, And the final caption says: “and now things can return to normal.”
We could just fall back on our baptism, say our prayers and hope for our resurrection. But Jesus entered Jerusalem and he challenges each of us to confront our contemporary Jerusalems.
Like Jesus, our personal Jerusalem may be a place where we seem to be losers: where our faith values are disregarded or rubbished; or where we face daily encounters with forces that oppose our best efforts.
We are called to be present to our own experience of Jerusalem and there we are invited to take up the cross and risk what previously we have cherished and clung to. But first, before we straighten our shoulders and prepare for the struggle, we must let Jesus go ahead of us. We follow him into the city this week. We watch how he surrenders to God’s ways and we identify with him.
We witness and experience the completely human and utterly shabby circumstances in which Christ died.
Take for example the behaviour of his friends.
Was there ever such a complete let-down? Think of Judas, one of the specially chosen twelve. One can feel the hurt, almost the unbelief in Christ’s gentle words, “Friend, why are you here? Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ One could almost stomach the betrayal of Judas had the other eleven remained faithful. But one short line tells their story, “And they all forsook him and fled.”
And Peter! Surely not Peter. Think of all those miracles Christ worked while Peter was by his side. He raised the dead child to life.He set him walking on water. He was transfigured before him. Only a few short hours before, Peter had boasted, “Even though all abandon you, I will follow you to prison and to death.”
And then a comment or two from a servant girl looking for notice, and Peter the Rock disintegrated. “He began to curse and to swear that he knew not the man.” That must really have hurt Jesus. “And Jesus turning looked at Peter and Peter went out and wept bitterly.”
And these were his friends, his only friends. The people he lived with and loved. The people he showered his miracles on and shared his secrets with. And not one of them lifted a finger for him.
What has the Passion story to do with us? It is the story of our salvation. But it is more, much more. It is the story of our lives. There isn’t a part in the whole sad story that we, each one of us, wouldn’t play to perfection. Think of Peter in his pride and Peter in his fall and, hopefully, Peter in his repentance too.
We’d fit in perfectly with the disciples who fled at the first sign of danger, or with Caiaphas and the high priests, with their self-righteousness and eagerness to reform others while ignoring themselves, or with Pilate in his abuse of authority, or with the mob with its thirst for excitement and blood.
And Judas? Let’s face it, there’s a bit of Judas in all of us. There are times and situations in all our lives when Jesus could easily say to us as he said to Judas, “Friend, why are you here?”
During the week ahead, meditate on the Passion of Jesus. Let it become a source of healing for us all. Do not waste this week. Spend this week with Jesus, meditating on his Passion. Come to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night and Easter Sunday.
The crowd that welcomed Jesus with palms, turned against him just as quickly and abandoned him. We will never abandon Jesus. This week we walk with Jesus and we journey with Jesus as we wait for new life to come for us all.
From today’s Gospel reading:
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.
Luke’s Passion narrative reveals how much Jesus has lost – his followers and friends have abandoned or betrayed him; his life’s project has collapsed into humiliation and defeat. Luke is inviting anyone of us who have similar losses to identify with Jesus. He is no stranger to our pain and joins us as we wait for new life to come where we have experienced death.
So, we ask ourselves:
- What touched us the most in the Passion reading today?
- Among the loses we have experienced in our lives, which was the most painful?
- Did we have any experience of Jesus’ presence with us during that period of pain?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: Today we journey with Christ, cheering with the crowds as he triumphantly enters Jerusalem and standing in silent awe as he embraces the agony of the cross for us.
We pray for the leaders of the Church: (pause)
that they may remain faithful in their trials and constant in their service.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all Christians, especially those who suffer for their faith: (pause) that they may be filled with strength and courage by the Lord and so remain faithful to their mission.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those who struggle with guilt and remorse: (pause)
that they may obtain the courage to ask for forgiveness and find ways to bring healing to those they have hurt.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those who are crushed and oppressed by the greed and violence of others: (pause)
that people of goodwill may stand in solidarity with all who suffer.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those who have died: (pause)
that, like the good thief, they may hear the Lord welcoming them into paradise.
LORD HEAR US
Leader: Let us pray for South Africa:
We praise you for all who work for your kingdom to come.
We thank you for seeing South Africa through many milestones in the past.
We are sorry for failing the vision of justice, peace and mercy.
Send your Holy Spirit to us in our present need.
Be with those who will govern us.
May they work selflessly and diligently
so that our country may flourish in truth and in justice;
in love and in freedom.
Grant us a listening heart
and the courage to act justly and peacefully,
to love tenderly and walk humbly with You our God.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: O God of eternal glory,
you anointed Jesus, your servant,
to bear our sins,
to encourage the weary,
to raise up and restore the fallen.
Keep before our eyes
the splendour of the paschal mystery of Christ,
and, by our sharing in the passion and resurrection,
seal our lives with the victorious sign
of his obedience and exaltation.
We ask this through Christ, our liberator from sin,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
holy and mighty God for ever and ever.
A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.