Palm/Passion Sunday, Year A
Sunday Church at Home
during the Covid-19 Crisis
Family and friends are invited to gather in a suitable space at home. Instrumental music may be played or a hymn may be sung.
Take a green branch from your garden and have it ready for the service.
Leader: We gather here as the Church of Christ in our home.
Unfortunately, we are not able to attend Mass in our parish church as we are all trying to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus in our country. Let us be united in the spirit of Christ with the Church around the world, and celebrate our redemption in Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.
All stand and the lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: ln 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
Leader: During Lent, we have been preparing our hearts to celebrate Easter. Today we join Christ as he enters Jerusalem. In the coming days, we will relive the mystery of his death and resurrection. By joining ourselves to Christ, God’s grace will lift us up and rescue us.
Each person can hold a branch during the reading.
Reader: A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew.
When they were near Jerusalem, the disciples brought a donkey to Jesus and laid their clothes on its back. Jesus sat on the donkey. A great crowd spread their clothes on the road, while others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in his path. The crowds who went in front of him and those who were following were crying out: Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil as people asked, ‘Who is this?’ and the crowds answered, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
All: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Spend a few minutes in silence to think about the Gospel. Then talk together about what Jesus will do in Jerusalem in the coming days. What will happen on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday?
Leader: Let us pray
Lord, increase the faith of your people and listen to our prayers. Today we honour Christ our triumphant king by carrying these branches. May we honour you every day by living always in him, for he is Lord for ever and ever.
Leader: Let us now listen to the passion of our Lord.
If you have your missals with you, the Passion may be read by three readers, one reader being the Narrator, the second reader takes the part of Christ, and the third reader reads the speakers other than Christ.
Narrator parts are plain, Jesus’ spoken parts are Purple and Other speaker’s parts are Blue.
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
At that time: One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to such a one, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter declared to him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Hail, Master!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, why are you here?” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter followed him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face, and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a maid came up to him, and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and they bound him and led him away and delivered him to Pilate the governor.
When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” So they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge; so that the governor wondered greatly.
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much over him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified.” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified.”
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this righteous man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him.
As they were marching out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
All kneel and pause for a moment.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him; among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that imposter said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). This prophecy by the prophet Zechariah is fulfilled today. It is the beginning of Holy Week, and with the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, we begin the celebration of His Passion and Resurrection.
I am struck by how Jesus enters the loneliest time of his life despite being surrounded by the masses, the crowds. Perhaps we can learn something about ourselves in this. I would like us, this morning, to immerse ourselves in the narrative imagining ourselves there from the vantage point of some of the masses mentioned.
I invite you now to close your eyes and imagine the following crowds:
The first crowd: the crowds spreading their garments and tree branches on the road as Jesus enters Jerusalem. Matthew tells us that some went in front of Jesus whereas others followed behind him. In which crowd would you be? In front of Jesus? Why? Behind him? Why? Am I willing to let Jesus take the lead in my life, like the crowd following behind him? Or do I want to always be in control and lead Jesus to where I think he wants me to go? Jesus says: “I know my sheep and they know me; they follow me?”
These crowds were shouting: “Hosanna” which means “Please, save us!” What area of my life needs Christ’s saving touch today? With the crowds we plead: “Save us, Lord, we beseech you!”
The second crowd: When Jesus enters Jerusalem the crowds in the city ask: “Who is this?” And the crowds with Jesus answer: “It is Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.” Do I know who Jesus is? Do I have a personal relationship with him? Also, do I know what my crowd – the Church – teaches about Jesus?
The third crowd: When Judas came to betray Jesus, he showed up with “a great crowd with swords and clubs.” Imagine that crowd? Would I have been among them? What sword or club do I confront Jesus with, situations in which, if given a chance, I would arrest Jesus and put him on trial? Is it my financial troubles, my cancer, my wayward children, my divorce procedures, the emptiness and desolation I feel in my prayer life?
The fourth crowd: Imagine the nameless bystanders in the courtyard of the High Priest’s place. Would I be among them? Is that how I treat myself and my faith? Am I a mere bystander, present at some times and then disappearing at others? Do I come to Mass only on certain occasions during the year? Perhaps Jesus is challenging you today? Do not remain a bystander. He loves you 100% and he wants your love 100%.
The fifth crowd: The crowd gathered at the governor’s place. When asked who should be released, they ask for Barabbas, a notorious prisoner. How ironic: the name Barabbas means “son of his father”. Jesus is the real Bar-Abbas, Son of the Eternal Father. And yet, at times, we replace him with idols. Which Barabbas have I let loose in my life instead of having Jesus the real Bar-Abbas reign in my life? Drugs, greed, lust, pride; or perhaps it’s a person, my boyfriend or girlfriend, my spouse?
Jesus, the real Bar-Abbas, Son of the Father, have mercy on us.
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: In humility and trust, let us turn to God our Father, and present to Him our prayers and petitions.
Reader: For the Church: (pause) that united in one heart and one voice we may accompany our Lord with psalms and praises to the Holy City and that we may follow Him faithfully to the end. LORD, HEAR US.
For suffering individuals, groups, and nations: (pause) that the greedy betrayers may come to repentance and that true peace may be restored. LORD, HEAR US.
For all who bear the role of prophet in the Church: (pause) that, with the Master, they may have a well-trained ear and words that can rouse the weary. LORD, HEAR US.
For all Christians: (pause) that we may allow grace to bring us with Jesus to the loving obedience to the Father’s will. LORD, HEAR US.
For us all as we enter into Holy Week: (pause) that we may have the courage to look long and steadily at our crucified Lord who speaks His word of redeeming solidarity in the pain-filled silence of His cross. LORD, HEAR US.
We pray for all who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
All: And let perpetual light shine on them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray our prayer for healing:
All pray: Lord Jesus Christ,
you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love. Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care. Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another. Lord Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow. Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace. Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace. Lord Jesus Christ, heal us. Amen.
During the nationwide lockdown, the list of cancelled events includes weekday and Sunday Masses. No Mass means no Eucharist. Jesus gave us his Body and Blood on the cross and instituted the memorial of this great sacrifice at the Last Supper. “Do this in memory of me,” he told us. And so we do at every Mass. It is only during the Mass at the consecration that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Thus, cancelling Masses is monumental. We can still 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. Here is the Act of Spiritual Communion written by St. Alphonsus de Liguori:
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
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: LORD JESUS CHRIST, by your passion, death and resurrection you have set us free from sin and death. May your grace renew our hearts this Holy Week and help us turn from sin in our own lives. May we learn to appreciate more deeply the sacrifice you made for us. Accept our prayer, fasting and acts of charity as we seek to draw closer to you during this holy season. Strengthen the faith of your people so that we may be a sign of your love to all the world. We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord. AMEN.
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.
Instrumental music may be played or a hymn may be sung.
You may download a PDF version of this Liturgy for sharing with friends and family.