Palm (Passion) Sunday A

Obediently accepting death on a cross

Andy lived in Jersey City. His father worked for the great meat-packing firm of Swift and Company.

Andy’s dad used every opportunity to educate his son along practical lines. One day when the boy was about ten, he took him on a tour of the Swift packing-houses in Newark to show him how they killed animals for the meat-markets. Swift called these places their “abbatoirs.” The French word abattoir sounds a little less gross, but it means the same as the English “slaughter-house.” What the butchers did there was a necessary but bloody business; not always easy for a visitor to stomach.

Andy noticed in particular the way in which the different types of animals reacted to impending death. The beef cattle and calves struggled and bellowed with fear. Pigs squealed and squirmed and tried to escape. But the sheep were different. They simply stood there meek and silent, offering no resistance to their slayers.

When Andy grew up, he became a priest. He never forgot the way he had seen sheep behave in the face of death, and he often pointed out in his Holy Week sermons how appropriately the Christ who died for us is called “the Lamb.”

The Jews of bible times knew very well how sheep acted under these circumstances. Sheep and goats were their main livestock. Isaiah spoke out of experience when he foretold in vision how the Messiah would die: “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Is 53:7)

Today as we enter upon Passion Week, let us bear in mind this symbol of Christ as a lamb, and during the narrative of His passion and death and see how well it was fulfilled.

As St. Paul tells us, the Son of God, to save us, “became man – emptied himself and took on the form of a slave.” So when this humble God-man stood before His judges and executioners, He “made no reply.” “He humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross.”

How apt, then, were the words with which John the Baptist first introduced Jesus to the world. “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q311: Why did Jesus Christ pick that precise historical period of time to come into the world 2000 years ago?

That answer is known only to God, of course. But we can offer some speculative thoughts. Suppose the “Palm Sunday” procession would have taken place in 2005. Would Jesus have entered Jerusalem in a Mini Cooper, or maybe a Prius (Toyota’s hybrid gas-electric that gets 60 mpg in the city)? It would surely have been a “stretch” to see how that could implement the prophecy that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey! So at that point in history, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. In His divine wisdom, our Lord also knew that this was exactly the right time to redeem and save his children. Over the centuries the chosen people had grown in their understanding of God’s self-revelation, and they were now ready for the really Good News.

When one reflects on the agony, suffering and death that Jesus went through after his triumphant procession into Jerusalem, one can only be overwhelmed with awe at both the Incarnation and the Passion, that our God would love us that much! Think about it: God humbled himself for us! That is staggering to the imagination. All we can do in response is to bow our heads in awe, and present our loving, contrite hearts to God, begging for mercy. God wants a humbled, contrite heart as the sign of our true repentance. The Second Reading (Phil 2:6-11) is a perfect poem to sit with and meditate upon in front of the Crucifix, or in front of the Tabernacle.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! From conception (Incarnation) to death on Calvary, Jesus was on a redemptive mission for our salvation (CCC #606). It is a magnificent mystery how God the Father reveals his power in the voluntary humiliation and resurrection of his Son (CCC #272). We are called to “perfect contrition” (CCC #1452) as our response.

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Q467: The “suffering servant” in the First Reading (Isaiah 50:4-9) gets beat up and spit upon, and just sits there and “takes” it without retaliation. How can that relate to me today?

The key to reading this passage is found in the opening verses. The first priority of this Servant is to “listen” to the Lord every morning. How can we know what the Lord wants to say to us today unless we read and meditate (listen) to his inspired word in Holy Scripture? Here is a website to assist you daily, providing a calendar with both the daily Mass readings and a commentary:http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/daily.html.

The second thing we learn from the Servant is that meditating on Gods inspired word every morning will empower us to offer a word of hope to others who need to hear good news! This is always the mission of every baptized Catholic – to participate in the mission of Jesus by spreading the good news of his presence, compassion, and unconditional love.

Now comes the hard part. A lot of people don’t want to hear the truth, the good news that Jesus Christ brought to us. So when you attempt to pass on the gospel truth, you may encounter strong resistance. Perhaps you will suffer no physical abuse; but you will certainly be persecuted in other ways for your stand against the evils of our culture of death – evils such as abortion, contraception, indifference to the poor, attacks on marriage and family, pick-and-choose Christianity, and so on. Are you willing to be shunned, banned, ignored, slandered, and misrepresented – all because you choose to stand up for the Truth? If you say “yes” then you are truly following in the footsteps of Jesus, exactly what a disciple is expected to do – all with the Lord God as your help.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Holy Scripture has always been the source of nourishment and the guiding light of our Christian life (CCC #141). Non-violent resistance is more powerful than violence, demonstrated by the Suffering Servant Jesus Christ (CCC #601).

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He Emptied Himself

Palm Sunday is the overture to Holy Week. The procession with palms celebrates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, acclaimed by the people for his miracles and teaching. But Isaiah and the Psalm Response then give us a preview of the Passion: I gave my back to those who beat me. They have pierced my hands and my feet. Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself…even to death on a cross. At the Last Supper Jesus prepares his disciples and us for Calvary. But all of these prophecies also remind us that Jesus’ triumph was his self-giving on the cross to open for us the road to the Father.

Come, Holy Spirit, and fill us with the love and courage to give of ourselves to others as Jesus did, so that we and those to whom we give ourselves may rise with Jesus to the Father.

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