Palm / Passion Sunday of the Year C
Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14-23: 56
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong. It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand.
However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Today with the whole Church, we enter the Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday. Holy Week is the most important and solemn time of the liturgical year. It begins on Palm Sunday and lasts through Easter Sunday. That is the week relating many events in the last days of Jesus’ life on earth.
In the Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation, which Jesus completed in his last days: from his triumphant entry to the city of Jerusalem to his Passion and death on the cross for our sin. Listening to the passion of Jesus (Lk 22:14-23) today we are moved with love for Jesus and sorrow for our sins. That is why today also called Passion Sunday. Our meditations on Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem, his agony in the garden of Gethsemani, his suffering and death on the cross, his resurrection from the tomb will be meaningful and beneficial to our soul if we can draw certain conclusions, and put them into practice in our daily lives .
On Monday of the Holy Week, the gospel of Saint John tells us Jesus had dinner at which Marta served. Then Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume and dried them with her hair (Jn 12:3). Judas protested saying the perfume could be sold in order to get money for the poor (Jn 12:4-5). In reality, he was not concerned for the poor. What Mary was doing, Jesus told her to keep doing, in preparation for his burial. Today is a time to help us reflect on our faith experience in order to find out our weak points whether we have been true to ourselves.
On Tuesday of the Holy Week, Saint John’s gospel predicted Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial of Jesus. If we are true to ourselves, we must come to realize that sometimes we were like Judas, sometimes we were like Peter. We were as if Judas when we denied God’s grace crucified Jesus by nailing him again by our sins. We were like Peter when we did not dare to show our faith, or our Catholic identity (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38).
On Wednesday of the Holy Week, the Gospel identified Judas as the one who would betray Jesus and warned him of serious consequence of his betrayal: Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. Better for him if he had never been born (Mt 26:24). However, Judas still followed his course of action. Judas’ sin and Peter’s sin do not differ much. Peter’s repentance made it a big difference: He went out and began to weep bitterly (Mt 26:75). His tears washed away his sin of denial and brought him back to live in grace.
On Holy Thursday, Jesus did something unthinkable: he washed the feet of the apostles. The washing of feet was a servant’s job at that time in Palestine. That is why Peter objected saying to Jesus, his master and Lord: You shall never wash my feet (Jn 13:8). However, Jesus prevailed over Peter’s protest and reluctance. By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus wanted to teach them, and through them to teach us a lesson of humble service. This humble service of love is the essence of our Christian ministry. At the Last Supper on the Jewish Passover meal, Jesus also instituted the Eucharist for our spiritual food and drink: This is my body to be given up for you (Lk 22:19). This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you (Lk 22:20). It was in this meal that became the first Eucharist, the Passover meal of the new covenant with his apostles for the new chosen people of God. In order to continue the Eucharist, Jesus also instituted the priesthood by telling the Apostles: Do this as a remembrance of me (Lk 22:19).
On Good Friday, we commemorate Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Today is a day of penance, fast and abstinence. The way of Christian fast and abstinence is not like the Pharisees’ way. The Christians do not fast and do abstinence as something they have to do unwillingly, but for the love of God. When the Christians do things for the love of God, things will become easier, more meaningful and beneficial to their soul. That love is a transforming love. There is no celebration of mass on Good Friday as to direct our mind to the cross of Christ, his passion and death. Instead, we will have the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion. What shall we do in return to the Lord for his suffering and death for our sins out of his love? Shall we die to our sins and the roots of sins such as anger, selfishness, and pride to rise with him in a new life of grace?
The reflective expression on Holy Saturday should help the Christian continue to reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death, waiting for his resurrection in glory on Easter Sunday. Only by sharing his suffering and cross, can we participate in his glorious resurrection. In an audience of 20,000 pilgrims on Wednesday of the Holy Week of 2009 at Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI talked about the meaning of Holy Saturday as follows: “The Church keeps vigil of prayers, sharing the suffering of our Blessed Mother and trusting in God. This reflection leads us to the Easter Vigil, in which the joy and light of Easter burst into flames from the darkness”.
Prayer asking to live the Holy Week in grace:
Oh, Lord our God!
Due to sins of humankind including my own,
you had to suffered crucifixion and death on the cross.
Stir up in us a spirit of repentance for our sins committed.
Grant that we may unite our suffering with your suffering
as to partake in your resurrection. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trọng
. Ideas of this sentence are borrowed from Homilies Sunday and Weekday Masses. Liturgical Commission, Diocese of Lansing. Jan – Mar. 1978, p. 71.