The various characters in the Passion represent our sins which led to Jesus crucifixion

Homily for Palm Sunday

by Fr. Tommy Lane

How beautiful is the account of Jesus’ Passion. Because the Passion of Jesus was so revered it is believed the Passion accounts in the Gospels were the first parts of the Gospels to be written. The early Christians were so eager to preserve the account of our salvation that they put the Passion of Jesus in writing quickly. We can understand their sentiments because too venerate Jesus’ Passion.

As the early Christians looked back so many events of Jesus’ Passion took on new meaning. As Jesus celebrated the Passover with the apostles and changed the Jewish prayers over the bread and the cup into different prayers - the prayers we now have during the consecration of the Mass - we can imagine that they wondered what was happening. When Jesus said, “Take it, this is my body” (Mark 14:22), surely it was only looking back afterwards that they realized Jesus fulfilled this at his death on Calvary when he gave his body for us. When Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant which is to be poured out for many” (Mark 14:24) surely it was looking back afterwards that they saw this fulfilled at Jesus’ death on Calvary when he poured out blood to form the new covenant for the forgiveness of our sins. That reminds us that every time we come to Mass we come to Calvary where he gives his body for us and his blood is poured out for us. It the same sacrifice on Calvary, not a new one, extended through time to us now.

As we look at the Passion of Jesus so many events take on new meaning for us also. We see a whole host of characters who each had a role to play that eventually led to Jesus’ crucifixion. Once we realize that it was our sins that crucified Jesus we can see these different characters in the Passion representing our sins which caused Jesus to die. Think of Judas. When he met Jesus in Gethsemane he kissed Jesus (Mark 14:45) but it was a deceitful and treacherous kiss. It was not a kiss of love because Judas’ heart was far from Jesus. When we come to Mass we kiss the Lord, especially when we receive him in Holy Communion and as Mass ends we are invited to “Go and serve the Lord” yet how often we sin. We can see some of ourselves in Judas. We can see this in a very public way in politicians who say they are Catholic but yet support abortion. On the one hand they kiss Jesus and on the other they allow plots or support plots against Jesus’ innocent ones.

Peter promised that even if all lost faith in Jesus he would not (Mark 14:49) yet when Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest’s house he denied Jesus three times when he was put under pressure (Mark 14:68,70,71). In the Greek of Mark’s Gospel Peter’s third denial is ambiguous and could even mean that Peter cursed Jesus (Mark 14:71). When we sin, is it not because of a lapse of faith, because our faith is weak? Listen to what Peter said, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about” (Mark 14:68), “I do not know this man about whom you are talking”. There are some who apparently say now they did not know it is a serious sin to miss Mass on Sundays and Holydays, and some who say they did not know it is a serious sin to have intimate relations before marriage. Just as Peter was forgiven and restored by Jesus we too are forgiven and restored by Jesus when we repent.

The bystanders around Jesus heaped insults on him reminding us of the insults heaped on the Church today.

“Some began to spit on him. They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards greeted him with blows.” (Mark 14:65)

Jesus founded the Church; he said to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Matt 16:18). If we love Jesus, surely we will love the Church. St. Paul tells us the Church is the Body of Christ (Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 10:16-17; 12:12-31) and he learned this in a very dramatic way on the road to Damascus persecuting Christians when Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?...I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5) We see the weaknesses and failures of individuals in the Church, which is an opportunity to pray for them and forgive them and pray that the Church will become what it is called to be, but the Church is a gift from Jesus to us. If we reject the Church we reject Jesus. Jesus said in Luke 10:16, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me.”

Some people twisted Jesus’ words and turned his words into a false accusation against Jesus.

“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.’” (Mark 14:58)

Jesus had predicted that the temple would be destroyed (Mark 13:2) but never said he would destroy the temple. In fact the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. They misunderstood Jesus and made false accusations against him. Today many misunderstand the Church’s teaching and misrepresent it and therefore wrongfully accuse the Church. The Church is a caring mother and all her teaching is given out of love, asking us to look beyond our momentary selfishness to the real meaning of who we humans are - children of God - and encouraging us to live in a way that reflects who we really are, children of God. Even though the people made a false accusation about Jesus destroying the temple it is ironic that at the moment Jesus died the curtain/veil in the temple was torn in two (Mark 15:38) to show that now people had a new way to go to the Father, through Jesus, and not through the worship at the temple. (See Heb 10:19-22) Even though they falsely accused Jesus he was right and even if people misrepresent the Church’s teaching now her teaching is still true.

As the early Christians looked back so many events of Jesus’ Passion meant so much. As we look at the Passion of Jesus so many events also take on new meaning for us. We see a whole host of characters who each had a role to play that eventually led to Jesus’ crucifixion. Once we realize that it was our sins that crucified Jesus we can see these different characters in the Passion representing our sins which caused Jesus to die. Let us remember the love of the Lord for us which caused him to suffer for our sins and let us turn to the Lord in love. May our meditation on Jesus’ Passion this week encourage us to renew our lives with Jesus and leave sin behind to rise with his new life at Easter. This week we are beginning is indeed a Holy Week. Try to keep it as a Holy Week, attending the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for Palm Sunday

The Passion of Jesus shows us up as sinners and heals us

Related Homilies: Jesus’ Sufferings Revealed by the Turin Shroud

Gethsemane and crucifixion