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

Homily for Palm Sunday

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Who would have thought that the crowd which welcomed Jesus with such enthusiasm during his entry into Jerusalem would turn against him so quickly within days and demand his crucifixion and the release of Barabbas who had been condemned for murder? Their welcome and shouts for Jesus were superficial. Their support for him was only skin deep. It was easy to be part of a crowd that welcomed Jesus and it was easy to be part of a crowd that condemned him to death. It is easy to be part of the crowd that receives First Holy Communion. It is easy to be part of the crowd that receives Confirmation. How many of that crowd come to meet Jesus during Mass every Sunday? It is easy to be part of the crowd that puts on an impressive display for a funeral or wedding or a baptism. How many of that crowd come to meet Jesus on Sunday? It is easy to be part of the crowd. But in the account of the Passion the crowd was not there for Jesus when he needed them most. The crowd did not go to the cross. The crowd abandoned Jesus. Only a few women and John went to the cross. So much for the crowd!

During the Last Supper in Luke’s account which we heard today (Year C) Peter said he would be willing to go to prison with Jesus, even to death with him (Luke 22:33). Yet a few hours later that same evening he denied Jesus (Luke 22:56-62). How quickly he changed. How quickly he turned when the pressure was on him. He could make fine promises during the Last Supper but when the crunch came he decided to save his skin. We make fine promises to Jesus here and the crunch for us comes when temptation comes our way. How do react? Do we cave in to the pressure like Peter or do we stand by Jesus like the women and John and go right to the cross? Peter heard the cock crowing after he denied Jesus (Luke 22:60) but our world is so addicted to sin that maybe we don’t even hear our conscience crowing any more when we sin.

How can we not hear the account of Jesus’ Passion and not be moved by it? Recently I heard of someone asking a young person “What would you think of someone who didn’t cry while watching the movie The Passion of the Christ?” The young person responded, “He would be evil.” That young person was so moved by watching the movie that he could not understand why anybody could not be moved by watching the film. The Passion of Jesus moves us. It moves us because Jesus suffered. In the first reading today we heard what we could describe as a prophecy of Jesus’ passion,

For my part, I made no resistance,
Neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
My cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
Against insult and spittle.” (Isa 50:5-6)

The Psalm today is also in many ways a prophecy of the Passion of Jesus,

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 if this is his friend.’
Many dogs have surrounded me,
A band of the wicked beset 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.” (Ps 22:7-8, 16-18)

The Passion of Jesus moves us because it is we who have inflicted this suffering on Jesus. It was not just the chief priests and it was not just the cruel Roman soldiers who brought this suffering on Jesus; it was our sins that inflicted this suffering on Jesus. There is no past, present or future for Jesus, he is outside of time. Remember the Jubilee motto, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8) and when we sin we crucify Jesus. We nail him again. So then the account of the Passion of Jesus moves us to flee from sin, to leave sin behind. That is why we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Holy Week. The Passion of Jesus shows us up for what we are - sinners who have crucified Jesus - and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we turn to Jesus again and ask for his mercy. And through the Passion of Jesus we receive forgiveness, “through his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5)

When we are hurt by things in our own life and hurt by what we see happening in the world around us and need answers and healing and reassurance let us turn to meditating on the Passion of Jesus and find the answer there, “through his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) In fact, in Luke’s account of the Passion which we heard today (Year C) there were two occurrences of healing that are recorded only by Luke: Jesus healed the ear of the high priest’s servant which was wounded during the fray in Gethsemane (Luke 22:51) and secondly the enmity between Herod and Pilate was healed (Luke 23:12). During the week ahead meditate on the Passion of Jesus, let it become a source of healing for you also. 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 and Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. The crowd which welcomed Jesus with palms turned against him just as quickly and abandoned Jesus. Peter too turned from Jesus to save himself. Do we hear our conscience crowing any more when we sin? See what we have done to Jesus. Flee from sin, and be healed, “through his wounds we are healed.”

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for Palm Sunday

The various characters in the Passion represent our sins that led to Jesus’ crucifixion 2009

Related Homilies: Jesus’ Sufferings Revealed by the Turin Shroud

Gethsemane and crucifixion