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Palm Sunday 2010

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First Reading

Isaiah 50, 4-7

Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple's tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple.
Lord Yahweh has opened my ear and I have not resisted, I have not turned away.
I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting.
Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame.



Psalm 21


Jesus, man of pain, you truly know suffering.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
You are far from my plea
and the cry of my distress

O my God, I call by day and you give no reply;
I call by night and I find no peace.

Yet you, O God, are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.

In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you set them free.

When they cried to you, they escaped.
In you they trusted and never in vain.

But I am a worm and no man,
the butt of men, laughing-stock of the people.

All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.

'He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let them release him if this is his friend'.

Yes, it was you who took me from the womb,
entrusted me to my mother's breast,

To you I was committed from my birth,
from my mother's womb you have been my God.

Do not leave me alone in my distress;
come close,
there is none else to help.

Many bulls have surrounded me,
fierce bulls of Bashan close me in.

Against me they open wide their jaws,
like lions, rending and roaring.

Like water I am poured out,
disjointed are all my bones.

My heart has become like wax,
it is melted within my breast.

Parched as burnt clay is my throat,
my tongue cleaves to my jaws
and lay me in the dust of death.

Many dogs 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.

These people stare at me and gloat;
they divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.

O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!

Rescue my soul from the sword,
my life from the grip of these dogs.

Save my life from the jaws of these lions,
my poor soul from the horns of these oxen.

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.

'You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel's sons.

For he has never despised
nor scorned the poverty of the poor.

From him he has not hidden his face,
but he heard the poor man when he cried'.

You are my praise in the great assembly.
My vows I will pay before those who fear him.

The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him.
May their hearts live for ever and ever!

All the earth shall remember
and return to the Lord,

all families of the nations
worship before him

For the kingdom is the Lord's;
he is ruler of the nations.

They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust.

And my soul shall live for him,
my children serve him.

They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
declare his faithfulness.

to peoples yet unborn '
These things the Lord has done'.

Second Reading

Philippians 2, 6-11

Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped.
But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being,
he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.
And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names;
so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Reading of the Gospel

Luke 22, 14-23,56

When the time came he took his place at table, and the apostles with him.
And he said to them, 'I have ardently longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
because, I tell you, I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.'
Then, taking a cup, he gave thanks and said, 'Take this and share it among you,
because from now on, I tell you, I shall never again drink wine until the kingdom of God comes.'
Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'
He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.
'But look, here with me on the table is the hand of the man who is betraying me.
The Son of man is indeed on the path which was decreed, but alas for that man by whom he is betrayed!'
And they began to ask one another which of them it could be who was to do this.
An argument also began between them about who should be reckoned the greatest;
but he said to them, 'Among the gentiles it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title Benefactor.
With you this must not happen. No; the greatest among you must behave as if he were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves.
For who is the greater: the one at table or the one who serves? The one at table, surely? Yet here am I among you as one who serves!
'You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials;
and now I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father conferred one on me:
you will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
'Simon, Simon! Look, Satan has got his wish to sift you all like wheat;
but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers.'
'Lord,' he answered, 'I would be ready to go to prison with you, and to death.'
Jesus replied, 'I tell you, Peter, by the time the cock crows today you will have denied three times that you know me.'
He said to them, 'When I sent you out without purse or haversack or sandals, were you short of anything?'
'No, nothing,' they said. He said to them, 'But now if you have a purse, take it, and the same with a haversack; if you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one,
because I tell you these words of scripture are destined to be fulfilled in me: He was counted as one of the rebellious. Yes, what it says about me is even now reaching its fulfilment.'
They said, 'Lord, here are two swords.' He said to them, 'That is enough!'
He then left to make his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, with the disciples following.
When he reached the place he said to them, 'Pray not to be put to the test.'
Then he withdrew from them, about a stone's throw away, and knelt down and prayed.
'Father,' he said, 'if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.'
Then an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength.
In his anguish he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
When he rose from prayer he went to the disciples and found them sleeping for sheer grief.
And he said to them, 'Why are you asleep? Get up and pray not to be put to the test.'
Suddenly, while he was still speaking, a number of men appeared, and at the head of them the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, who went up to Jesus to kiss him.
Jesus said, 'Judas, are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?'
His followers, seeing what was about to happen, said, 'Lord, shall we use our swords?'
And one of them struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear.
But at this Jesus said, 'That is enough.' And touching the man's ear he healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests and captains of the Temple guard and elders who had come for him, 'Am I a bandit, that you had to set out with swords and clubs?
When I was among you in the Temple day after day you never made a move to lay hands on me. But this is your hour; this is the reign of darkness.'
They seized him then and led him away, and they took him to the high priest's house. Peter followed at a distance.
They had lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and Peter sat down among them,
and as he was sitting there by the blaze a servant-girl saw him, peered at him, and said, 'This man was with him too.'
But he denied it. 'Woman, I do not know him,' he said.
Shortly afterwards someone else saw him and said, 'You are one of them too.' But Peter replied, 'I am not, my friend.'
About an hour later another man insisted, saying, 'This fellow was certainly with him. Why, he is a Galilean.'
Peter said, 'My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.' At that instant, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed,
and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered the Lord's words when he had said to him, 'Before the cock crows today, you will have disowned me three times.'
And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Meanwhile the men who guarded Jesus were mocking and beating him.
They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, 'Prophesy! Who hit you then?'
And they heaped many other insults on him.
When day broke there was a meeting of the elders of the people, the chief priests and scribes. He was brought before their council,
and they said to him, 'If you are the Christ, tell us.' He replied, 'If I tell you, you will not believe,
and if I question you, you will not answer.
But from now on, the Son of man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God.'
They all said, 'So you are the Son of God then?' He answered, 'It is you who say I am.'
Then they said, 'Why do we need any evidence? We have heard it for ourselves from his own lips.'
The whole assembly then rose, and they brought him before Pilate.
They began their accusation by saying, 'We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.'
Pilate put to him this question, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' He replied, 'It is you who say it.'
Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I find no case against this man.'
But they persisted, 'He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judaea and all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.'
When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean;
and finding that he came under Herod's jurisdiction, he passed him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him.
So he questioned him at some length, but without getting any reply.
Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, vigorously pressing their accusations.
Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate.
And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.
Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people.
He said to them, 'You brought this man before me as a popular agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no grounds in the man for any of the charges you bring against him.
Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death,
so I shall have him flogged and then let him go.'
But as one man they howled, 'Away with him! Give us Barabbas!'
(This man had been thrown into prison because of a riot in the city and murder.)
In his desire to set Jesus free, Pilate addressed them again,
but they shouted back, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!'
And for the third time he spoke to them, 'But what harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him flogged and then let him go.'
But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts kept growing louder.
Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted.
He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned because of rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.
As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus.
Large numbers of people followed him, and women too, who mourned and lamented for him.
But Jesus turned to them and said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children.
For look, the days are surely coming when people will say, "Blessed are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne children, the breasts that have never suckled!"
Then they will begin to say to the mountains, "Fall on us!"; to the hills, "Cover us!"
For if this is what is done to green wood, what will be done when the wood is dry?'
Now they were also leading out two others, criminals, to be executed with him.
When they reached the place called The Skull, there they crucified him and the two criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.
Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.' Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.
The people stayed there watching. As for the leaders, they jeered at him with the words, 'He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.'
The soldiers mocked him too, coming up to him, offering him vinegar,
and saying, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.'
Above him there was an inscription: 'This is the King of the Jews'.
One of the criminals hanging there abused him: 'Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.'
But the other spoke up and rebuked him. 'Have you no fear of God at all?' he said. 'You got the same sentence as he did,
but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.'
Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'
He answered him, 'In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'
It was now about the sixth hour and the sun's light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
The veil of the Sanctuary was torn right down the middle.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice saying, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' With these words he breathed his last.
When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said, 'Truly, this was an upright man.'
And when all the crowds who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.
All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee and saw all this happen.
And now a member of the Council arrived, a good and upright man named Joseph.
He had not consented to what the others had planned and carried out. He came from Arimathaea, a Jewish town, and he lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God.
This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
He then took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put it in a tomb which was hewn in stone and which had never held a body.
It was Preparation day and the Sabbath was beginning to grow light.
Meanwhile the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus were following behind. They took note of the tomb and how the body had been laid.
Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. And on the Sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.



Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28). This sentence from the Gospel that opens the recount of Jesus’ entrance in Jerusalem encapsulates both our Lenten journey and the journey of our entire life. The coming week is called ‘holy’ because it is when we remember the days in which the greatest love ever shown to men and women was witnessed. Even though we may be immersed in our own problems, it is wise to let ourselves get caught up in the dramatic feelings that characterize Jesus’ last days. We cannot find these feelings in ourselves; we can only receive them. Accordingly, we need to make sure not to overlook the grace that we receive during these days, when our eyes will be able to see how much the Lord loves us.

Palm Sunday, which opens this great and holy week, is marked at the same time by two events: Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and the narration of his passion and death. By bringing these two temporally distinct events together into one celebration, the liturgy is meant to take away any equivocation we might feel about Jesus’ triumph. Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king, but was quite different from the kings of this world. Jesus reigns from a throne unlike the thrones found in royal palaces; he does not conquer with armies or alliances, and he does not promote himself with a well- trained, high-pressure lobbying group. Jesus himself clears up this misunderstanding when it comes up among the disciples on the evening of Holy Thursday. Turned in on themselves and therefore insensitive to the drama that Jesus is living, the disciples start talking about who among them is the greatest. But with boundless patience Jesus tells them: "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves."

These were not just easy words. In a few hours Jesus would carry this statement to its most extreme consequence in his very flesh. From a certain point of view, the story of the passion is a very simple one. There was a good man who talked about the Gospel, both in the poor and ill-famed region of Galilee and in the capital of Jerusalem, and many people came to listen to him. At a certain point the powerful decided that he had said too much and that too many people were listening to him, and they decided to silence him. They found one of his friends, who told them exactly where the man usually went to be alone: a garden at the gates of Jerusalem. That very evening he was there with his friends, and they took him and lead him before the highest authorities: Pilate, the representative of the greatest empire in the world, and Herod, the sly king. But neither of the two wanted to take any responsibility in front of that man. The crowd, which only five days earlier had been shouting: "Hosanna," now started yelling: "Crucify him! Crucify him!", and Pilate would not stand up to them. The man, after having been mocked and dressed in royal robes, was tortured, slapped, and crowned with thorns. He was then driven outside of the city (paralleling when he was born and had to find a stable outside of Bethlehem) and led up a hill called Golgotha where he was nailed to a cross with two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. And on that cross the good man died. He was named Jesus and he came from Nazareth.

It does not take much to say that this death was unjust. Death is never just, even after the most brutal crimes, but it is quite easy to say that this man’s death was truly unjust. He had not done anything wrong; indeed the people had once said: "He has done everything well" (Mk 7:37). Whoever listens to the story of this death with a little bit of heart is moved and upset; that good man had to suffer so greatly and die on the cross just because he had spoken about the Gospel and said that he was the Son of God. After reading the Passion each one of us feels a little bit of affliction and regret and is tempted to say: "I would not have done it," or to justify him or herself by saying: "I am not Pilate or Herod or even Judas." We might even try to say that we are powerless in front of the cowardice of Pilate and the cruelty of the high priests. But Peter is there too. He is not the worst of the disciples and even though he is not the best, he is certainly the most important, the one to whom Jesus had entrusted the greatest responsibility. Peter has a strong sense of himself; he is proud and even irritable. He took offence when Jesus told him that he was going to betray him, and he said: "Lord, I am ready to go to prison and death with you." But all it took was one woman and everything came crashing down. Later, it was the encounter with Jesus’ gaze that shook Peter, "The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord" (Lk 22:61). We Christians are not heroes; we are like everyone else; but if our eyes cross the eyes of that man who is going to die, we too will remember the Lord’s words and we will be freed from our fears. This is the grace given during this week: the ability to stay near that man who is suffering and dying, so that by being near him we might meet his gaze.

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