AT THE PROCESSION WITH PALMS
A reading from the Gospel According to Luke
Luke tells us of a joyous procession of the followers of Jesus into Jerusalem. You would think, just from this reading, that Jesus is about to be accepted as the true Messiah, not crucified as a dangerous criminal. How did the situation change so radically and lead to his death just a few days later? On one level, the politics of the time, Jesus is obviously a threat to the Roman rulers, and on the religious level he is also a threat to the Pharisees and Sadducees whose seat of power was the Temple in Jerusalem. Suppose the majority of the people turned against them and wanted Jesus as their leader. The Romans would never have let that happen, and they had the military power to prevent it. At the same time, the religious leaders’ power existed only with the support of Rome, which would not be happy with some upstart prophet leading a rebellion against their authority or that of the Temple.
On another level, however, there was God’s plan that was not about any specific earthly power but rather about salvation, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, for all people for all time.
READINGS AT MASS
A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah
Isaiah tells of a Suffering Servant. “The Lord God has given me a well- trained tongue, that I may know how to speak to the weary a word that may arouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. . . . The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” Throughout history, Jesus has been seen as the Suffering Servant Isaiah envisioned, the one who came not to be served but to serve, the one who came to die for us.
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
“My God my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus prayed these words on the cross, but this is not an utterance of disbelief or despair. We can assume that Jesus knew the whole psalm, including the strong expression of hope that follows these words.
A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians
“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
This is a remarkable passage from St. Paul who, like all the followers of Jesus, was trying to make sense of who Jesus was. He put together the two parts of the mystery, the human and divine dimensions of Jesus. It is the mystery of our faith: Jesus was not only a prophet and a healer, but also the Son of God who shared the divine life. Paul “got it” and gave his life for it. In this letter, he shares the mystery with his contemporaries and with us.
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
At the beginning of this long reading, Luke recounts the story of Jesus sharing a Passover meal with the apostles. “When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is cup is the new covenant in my blood, which shall be said for you.’”
This is the beginning of our Eucharist, the one we share today and at every Mass. Yes! It comes from Jesus himself, and for two thousand years people have gathered to celebrate the presence of Jesus in our midst and in our very bodies. The Eucharist binds us to Jesus and to one another every time we celebrate in his name.
There is so much more in today’s Gospel. Please listen carefully and read it again. Each time, you will be rewarded with new insights and a growing closeness with Jesus. It is the story of our faith living in us now.
Photograph by Brady Leavell on Unsplash
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.