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This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday. In addition to the usual three readings, we also have a Gospel reading that is used at the beginning of Mass. This reading records Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem just prior to his passion. This Gospel is read at the beginning of Mass and introduces the procession with palms.
Each year on Palm Sunday we read one of the accounts of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross. This year we read from the Gospel according to Luke. While each of the four evangelists tells the story of the passion and death of Jesus, they each approach it from their own unique perspective. In this regard, Luke is not as sparse in detail as Mark. At the same time, in Luke’s account of the passion, Jesus is not as regal or as “in charge” as he is in John’s account. From Luke’s perspective, Jesus willingly accepts his suffering and death as the fulfillment of God’s plan.
While we are all familiar with the story of Jesus’ passion, reading (or hearing) it in its entirety can help us appreciate anew--and hopefully at a deeper level--the suffering Jesus’ endured for our sake.
The first and second readings for Palm Sunday remain the same every year. The first reading is taken from that part of Isaiah known as the “songs of the suffering servant.” From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have seen these songs as referring to Christ, the suffering servant par excellence.
The second reading for Palm Sunday is taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is in the form of a hymn and it speaks of Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth and back to heaven. Its simple eloquence reminds us that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” for us. And because of this, “every knee shall bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord………..”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- As you read the passion, what moment stands out for you?
- The “cross” has been a Christian symbol for centuries. Yet, in recent years especially, it has become more decoration/ornamentation than a symbol of one’s faith. Why do you think this is?
- In the second reading, Paul speaks of Jesus’ emptying himself for our sake. Have you ever emptied yourself for another?