SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
Palm Sunday (Cycle C) – April 14, 2019
Palm Sunday Theme: Death and Life.
This Sunday, called Palm Sunday, occurs on the first day of the week that’s called Holy Week. It also includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, all of which is called the Triduum. (Note – Synonymous terms: Palm Sunday = Passion Sunday, Passion = Suffering, Holy Week = Passion Week.). The vestments for Palm Sunday are red, symbolizing the shed blood and death of Jesus.
There are two Gospels proclaimed at today’s Mass. The first Gospel reading is proclaimed before the procession with palms, and tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Following this Processional Reading, the normal Mass liturgy commences with the Liturgy of the Word and then Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Holy Week ends our celebration of Lent and then we begin the 50 days of the Easter Season. Our Lenten preparations have been focused on improving our response to God’s call so that we, His children, will be ready to come home and live for all eternity. Jesus, our eldest Brother, has showed us how to live by His human life style so that we can gain eternal life.
Processional Reading – Luke 19:28-40 Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem.
Reading 1 – Isaiah 50:4-7 The Lord’s Servant will stand firm, even when persecuted.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 22:8-9,17-20,23-24 A cry for help to the Lord in the face of evildoers.
Reading 2 – Philippians 2:6-11 Christ was obedient even to death, but God has exalted Him.
Gospel – Luke 22:14—23:56 From the cross, Jesus speaks words of forgiveness and promises that the good thief will be with Him in paradise.
This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.
NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document.
Processional Reading – Luke 19:28-40 (Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem.)
Jesus is now completing His three-year journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, the place He knows that He must go for His passion (suffering). Our Mass this Palm Sunday opens with Luke’s account of Jesus’ Messianic entry into the city.
Jesus proceeded on His journey up to Jerusalem. [i] As He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples. He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. [ii] Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’” So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as He had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” They answered, “The Master has need of it.” So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. As He rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road [iii]; and now as He was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of His disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” [iv] Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” [v]
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. There is a miracle here as what follows was prophesied by Zachariah in 518 BC – the colt (an unbroken/wild animal) doesn’t resist Jesus as a rider which it normally would do. Jesus makes use of a donkey for His entry into Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling the ancient prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is He, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). The people, and particularly the Pharisees, were quite aware of this prophecy. By fulfilling the prophecy our Lord was showing everyone that He was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.
Reading 1 Isaiah 50:4-7 (Christ’s Suffering)
This reading is from the third suffering servant song of the prophet Isaiah. This song tells how the Messiah will be treated when He comes.
The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue [vi], that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.
Responsorial Psalm. Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24 (Christ’s Abandonment)
A cry for help to the Lord in the face of evildoers.
R. – My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?
All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads: “He relied on the LORD; let Him deliver him, let Him rescue him, if He loves him.”
R. – My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?
Indeed, many dogs surround me, a pack of evildoers closes in upon me; They have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.
R. – My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?
They divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. But you, O LORD, be not far from me; O my Help, hasten to aid me.
R. – My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?
I will proclaim Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You: “You who fear the LORD, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to Him; revere Him, all you descendants of Israel!”
R. – My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. This Responsorial Psalm is one of the seven last “words (i.e. devotions) of Jesus on the cross and shows that He was praying the Psalms during His crucifixion and not despairing.
The seven last “words” (i.e. devotions) are: 1 – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23: 34; 2 – “Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Luke 23: 43; 3 – “When Jesus therefore had seen His Mother and the disciple standing whom He loved, He said to His Mother: Woman, behold Thy son. After that, He said to the disciple: Behold thy Mother.” John 19: 26-27; 4 – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” Matt 27:46; 5 – “Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.” John 19:28; 6 – Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: “It is consummated.” John 19:30; 7 – “And Jesus crying with a loud voice, said: Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit. And saying this, He gave up the ghost.” Luke 23:46
Reading 2 Philippians 2:6-11 (Humility)
Writing from prison to this community, Paul describes, as a model of humility, the suffering figure of Christ. He emptied Himself of His divinity (i.e., the privilege of divinity) by becoming one living among sinful humanity. He experienced total humiliation by dying a criminal’s death. Then God rewarded His obedience by exalting Him and restoring to Him His glory. And now, Jesus is Lord of the universe. Paul is encouraging the Philippians and us to empty ourselves of all that is not of God so that we might be filled with God and His love.
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. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend (Isaiah 45:23), of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.
Gospel Luke 22:14—23:56 (The Passion)
Saint Luke combines here two traditions:
1 – A farewell discourse to His disciples and the Church, and the institution of the Eucharist; plus
2 – Jesus’ passion (suffering), death, and burial.
When the hour came [vii], 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 that 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 My body [viii], which will be given for you; do this in memory of Me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which will be shed for you.
“And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray Me is with Me on the table; for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.” And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed.
Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest. He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves. It is you who have stood by Me in My trials; and I confer a Kingdom on you, just as My Father has conferred one on Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” He said to Him, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with You.” But He replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know Me.”
He said to them, “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?” “No, nothing,“ they replied. He said to them, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in Me, namely, He was counted among the wicked; and indeed what is written about Me is coming to fulfillment.” Then they said, “Lord, look, there are two swords here.” But He replied, “It is enough!”
Then going out, He went, as was His custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. When He arrived at the place He said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, He prayed, saying, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me [ix]; still, not My will but Yours be done.” And to strengthen Him an angel from heaven appeared to Him. He was in such agony and He prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When He rose from prayer and returned to His disciples, He found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.”
While He was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss Him. Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with a sword?” And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then He touched the servant’s ear and healed him. And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for Him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize Me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.”
After arresting Him they led Him away and took Him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with Him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with Him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny Me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and questioned Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck You?” And they reviled Him in saying many other things against Him.
When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought Him before their Sanhedrin. They said, “If You are the Christ, tell us, “ but He replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all asked, “Are You then the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from His own mouth.”
Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought Him before Pilate. They brought charges against Him, saying, “We found this Man misleading our people; He opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that He is the Christ, a king.” Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this Man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with His teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where He began even to here.”
On hearing this Pilate asked if the Man was a Galilean; and upon learning that He was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see Him for a long time, for he had heard about Him and had been hoping to see Him perform some sign. He questioned Him at length, but He gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing Him harshly. Herod and his soldiers treated Him contemptuously and mocked Him, and after clothing Him in resplendent garb, he sent Him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this Man to me and accused Him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this Man guilty of the charges you have brought against Him, nor did Herod, for he sent Him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by Him. Therefore I shall have Him flogged and then release Him.”
But all together they shouted out, “Away with this Man! Release Barabbas to us.” — Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. — Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this Man done? I found Him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have Him flogged and then release Him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for His crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.
As they led Him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented Him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” [x] Now two others, both criminals, were led away with Him to be executed.
When they came to the place called the Skull [xi], they crucified Him and the criminals there, one on His right, the other on His left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided His garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at Him and said, “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the Chosen One, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at Him. As they approached to offer Him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save Yourself.” Above Him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this Man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” [xii]
It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon
because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit”; and when He had said this He breathed His last.
Here all kneel and pause for a short time.
The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This Man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all His acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee and saw these events. Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. After he had taken the Body down, he wrapped It in a linen cloth and laid Him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. It was the day of preparation, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come from Galilee with Him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which His body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. “After he (Joseph of Arimathea) had taken the Body down, he wrapped It in a linen cloth and laid Him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried.” – I believe that God took special measures to protect Jesus when Jesus was unable to do so:
– God selected Mary as the mother of Jesus, a virgin and immaculately conceived, so that Jesus would be within the womb of a woman who was sinless and non-defiled by man.
– There was no room at the Inn, because God wanted Jesus to be laid in a manger rather than a bed that had been defiled by man.
– The gifts from the Magi included gold. This was used to support the Holy Family while they were refugees in Egypt.
– God had Jesus laid in a new tomb that had not been previous defiled by man.
Catechism 1323 – “At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. This He did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal (ie. of or relating to Easter and/or Passover) banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'”
[i] Processional Reading Footnotes:
“His journey up to Jerusalem” = This is truly a journey “up” to Jerusalem. The Gospel writer is referring to the geography of the area; Jerusalem is on the top of a mountain (Zion).
[ii] “find a colt” = The donkey was historically the chosen mount of a prince who entered a town peacefully and joyfully; the warrior would choose to enter on a horse.
[iii] “the people were spreading their cloaks on the road” = Saint Luke’s Gospel omits the palm branches.
[iv] The people proclaimed – Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” = Their shouts echo the announcement made by the angel proclaiming the birth of Jesus to the shepherds on Christmas night (Luke 2:14).
[v] “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” = The moment has now come for Jesus – His divinity and His mission are to be made public.
[vi] Reading 1 Footnote:
“The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue” = A disciple’s tongue – prayerfully receiving God’s word, before he can presume to teach others.
[vii] Gospel Footnotes:
“When the hour came” = “hour” meaning the completion of Jesus’ first mission on earth and His return to God. This will be followed by His Second Coming.
[viii] “This is My body” = Jesus transubstantiated the bread into His body.
[ix] “take this cup away from Me” = This is the 4th and last cup of the Passover liturgy, the cup of consummation. Jesus knows that as soon as He drinks this cup, He will become the sacrifice which institutes the New Covenant.
[x] “if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” = A proverb: Beware, if the Pharisees and High Priests do this to Jesus – an innocent person full of virtue and sanctity who is signified here as “green wood”, think of the horrible things they will be capable of doing to regular sinful normal human beings who are signified here as “dry wood”.
[xi] “the place called the Skull” = The Aramaic name is Golgotha. From the Latin for skull, calvaria, comes the English word “Calvary.” Hebrew legend has it that Adam’s skull was buried there. That is – Tradition believes that at this place, Shem, the son of Noah, interred the skull of Adam, which he had taken with him into the ark and guarded during the flood. Since then this place has been called Golgotha – the “Skull” – St. Athanasius. So, Jesus, the “second Adam”, died at the burial place of the first Adam.
[xii] The two thieves crucified next to Jesus. = Tradition tells us that the good thief’s name was Dismas and the other’s name was Gestas. Dismas acknowledged his sins to Jesus (and then Jesus gave him absolution), he proclaimed Jesus to be good (holy), and was he was “baptized”, not by water and the Holy Spirit, but was baptized by “the baptism of desire” as inferred by his statement – “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” And we assume his entry into “Paradise” was through purgatory. St. Dismas is the Patron Saint of prisoners. See CCC 1258, 1259, and 1260 for “baptism of desire” commentary.