How would we respond to key moments of Christ’s Passion?

By: By Sharon Priester

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion/March 29

(At the procession with palms) Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16 (At Mass) Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9,17-18,19-20,23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1 — 15:47

Here we are at the last stage of our Lenten journey, Palm Sunday and Holy Week, focusing on the climax of the life of Christ. As I read and studied the readings for Palm Sunday, a picture of Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem began to develop. This picture included joyous, disappointing, selfish and cruel events.

In the Gospel reading prior to Mass, Jesus, humbly riding on a colt, enters Jerusalem. The people, thinking He is the king of whom the prophet Zechariah speaks, throw their cloaks and palm branches on the road and cry out with joy, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9-10)
I wonder what the disciples were thinking. Were they impressed by the triumphant greeting of the Lord or confused?

The Gospel reading of the Mass brings us to the Passover feast. While gathered around the table, Jesus announces that one of them was going to betray him. One by one, including Judas, who had already agreed to hand over Jesus to the chief priests, they say, “Surely it is not I?”

How could Judas sit there and lie?

Then Jesus takes the bread and blesses it, gives each of them a piece and says, “Take it, this is my body.” Similarly, He took a cup, blessed it and gave it to them saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” (Mark 14:22-25)

Can you imagine what the disciples were feeling when they received His body and blood?

Having completed supper, they go to the Mount of Olives. When He warns them their faith will be shaken, Peter quickly responds, “Not mine.” Jesus tells Peter that on this “very night before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” (Mark 14:27-30) When they arrive at Gethsemane, He asks the disciples to keep watch while He prays. Feeling alone and in agony, He falls to the ground and says, “Abba, Father . . . . Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” (Mark 14:37) Returning, he finds them asleep.
How have we disappointed Jesus?

Judas arrives and kisses Christ. With this “kiss of betrayal,” Jesus is arrested and taken away to face the priests and Sanhedrin. After many testified against Him, a high priest asks if He is Christ. Jesus replies, “I am.” These are considered blasphemous words, so He is “condemned as deserving to die.” (Mark 16:24)

Walking about in the courtyard is Peter. Someone sees him and identifies him as one of Jesus’ followers. He quickly denies it. Continuing to walk, he hears a cock crow and is identified two more times. Each time he denies his connection to Jesus. Then he hears the cock crow the second time and remembers what Jesus said.

Have you ever denied that you were Jesus’ follower?

Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate and asked if He is the King of Jews. Jesus replies, “You say so!” Since it was Passover, Pilate could release one prisoner. So, Barabbas, a prisoner, is brought forward. When asked which prisoner to release, Jesus or Barabbas, the crowd replies Barabbas. When asked what should be done to Jesus, they say, “Crucify Him!!”

How many of those who said Hosanna now say “Crucify Him?” How many of us follow the crowd when it comes to making decisions?

Jesus is mocked and spit upon as He carries a heavy cross. Upon reaching Golgotha, He is crucified. Alone and suffering, He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” then dies. He is taken down from the cross and buried in an empty tomb.

Like the Servant in Isaiah 50, Jesus did not rebel. Instead He endured the cruel treatment imposed upon him and gave “his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Our response? “Every knee should bend . . . every tongue confess . . . Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11)


SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.

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