Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year C
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
March 20, 2016
We begin Holy Week on a high note, the same high note that Jesus entered into Jerusalem for the final time with the royal welcome.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem people were coming to him, treating it like the arrival of a king. In fact, they explicitly refer to him as a king when their words of greeting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” We sing similar words in the Sanctus as we start the Eucharistic Prayer with “blessed is him who comes in the name of the Lord.”
While they didn’t yet really know what it meant to call Jesus their king, they clearly wanted him as their king.
While the week starts with great joy, it turns into a very difficult week in the story of Jesus’ Passion beginning with the Last Supper.
It was the time for the Passover meal that Jesus had “eagerly desired” to eat with his disciples even though He knew that it would lead to his suffering.
Knowing what was about to happen, Jesus gave us the gift of the Eucharist, his Body and Blood. Jesus intimately ties the Eucharist to his sacrifice on the Cross when He says “This is my body, which will be given for you….This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”
The Eucharist is the sacrifice on the Cross so each time we celebrate and receive the Eucharist, we must remember the Crucifixion.
This can be a challenge. In human terms, the Crucifixion doesn’t make sense. How can this happen to the Messiah? Confused Peter will deny that he knows Jesus three times.
Even Jesus who knows his Passion is coming “as it has been determined” is troubled by it. After the meal is over, Jesus goes off to pray to prepare for what is to come. In the garden, he prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me.” Jesus did not want to suffer. “He was in such agony” that “his sweat became like drops of blood” as his prayer continued, “still, not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus is then arrested, betrayed by the kiss of Judas who He had called to be one of his Apostles.
From there Jesus is questioned and put on trial. He is completely innocent! They have to grasp at straws for testimony against him to put him on trial for making himself a king.
Remember when Jesus received the royal welcome to Jerusalem? Some of the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke his disciples for making him a king but now they are the ones calling him a king to use it against him.
Even Pilate declares Jesus to be innocent three times! Yet it is also Pilate who consents to Jesus’ Crucifixion just to appease the crowds. The mob mentality takes over. The crowds have lost their senses.
Jesus knows this when he says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
They say to him, “save yourself” but Jesus did not come to save himself.
Even one of the criminals crucified alongside Jesus mocks him, “Save yourself and us.” Yet, it is the second criminal crucified with Jesus who rebukes the first criminal as he recognizes that Jesus is innocent.
It is also the second criminal who realizes that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world and that Jesus has the power to save when he says to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into our kingdom.”
This criminal admits his own guilt while also knowing that Jesus has the power to save him. Jesus responds to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Salvation is possible for sinners because of Jesus’ action on the Cross.
How can death save us?
It is not death itself that saves us but rather Jesus’ supreme act of love as He gives, as he sacrifices, his life for us.
Jesus gives it all over to his Father.
Look at the Crucifix. Does it make sense? It doesn’t have to. The Cross is not about what makes sense. Look at Jesus on the Cross and see love.
It is in love that Jesus saves us as long as we follow the second criminal, repent and believe in what Jesus does for us.
Remember the words of the repentant criminal “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”