Year C: Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday the full gospel reading for Year C is: Luke 22:14-23:56. Given the extreme length of this reading we will use Luke 19: 28-40 (the procession of palms) to fit within the allotted time for our meeting today.

The Entry into Jerusalem

Luke 19: 28-40

After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. As he drew near to Bethpage 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. 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 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.” 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!”

Discussion Questions:

 

  1. Jesus’ symbolic journey into Jerusalem is one of acceptance, humility, and peace. How does Jesus’ vulnerability and surrender feel to you as an image of God?
  2. Is surrender and vulnerability (lack of control) something you are growing more comfortable with in your spiritual journey and relationship with God?
  3. We are dust, and to dust we will return. What are the personal spiritual challenges, of this Lenten season for you?
  4. How do experiences of suffering in your own life help you relate to Jesus on his way to the cross this Lent? Have you had any new understanding or awareness of “crosses” that you bear?
  5. Do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and your children.” How do these words of Jesus draw your attentiveness to the pain and suffering of the Body of Christ around you today?

Biblical Context

Luke 19: 28-40
Sr. Mary M. McGlone CSJ

Last week, we met a crowd infected with contagious fury and ready to stone a woman for adultery. This week’s crowd is enthralled with the spectacle of Jesus’ entry into the Holy City. This crowd’s praise might be as mindless as the fury of the former. In fact, Luke’s account of the Passion gives us a crowd for almost every emotion. We have this jubilant crowd who praised Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, the tumultuous crowd who joined the religious leaders three times in demanding Jesus’ crucifixion, and a mournful crowd of women who lamented his fate as he walked the way of the cross.

Jesus responded differently to the three crowds. When the Pharisees told him to rebuke the crowds accompanying him into Jerusalem, he defended the people singing his praises by saying, “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” For those who had ears to hear, that reply echoed the song of the three martyrs, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who sang from their executioners’ furnace: “Mountains and hills bless the Lord, praise and exalt him forever” (Daniel 3:75).

Jesus made no reply whatsoever to the crowds who called for his execution. The women were the only group to whom he spoke directly. In anticipation of his prayer for forgiveness for his persecutors, he told them not to weep for him, but for themselves and the fate of the people who remained closed to his message. By doing this, Jesus invited them to lament what he lamented, the tragedy incurred by the people who rejected him. He wanted the women in solidarity with him to lament with him rather than for him.

As we watch the people who were part of the story of Jesus’ passion, we might wonder what we should learn from them. The disciples at the supper mightily missed the point of Jesus’ prayer over bread and wine. Just after he blessed their meal as a sacrament of his self-giving, they got involved in a jealous argument over status. That quarrel was simply the insiders’ petty imitation of the religious leaders who wanted to do away with Jesus because they perceived him as a rival to their power and position.

Peter’s greatest act of discipleship came not in his promises, but his tears. His contrite admission of failure was the opening to grace that Jesus had promised when he said, “I have prayed for you that … once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”

In Luke’s Gospel, the only two who seemed to grasp and appreciate the meaning of the events of his passion were strangers. The first of them was one of Jesus’ fellow victims, the dying criminal who believed that even in his dying, Jesus was indeed coming into his kingdom. The other was the centurion who, upon seeing how Jesus died, glorified God and said, “Surely this man was righteous.” These declarations of faith, one presumably by a Jew adjudicated as a sinner, the other by a gentile, were a sign of Jesus’ fulfillment of his mission. More than the disciples, more than even the women, these two lead us toward understanding the saving effects of Jesus death.

A Tearful Entry into Holy Week

Reflection
Fr. Michael K. Marsh

 As we do every year, we began this day by taking our place in the triumphal entry, singing our hosannas, and carrying our palms. The triumphal entry, palms, and hosannas have in many ways come to characterize this day and the beginning of Holy Week. That’s not, however, what I want to focus on today. Today I want to talk with you about a different entry into Holy Week. I want to talk about tears and weeping as our entry into Holy Week.

For some of you the mention of tears and weeping is enough to cause you to begin welling up with emotions, memories, and tears. Others of you begin stiffening up, fighting back the emotions, memories, and tears. Some of you have eyes that are dry and well defended from tears and weeping. Others of you have eyes that are dry because you’ve cried yourself dry. You’ve run out of tears even though the reasons for weeping remain.

Luke does not describe the usual triumphal entry that we are used to. What Luke describes might be more accurately called the tearful entry. If tears and weeping are Jesus’ entry into Holy Week maybe tears and weeping should be our entry into Holy Week. I’m not saying we are wrong to sing our hosannas and carry the palms but in the context of St. Luke’s gospel tears and weeping just seem to be a more authentic, meaningful, and faithful entry into Holy Week. It’s also a more vulnerable entry and vulnerability is always at the heart of Holy Week.

A tearful entry into Holy Week means we must first see and name the reality of our lives and world. We cannot turn away from the experiences and sources of our tears. This is our Holy Week work, and it is difficult and painful work.

Some of us weep tears that are wet and run down the cheeks. Others of us weep tears that are dry and never moisten the eyes. Wet or dry, they are both real. Both express the same truth; our heart has been pierced. Jesus’ heart was pierced when he saw the city. Peter’s heart was pierced when the cock crowed. The women’s hearts were pierced first at the recognition of Jesus’ situation and then at the recognition of their own situation.

Sometimes our heart is pierced with sorrow, grief, and death. Sometimes it’s guilt, regret, or disappointment that pierces our heart. Other times our heart is pierced by the pain of the world and the suffering of another human being. Some hearts are pierced with the loss of what could’ve been, dreams that didn’t come true, wishes unfulfilled, or promises unkept. Other hearts are pierced by burdens and the weight of life. Fear, change, and the uncertainty of life pierce many hearts. Whatever it is and however it happens we’ve all had our hearts pierced. We’ve all wept.

Every time I come to station thirteen on the Way of the Cross, I feel my heart pierced once again. It’s the station in which Jesus is taken from the cross and placed in the arms of his mother. I look on that station and I see my wife and our son. I weep over his death, and I weep for her grief and loss. I weep that I am powerless to fix it or make her feel better. My heart is pierced and the tears flow. I’ve stood with some of you at the deathbed or graveside of your loved one wanting so much to say the right words and having nothing to offer you but my tears. My heart breaks and tears fall when I see photographs of refugee children. Like Peter I have wept over my broken promises, things done, and things left undone. Sometimes I want to pray for the pain of the world but there are no words, only tears. Some nights my heart is pierced by exhaustion, and I weep, thinking about how soon tomorrow will arrive and how long the to do list is.

Those aren’t just my stories. They are your stories as well. I don’t think I am all that different from you. I think you know exactly what I am talking about. The facts or circumstances may be different, but the tears are shared.

So, tell me about your tears; the ones you’ve cried and the ones you’ve denied, the ones that never seem to end and the ones you need to weep but just aren’t there, the ones that scare you and the ones you can’t explain and don’t understand. In what ways has your heart been pierced? What’s behind your tears and weeping? What makes you weep?

Whatever your tears and weeping may be about let them become your entry into Holy Week. To push back our tears or to wipe them away is to deny a part of ourselves the power of this Holy Week and the joy of Easter life. Let this Holy Week transform your tears into the holy waters of baptism; waters of cleansing and release, waters of forgiveness and healing, waters of rebirth and new life.

“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it.” So begins our tearful entry into Holy Week.

 

Reflection excerpt from: Interrupting the Silence: by Fr. Michael K. Marsh. www.interruptingthesilence,com Used with permission.