The Passion of Jesus Speaks to Us

Homily for Palm Sunday

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Reading the account of the Passion of Jesus each year is a special time in our lives. It’s special because it is the account of our salvation, of Jesus giving his life to save us. It was because of our sins that Jesus died. He would not have had to die if we did not sin. His sacrifice of himself on the cross on Calvary to his Father atoned to God our Father for our sins. This week, Holy Week, is indeed a Holy Week, a week like no other in the year, a week when we celebrate in our special celebrations on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, what Jesus did for us. Hopefully you can be present for these celebrations. This week is a week to take time out, to stop, to reflect, to spend time with Jesus who gave his life for you, a week to pray.

As we read the account of Jesus’ Passion, we see many incidents in Jesus’ Passion that speak to us. In Gethsemane we see that prayer to God gives us the strength to face the worst. When Jesus began his prayer in Gethsemane he said his soul was sorrowful to the point of death (Matt 26:38; Mark 14:34) and even asked his Father to take the cup away from him. He was asking his Father to grant that he would not have to suffer and die. But during his prayer he gained strength to face his Passion and was able to pray, “not what I will but what you will” (Matt 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). This is an example in the life of Jesus for us. Prayer helps us, and strengthens us. Jesus went from being down (take this cup away from me) to being up (not what I will but what you will). When you have problems, turn to prayer more than ever because prayer helps. Prayer helped Jesus to face his Passion and prayer helps us.

During the commotion in Gethsemane as Jesus was being arrested everyone fled, including a young man who was wearing only a linen cloth. The crowd who came to arrest Jesus caught that cloth as he fled, and he ran away naked (Mark 14:51-52). We are not told who he is but many are of the opinion that it is Mark the evangelist, the one who wrote this Gospel, because this incident is only recounted in his Gospel. If it is Mark who ran away as Jesus was being arrested, he certainly did not run away from Jesus later but wrote one of our four Gospels. Early in his life, as a young man, he ran from Jesus, but later in life, he ran close to Jesus to write one of the Gospels. This reminds us to always have hope for those who have run away from Jesus or are now running away from Jesus. One of the four evangelists may once have run away from Jesus because it was more comfortable for him to do so but later he returned when he wrote this Gospel in Rome gathering his information from St. Peter. It also reminds us that whenever we run from Jesus he is always waiting to take us back, and above all in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We cannot but be shocked at the amount of physical suffering Jesus underwent during his Passion as well as the amount of verbal abuse and disrespect he endured. Firstly Jesus was tried before the religious leaders and they judged that he deserved to die. Since they did not have the authority to have Jesus killed they had to have Jesus tried a second time, this time before Pilate the Roman governor, in the hope that he would judge Jesus worthy of death. Jesus was mocked, crowned with thorns, stripped, crucified, and even mocked on the cross. And all of this for you, for us, that our sins would not have the last word but that when the Father would see our sins he would have to look through his Son on the cross making up for our sins and so forgive us. The preface to the Eucharistic Prayer today says,

For, though innocent, he suffered willingly for sinners
and accepted unjust condemnation to save the guilty.
His Death has washed away our sins,
and his Resurrection has purchased our justification.

When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). The curtain was before the Holy of Holies, God’s dwelling place in the temple, where no one could enter except the high priest, and he only once a year. But when Jesus died this curtain was torn in two showing that Jesus’ death has now opened the way for all of us to God. The curtain was torn from the top down, not from the bottom up, to show that God is responsible for this curtain being torn. God is giving a message. Previously only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, now we can all approach God, obviously not in the temple but one of the letters in the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews, says we now enter God’s sanctuary by the flesh and blood of Jesus, i.e. through the Eucharist (Heb 10:19-20). Until Jesus died, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. After Jesus died we all enter God’s sanctuary when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, as we celebrate Jesus giving his Body and Blood for us on Calvary.

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2015

This homily was delivered in a parish in Pennsylvania.

More homilies for Palm Sunday

The Passion of Jesus shows us up as sinners and heals us

The various characters in the Passion represent our sins that led to Jesus’ crucifixion 2009

Related Homilies: Jesus’ Sufferings Revealed by the Turin Shroud

Gethsemane and crucifixion