Palm Sunday 2020

A.    From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection 

1: Two processions: “Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30 … One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers. Jesus was from the peasant village of Nazareth, his message was about the kingdom of God, and his followers came from the peasant class …
On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. Jesus’s procession proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate’s proclaimed the power of empire. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus’s crucifixion. As Mark tells the story in 11:1-11, Jesus’ procession is a prearranged ‘counter procession.’ The meaning of the demonstration is clear, for it uses symbolism from the prophet Zechariah in the Jewish Bible. According to Zechariah, a king would be coming to Jerusalem (Zion), ‘humble, and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey’ (9:9). Jesus’s procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus’ procession embodied an alternative vision, the Kingdom of God. The king, riding on a donkey, will banish war from the land—no more chariots, warhorses or bows. Commanding peace to the nations, Jesus will be a king of peace. Pilate’s military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and Roman imperial theology — worshipping the emperor as god. It was the standard practice of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals … to be in the city in case there was trouble … The mission of the troops with Pilate was to reinforce the Roman garrison permanently stationed in the Fortress Antonia, overlooking the Jewish Temple and its courts. No wonder, the Roman governor realized how the peasant procession was a threat to his government and, hence, its leader should be exterminated.” (Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’ Final Week in Jerusalem. Fr. Tony (

2: Welcome to the triumph and the tragedy of the Holy Week: On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Union Army, at the Appomattox Court House, Appomattox, Virginia. This surrender ended the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil. State against state, brother against brother, it was a conflict that literally tore the nation apart. Five days later, on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, America’s most revered president, Abraham Lincoln, was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre. It was Lincoln who wrote the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in the U.S. forever. It was Lincoln who wrote and gave The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln hated war, but he was drawn into this one because he believed it was the only way to save the nation. On Palm Sunday, the war ended. Triumph. On Good Friday, Abraham Lincoln became the first U.S. president to be assassinated. Tragedy. Welcome to Holy Week. Welcome to the triumph and the tragedy of the six days preceding Easter. (Surrender location corrected by Fr. Richard W. Frank,

3: Are you a donkey with a Christian name or one carrying Christ? An interesting as well as challenging old fable tells of the colt that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday.  The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor him. “I am a unique donkey!” this excited animal might have thought.   When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honored again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you.”  Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street.  It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary.  The colt could not resist the temptation of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him.  Thus, the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus to ride on him.  As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to Him through our living or are Christians in name only. Fr. Tony (

4.  Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from Church with his mother. His father returned from Church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, “Why do you have that palm branch, dad?” His father explained, “You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor Him; so we got palm branches today.” “Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny. “The one Sunday I can’t go to Church, and Jesus shows up!”

5. The king on a donkey! Some of you heard my story about the husband and the wife who had quarreled. It had been a pitched battle of wills, each digging heels in to preserve the position each had vehemently taken. Emotions had run high. As they were driving to attend a family wedding in a distant city, both were nursing hurt feelings in defensive silence. The angry tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife. But, then the silence was broken. Pointing to a donkey standing in a pasture out beside the road, the husband sarcastically asked, “Relative of yours?” The wife quickly replied, “By marriage!”

25 Additional anecdotes:

 1) Reminder of Maccabean victory celebration: A key element of understanding the connection between the Palm Sunday reception given to Jesus and Good Friday is to recognize that the actions, words and symbols of Palm Sunday indicated a religious and political Messiah who would save the Jews from foreign rule and regain for them religious and political freedom. The occasion of reception was carefully chosen by the Lord God, through Jesus’ disciples, to coincide with the Passover feast which celebrated the Jewish liberation from Egyptian rule and slavery. The palms used in the procession and the slogan used (Hosanna meaning save us, God) were those used in the 164 BC Maccabean victory parade to the Temple. That parade took place after the Maccabean army, led by Judas Maccabeus, had defeated the ruling Greek king and his three armies and liberated both the city of Jerusalem and the Temple which the Greeks had desecrated. In 1 Maccabees 13:51, we read: On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.” It was natural, then, that the Romans saw the crowds of people carrying palm branches and giving a royal reception to a very popular, miracle-working rabbi, Jesus, as a potential threat to their power and a banner for revolution. Hence, the governor Pilate and his counselors were justified in their concern. They interpreted people’s slogan “Hosanna” as “save us” from Roman occupation. Besides, the Jewish rabbis had been teaching that the final redemption of the Jews would take place with the Messiah’s arrival. With 1½ to 2 million Jews in and around the city for the Passover, the situation was highly volatile, and Jesus’ ride on a donkey as prophesied by Zachariah seemed to have all the signs of producing great trouble and revolt. So the Romans informally made allies of some of the Temple priesthood (largely Sadducees) who were planning to arrest Jesus (the suspected center for the trouble), because these priests were the people most closely allied to Rome, and they would lose their power and income in the case of a popular uprising. This collusion between Pilate and the High Priest Caiaphas and their supporters is exactly what we see in the Passion accounts describing the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Given the political, religious and social context, this is hardly surprising. Keeping that in the back of our minds helps us to make sense of certain parts of the action that will follow. (Fr. Murray from Jerusalem).

2) Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it. The Greek author Plutarch describes how Kings are supposed to enter a city. He tells about one Roman general, Aemilius Paulus, who won a decisive victory over the Macedonians. When Aemilius returned to Rome, his triumphal procession lasted three days. The first day was dedicated to displaying all the artwork that Aemilius and his army had plundered. The second day was devoted to all the weapons of the Macedonians they had captured. The third day began with the rest of the plunder borne by 250 oxen, whose horns were covered in gold. This included more than 17,000 pounds of gold coins. Then came the captured and humiliated king of Macedonia and his extended family. Finally, Aemilius himself entered Rome, riding in a magnificent chariot. Aemilius wore a purple robe, interwoven with gold. He carried his laurels in his right hand. He was accompanied by a large choir singing hymns, praising the military accomplishments of the great Aemilius. ( ) That, my friends, is how a King enters a city. But the King of Kings? He entered riding on a lowly donkey. Zechariah envisioned the King of Kings, the Messiah, coming not on a great stallion, but riding on a humble donkey. Zechariah foresaw it. Jesus fulfilled it. (

3) The cross and the crucifix down through the centuries: Until the fifth century AD, the early Christians generally avoided representing the Cross with the body of Jesus; in fact even bare crosses were rarely depicted until the fourth century AD. As J. H. Miller (op. cit.) explained, there were many reasons for the Church’s reluctance to openly represent the cross as its symbol. For many Jews and Gentiles, the cross underscored the seemingly irreconcilable contradiction of Christian belief, viz. that a crucified man could also be God. As various early heresies attacked either the divinity or humanity of Christ, the symbol of the cross, which seemed to exacerbate the conflict, was avoided, Not until the fourth century (during the reign of Constantine) did the cross begin to appear everywhere in public places as the pre-eminent symbol of Christianity. Despite the frequency of its representation in Christian art and architecture, the cross remains an ambivalent symbol. In its crossbeams meet death and life, sin and salvation, conquest and victory, immanence and transcendence. The cross represents both the basest aspects of the human condition and the most sublime reflection of divinity. As Karl Rahner once explained, “the cross of the Lord is the revelation of what sin really is. The cross of Christ mercilessly reveals what the world hides from itself: that it, as it were, devours the Son of God in the insane blindness of its sin — a sin which Godless hate is truly set on fire upon contact with the love of God” (The Content of Faith, Crossroad Press, New York: 1992). 12:32). As the dual revelation of the sinfulness of humanity and the love of God, the cross is unparalleled. (Sanchez Files).

3) “What did the Christian’s God do then? On Marco Polo’s celebrated trip to the Orient, he was taken before the great and fearsome ruler, Genghis Khan. Now what was Marco Polo supposed to do before this mighty pagan conqueror? One false move could cost him his life. He decided to tell the story of Jesus as it is recorded in the Gospels. It is said that when Marco Polo related the events of Holy Week, describing Jesus’ betrayal, His trial, scourging and crucifixion, Genghis Khan became more and more agitated, more engrossed in the story, and more tense. When Marco Polo pronounced the words, “Then Jesus bowed his head and yielded up His spirit,” Genghis Khan could no longer contain himself. He interrupted, bellowing, “What did the Christian’s God do then? Did He send thousands of angels from Heaven to smite and destroy those who killed his Son?” What did the Christian’s God do then? He watched His beloved Son die, that’s what the Christian’s God did then. For that was the way God chose for Jesus to ascend the throne of His Kingdom and to establish His Lordship for all time. Not at all the way we would expect God to demonstrate His might and power, but that’s the way it was, and that is how we know what our God is like. In practical terms, that means that this suffering King who rules in love comes to lay His claim on our life. Our entire life is subject to His Lordship, not just a portion of it. To have Christ for our King means that we must rely on Him for everything, most of all the forgiveness of sins.

4) “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in 305 AD, was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. It is said that when he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court. So he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disown Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them saying: “If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.” Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and our fidelity to His teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the King and ruler of our lives and our families. Let us express our gratitude to Jesus for redeeming us by His suffering and death through our active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and our reconciliation with God and His Church, as we repent of our sins and receive God’s pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through his Church. Fr. Tony (

5) Passion Sunday and the shadow of the cross: The Bishop of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during the early part of the last century was a great evangelizer who tried to reach out to unbelievers, scoffers, and cynics.  He liked to tell the story of a young man who would stand outside the cathedral and shout derogatory slogans at the people entering to worship.  He would call them fools and other insulting names.  The people tried to ignore him but it was difficult. One day the parish priest went outside to confront the young man, much to the distress of the parishioners.  The young man ranted and raved against everything the priest told him.  Finally, the priest addressed the young scoffer, saying, “Look, let’s get this over with once and for all.  I’m going to dare you to do something and I bet you can’t do it.”  And of course the young man shot back, “I can do anything you propose, you white-robed wimp!” “Fine,” said the priest.  “All I ask you to do is to come into the sanctuary with me.  I want you to stare at the figure of Christ on His cross, and I want you to scream at the very top of your lungs, as loudly as you can. ‘Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.” So the young man went into the sanctuary, and looking at the figure, screamed as loudly as he could, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.”  The priest said, “Very good.  Now do it again.”  And again the young man screamed, with a little more hesitancy, “Christ died on the cross for me, and I don’t care one bit.”  “You’re almost done now,” said the priest.  “One more time.” The young man raised his fist, kept looking at the crucifix, but the words wouldn’t come.  He just could not look at the face of Christ and say those words any more. The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man.  That young man, that defiant young man was I.  I thought I didn’t need God but found out that I did.” (World Stories for Preachers and Teachers by William J. Bausch). Fr. Tony (

6) In the footsteps of Jesus, the donkey rider: There is a biography of a man who was one of the most learned people of his generation. He had two PhDs – one in philosophy, another in theology. Further, he was a world-class musician, and concert halls around the world were sold out when he went on tour. Then, to the surprise of everyone, he decided he wanted to go to a medical college to earn yet another doctoral degree in medicine. As soon as he had his medical degree, he left the comfortable surroundings of Western Europe and went into the jungles of Africa. There he cleared away part of the jungle and began building a clinic and a hospital. Once these were built, he started providing medical care to the young and old of Africa. Many years later, Dr. Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize for his ministry of healing in the jungles of Africa. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he shared with that distinguished crowd in Stockholm the reason he had built a hospital in Africa. The reason was summed up, he stated in the first words he always said to his native patients as they awakened from an operation. He would say: “The reason that you have no more pain is because the Lord Jesus told the good doctor and his wife to come to the banks of Ogooue River and help you. If you owe thanks to anyone, you owe it to the Lord Jesus.” He accepted the challenge to be a humble servant of Jesus Christ. And this is our challenge – this is your challenge – this is my challenge in this Holy Week! Look beyond your needs to the needs of others, and you will be on the road to being a humble servant of Jesus Christ.

7) “Welcome home Mr. President.” A number of years ago, Newsweek magazine carried the story of the memorial service held for Hubert Humphrey, former Vice-President of the United States. Hundreds of people came from all over the world to say good-bye to their old friend and colleague. But one person who came was shunned and ignored by virtually everyone there. Nobody would look at him much less speak to him. That person was former President Richard Nixon. Not long before, he had gone through the shame and infamy of Watergate. He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation from the presidency. Then a very special thing happened, perhaps the only thing that could have made a difference and broken the ice. President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at that time, came into the room. Before he was seated, he saw Nixon over against the wall, all by himself. He went over to [him] as though he were greeting a family member, stuck out his hand to the former president, and smiled broadly. To the surprise of everyone there, the two of them embraced each other, and Carter said, “Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!” Commenting on that, Newsweek magazine asserted, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.” The turning point for us is Palm Sunday. It is our moment of triumph. It was a triumph because God, Jesus, decided to ignore our miserable state and act on our behalf.

8) Hosanna leading to the cross: Some years ago, a book was written by a noted American historian entitled When the Cheering Stopped. It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following World War I. When that war was over, Wilson, the 28th president of the United States was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought, and the world had been made safe for democracy. On his first visit to Paris after the war, Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than France’s own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate, and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all, the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man. It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. It happened that way to Jesus. When He emerged on the public scene, He was an overnight sensation. On Palm Sunday, leafy palm branches were spread before Him and there were shouts of “Hosanna.” But before it was all over, a tidal wave of manipulated opposition had welled up that brought Jesus to the cross. Fr. Tony (

9) Christ-less donkey arrested and handcuffed on a Palm Sunday: The light turns green, but the man doesn’t notice that the light has changed.  The woman behind him begins pounding on her steering wheel and yelling at the man to move! The man doesn’t move!  The woman is going ballistic, ranting and raving at the man, pounding on her steering wheel.  When the light turns yellow, the woman begins blowing her car’s horn and screaming curses at the man.  Finally, the man looks up, sees the yellow light, and accelerates through the intersection just as the light turns red. While she is still ranting, she hears a tap on her window and looks up into the barrel of a gun held by a very serious looking policeman.  The policeman tells her to pull her car to the side, shut off the engine, come out and stand facing the car, while keeping both hands on the car roof. She is quickly cuffed, and hustled into the patrol car.  The woman is too bewildered to ask any questions, and she is driven to the police station, where she is fingerprinted, photographed, searched, booked, and locked up in a cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approaches the cell, and opens the door.  The policeman hands her the bag containing her things, and says, “I’m sorry for this mistake, but you see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, and cursing at the car in front of you.  I noticed the “Choose Christ” license plate holder, and the “Follow Me To Sunday School” bumper sticker, and Palm Sunday palm leaves inside the back windshield.  So naturally I assumed you had stolen the car because such a nice Christian, who courageously displays Christian symbols in her car, would never act as you did.”

10) A donkey at Kentucky Derby? Church tradition tells us (though none of the Gospels report it), that this wasn’t Jesus’ first donkey ride. Matthew’s text doesn’t detail how Joseph traveled with Mary to Egypt and back to Nazareth again. Nor does Luke’s Gospel describe how Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem. But all of us have in our heads the picture of a pregnant Mary perched on the back of a sturdy donkey. Our mind’s eye puts her back on that beast for the escape to Egypt and the homeward trek to Nazareth after Herod had died. The Church has long suggested that in honor of the donkey’s humble service to Jesus, the animal was rewarded with a permanent “sign of the cross,” for most donkeys do show a distinctive black cross pattern across their sturdy shoulders. Despite this lip service from Church tradition, the donkey still remains far beyond the pale of glory. Little girls don’t dream of riding across summer fields on a little donkey. The Kentucky Derby doesn’t blow the herald horn for a herd of dinky donkeys to race around the track. And everyone from Shakespeare to Pinocchio knows that fools and dolts are depicted as donkeys. Of course, the donkey’s other common name says it all: a donkey is just an . . . well, you know what that word is. Yet if the mission of the Church is to carry Christ into the world, then each of us is called to be a donkey. There’s no particular glory in being a donkey. There are only long trails, steep roads, heavy loads, and little or no recognition for a completed job. Fr. Tony (

11) An angry Christ: A Catholic priest in Dayton, Ohio defied his archbishop by denying Communion to worshipers who did not observe a dress code. For several years he had denied the Sacraments to anyone who came to Church in “shorts, bare midriffs, tank tops, jeans, and sweatshirts.” Finally, the Archbishop retired the 73-year old priest for defying his authority. The priest said: “I do not hate the Archbishop. I have only pity for him, since he will have to face an angry Christ in judgment.” (Christian Century, January 24, 1990, page 73). Whatever we may think of the good priest’s sartorial preferences, we must be shocked awake by his words: “an angry Christ.” Yes, according to the Gospel record, Christ did get angry. And He got angry over something a whole lot more important than a dress code. In fact, it might be argued that the attitude expressed by the good father in Dayton was precisely the sort of attitude that made Jesus really angry-putting roadblocks in front of people who wished to come to Him. The first place where it says He got angry was when He was forbidden to heal on the Sabbath. (Mark 3:5) In another place, anger is not mentioned, but implied. That was when He came to the Temple on the Monday of Passion Week. There, His passion burst forth against the moneychangers in the Temple. Fr. Tony (

12) A parade of humility: A pastor was once asked to speak at a banquet for a charitable organization. After the meeting, the program chairman handed the pastor a check. “Oh, I don’t want this,” the pastor said. “I appreciate the honor of being asked to speak. Keep the check and apply it to something special.” The program chairman asked, “Well, do you mind if we put it in our special fund?” “Of course not!” the pastor replied. “Could you please tell me what your special fund is for?” The chairman answered, “It’s so we can get a better speaker for next year.” Life is full of humbling experiences. But, when we look at Jesus’ parade through the Holy City, we sense that it was an act of humility. He did not choose to ride into the city upon a stallion, but a donkey. He was not coming in the might and power of a conquering king, but as a humble servant. Fr. Tony (

13) “The Hero’s Quest.” Some of you will remember the name of Joseph Campbell. Campbell taught in relative obscurity for many years until Bill Moyers discovered him, did a series on public television about Campbell’s ideas about mythology and comparative religions, and thus elevated him into celebrity, most of it posthumous since Campbell died shortly after that television series. What caught Moyers’ attention was Campbell’s book entitled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Incidentally, it also caught George Lucas’s attention and was the inspiration for his film, Star Wars. The thesis of that book is that the same story appears over and over again in all the world’s literature, including the Bible. He called that story, “The Hero’s Quest.” He said that the plot is always the same. A hero must make a solitary journey, sometimes to climb a mountain to get the prize, sometimes to go to the cave to slay the dragon, sometimes to journey the gates of the forbidden city. The hero is the person who faces hostile powers, enters the struggle, prepared to give his or her life, and then comes out of it a new person, with a new life. Those stories are everywhere. They are a part of every culture. In Greece, we see it as the Golden Fleece. In Britain, it is the Arthurian legends and the Holy Grail. And in the Bible, it is the story of Abraham leaving Ur of Chaldees, the most civilized part of the world in those days, and journeying through many “dangers, toils, and snares” to a promised land. Or it is Moses, leaving the comfort and security of shepherding in Midian to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. Or it is David, leaving the simple life of a shepherd boy and going out to meet the giant Goliath. But unparalleled in history is Jesus’ leaving the safety of Galilee and heading for Jerusalem to accomplish His mission of redeeming mankind by His suffering, death and Resurrection. That is the story of Palm Sunday.

14) “Sir, I just know I love Jesus.” In a Sociology of Religion class at the University of Virginia, the professor asked the students in the first class to tell about their religious background and commitments. One young woman named Barb said she was a Christian. The professor asked, “What tradition of the Christian faith do you identify with? The northern European or English pietism or another?” The student did not understand his question. Finally she said, “Sir, I don’t know exactly what you mean; I just know I love Jesus.” Right there in a classroom, Jesus was declared to be King and perhaps attracted more followers. One of my favorite golfers on the pro tour is Tom Lehman. He often says, “I think of myself as a Christian who plays golf, not as a golfer who is a Christian.” What about you? Are you first a Christian and then secondarily a banker or a teacher or a salesperson or a Republican or a white person or a husband or a mother? Is the word “Christian” your most important adjective? When you declare, “Jesus is Lord!” have you revealed the essential you? This Jesus is still marching down the streets of the world, calling people to decision. Jesus is the unidentified King who has no crown to wear or kingdom to command…until one person at a time declares by Faith, “Jesus is Lord for me. He will reign in my life.” Fr. Tony (

15) The myth of redemptive violence: “In a period when attendance at Christian Sunday schools is dwindling, the myth of redemptive violence has won children’s voluntary acquiescence to a regimen of religious indoctrination more extensive and effective than any in the history of religions. Estimates vary widely, but the average child is reported to log roughly 36,000 hours of television by age 18, viewing some 15,000 murders. What church or synagogue can even remotely keep pace with the myth of redemptive violence in hours spent teaching children or the quality of presentation? (Think of the typical “children’s sermon” – how bland by comparison!)” With that kind of insight as a background, perhaps we should EXPECT what happened to Jesus in the Holy Week. (“The Myth of Redemptive Violence” ). Fr. Tony (

16) After the shouts of Hosanna we should walk to Golgotha: Bishop Kenneth Carder (Tennessee) wrote: “The Church of today has become an institution in which even belief in God is optional or peripheral. Marketing techniques for a multiple option institution have replaced response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the means of membership enlistment. The basic appeal is to self-defined needs rather than a call to radical discipleship. The Church’s mission, all too often, is to meet its members’ perceived needs rather than to serve God’s need for a redeemed, reconciled, and healed world.” Our concept of consumerism has crept into the Church. To recruit persons and to be marketable we think that we need to be able to say: “Look what our Church can offer you.” In this atmosphere of a sorority rush party, talk of discipleship is muted. Discipleship means knowing Who Jesus Christ is and following the Revelation made known to us in His teaching, death, Resurrection, and presence. Commitment means that, after the shouts of Hosanna, we walk to Golgotha carrying His cross of suffering. Fr. Tony (

17) And Superman ducked! Jesus rides upon a donkey fulfilling an ancient prophecy, but clearly in total control. He knows what will happen to Him in Jerusalem. Still He rides on. He does not seek to avoid the task to which He has been called. It reminds me of a routine comedian David Brenner used to do about Superman in the movies. Go back with me in your minds. Picture this scene. Superman is confronting one of the bad guys. The bad guy would fire at Superman with a gun. Superman would smirk and throw his chest out. The bullets would bounce harmlessly away. But did you ever notice what happened next? Brenner said, “And then when the guy ran out of bullets, he would throw the gun at Superman. And Superman ducked.” He ducked! I’ll bet you never thought about that before. Bullets bounced off of him, but when a gun was thrown at him, Superman ducked. Perhaps that amusing insight will serve to remind us that Jesus did not have to enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He could have ducked His mission. But still He rode on.

18) King for a day: Once upon a time, before television, there was radio. One of the most popular daytime radio programs in those days was called Queen for a Day. Each day four or five women from the studio audience would tell the host what they would like to do if they could be “Queen for a Day.”  Then, on the basis of applause, one woman was chosen, and insofar as they were able, the sponsors fulfilled her wildest desires. She was given a number of valuable prizes and for one day she reigned as “Queen.” That sounds like what happened to Jesus, doesn’t it? Jesus was crowned “King for a Day” on that first Palm Sunday. Fr. Tony (

19) The humble king versus proud kings: The dictator Sulla during the time of the Roman republic invented the “proscription”, by which he would just announce whom he wanted dead. This would be read out in public places and he then would reward anyone who would kill that particular person. Caligula abandoned himself to cruelty and lust. He declared himself to be a god and would often go through the streets of Rome dressed as Bacchus, Venus, or Apollo. The Romans were compelled to worship him, and he made the wealthiest citizens his priests. Having exhausted Rome and Italy, in AD. 39 Caligula led a large army across the Alps for the purpose of plundering Gaul, where the richest citizens were put to death and their property confiscated. The crowd that cheered Jesus was familiar with such cruelties of the Kings and Emperors. Contrary to their experience, they found a new procession where the king was adorned with humility. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

20) “Help! Help!” There is an old story about a preacher who was having problems and decided to leave the ministry. But he ran into trouble finding another job. Finally, in desperation, he took a job at the local zoo. The gorilla had died, and since it had been the children’s favorite animal, the zoo officials decided to put someone in a gorilla costume until a real replacement could be found. To the minister’s surprise, he liked the job. He enjoyed ministering to children as the donkey on Palm Sunday carried Jesus. He got lots of attention and could eat all he wanted. There was no stress: there were no deadlines, complaints or committees. And he could take a nap anytime he wanted. One day he was feeling particularly frisky. So he began swinging on the trapeze. Higher and higher he went. But suddenly he lost his grip, flipped a couple of times, and landed in the next cage. Stunned and dazed, he looked up and saw a ferocious lion. In his panic he forgot he was supposed to be a gorilla and yelled, “Help! Help!” That ferocious lion turned in his direction and said, “0h, shut up, man, I’m a minister too.” Unlike these gorilla and lion ministers, all of us are supposed to be donkey ministers by becoming donkey-givers like the man Jesus met long ago, who loaned his donkey to Jesus to ride as He entered Jerusalem for the last time. We become donkey-givers when we give something that promotes Jesus and His Kingdom. Five hundred years from now as we delight in the glory of God’s Kingdom, we will not even remember how much money we earned on earth or how big our houses were or whether we had much status or popularity. But we will celebrate forever every single donkey we gave to the Master in the form of little things we have done for others in Jesus’ name for God’s glory.

21) Speaking Donkey: Ever wonder why the donkey is the only animal in the Bible that speaks? Karl Barth at his 80th birthday party offered this testimony: “In the Bible there’s talk of a donkey, or to be quite correct, an ass. It was allowed to carry Jesus to Jerusalem. If I have achieved anything in this life, then I did so as a relative of the ass who at that time was going his way carrying an important burden. The disciples had said to its owner: ‘The Master has need of it.’ And so, it seems to have pleased God to have used me at this time. Apparently, I was permitted to be the ass which was allowed to carry as best I could a better theology, a little piece” [as quoted by John Robert McFarland’s Preacher’s Workshop in “The Illustration is the Point,” The Christian Ministry, (January-February, 1988), 21.] Fr. Tony (

22) “The Traveler”: Richard Matheson wrote a science-fiction story called “The Traveler.” It’s about a scientist called Paul Jairus, who is part of a research time that has developed an energy screen to permit people to travel back into time. The first trip is scheduled to take place a few days before Christmas and Jairus has been picked to make the trip. He decided to go back in time to the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary. Jairus is a non-believer and anticipates finding the crucifixion different from the way the Bible describes it. When the historic moment comes, Jairus steps into the energy screen and soon finds himself soaring back into time -100 years, 1000 years, 2000 years. The energy screen touches down on target and Calvary is swarming with people, everybody’s attention is focused on three men nailed to crosses about 100 feet away. Immediately Jairus asks the Command Centre for permission to move closer to the crosses, they grant it, but tell him to stay inside the energy screen. Jairus moves closer and as he does, his eyes come to rest on Jesus. Suddenly something remarkable begins to happen, Jairus feels drawn to Jesus, as a tiny piece of metal is drawn to a magnet. He is deeply moved by the love radiating from Jesus, it’s something he’d never experienced before. Then contrary to all his expectations, events on Calvary begin to unfold exactly as the Gospel described them. Jairus is visibly shaken. The Command Centre realizes this and fears he’s becoming emotionally involved. They tell him to prepare for immediate return to the 20th century. Jairus protests, but to no avail. The trip back goes smoothly. When Jairus steps from the energy screen, it’s clear he’s a changed man. (Mark Link S. J.) Fr. Tony (

23) Victory of St. Polycarp: In Christian art, the martyrs are almost always shown holding palm branches as symbols of victory over temptation and suffering. These martyrs are our older brothers and sisters in the Faith — God wants us to learn from and be encouraged by them. Take the example of St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. • In the year 155, Polycarp was condemned to death for refusing to give idolatrous worship to the Roman Emperor. As he was a well-known Christian leader, even though he was already in his 80s, his execution was made into a large public spectacle. • He was burned to death in the city stadium. • Normally, criminals executed that way were actually fastened to the pile of wood, so that they wouldn’t climb out of the fire. • But not Polycarp. • He told his guards: “He who gives me strength to endure the fire will also grant me to stay on the pyre unflinching even without your making sure of it with nails.” • According to eye witnesses, his last words were a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to God for giving him the honor of sharing Christ’s cup of suffering. • Those same eye witnesses tell us that when the fire was lit, • a great flame blazed up, • but instead of burning Polycarp right away, • it surrounded him like a fiery force field; • his face was serene and his body glowed like gold being refined in a furnace. • As he peacefully breathed his last, the onlookers perceived a fragrant smell, as if incense were being offered. This is the paradox of Palm Sunday, which God wants us all to experience: that Christ’s limitless love • can strengthen us to resist even the greatest temptations, • and fill us with interior peace and joy even amidst the flames of suffering that torment us here on earth.(E- Priest) 

24) Helplessness of a terminal cancer patient: The renowned spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, shares how he once went to a hospital to visit a man dying of cancer. The man was still relatively young and had been a very hardworking and generative person. He was the father of a family and provided well for them. He was the chief executive officer in a large company and took good care of both the company and his employees. Moreover, he was involved in many other organizations, including his Church, and, because of his leadership abilities, was often the one in charge. But now, this once-so-active man, this person who was so used to being in control of things, was lying on a hospital bed, dying, unable to take care of even his most basic needs. As Nouwen approached the bed, the man took his hand. It’s significant to note the particular frustration he expressed: “Father, you have to help me! I’m dying, and I am trying to make peace with that, but there is something else too: You know me, I have always been in charge—I took care of my family. I took care of the company. I took care of the Church. I took care of things! Now I am lying here, on this bed and I can’t even take care of myself. I can’t even go to the bathroom! Dying is one thing, but this is another! I’m helpless! I can’t do anything anymore!” Despite his exceptional pastoral skills, Nouwen, like any of us in a similar situation, was left rather helpless in the face of this man’s plea. The man was undergoing an agonizing passivity. He was now a patient. He had once been active, the one in charge; and now, like Jesus in the hours leading up to his death, he was reduced being a patient, one who is ministered to by others. Nouwen, for his part, tried to help the man see the connection between what he was undergoing and what Jesus endured in his passion, especially how this time of helplessness, diminishment, and passivity is meant to be a time where we can give something deeper to those around us. Among other things, Nouwen read the Passion narratives of the Gospels aloud to him because what this man was enduring parallels very clearly what Jesus endured in the hours leading up to his death, a time we Christians entitle, “the Passion of Jesus.” What exactly was the Passion of Jesus? (Quoted by Fr. Ron Rolheiser).

25) Obediently accepting death on a cross: Andy lived in Jersey City. His father worked for the great meat-packing firm of Swift and Company. Andy’s dad used every opportunity to educate his son along practical lines. One day when the boy was about ten, he took him on a tour of the Swift packinghouses in Newark to show him how they killed animals for the meat-markets. Swift called these places their “abattoirs.” The French word abattoir sounds a little less gross, but it means the same as the English “slaughter-house.” What the butchers did there was a necessary but bloody business, not always easy for a visitor to stomach. Andy noticed in particular the way in which the different types of animals reacted to impending death. The beef cattle and calves struggled and bellowed with fear. Pigs squealed and squirmed and tried to escape. But the sheep were different. They simply stood there meek and silent, offering no resistance to their slayers. When Andy grew up, he became a priest. He never forgot the way he had seen sheep behave in the face of death, and he often pointed out in his Holy Week sermons how appropriately the Christ who died for us is called “the Lamb.” The Jews of Bible times knew very well how sheep acted under these circumstances. Sheep and goats were their main livestock. Isaiah spoke out of experience when he foretold in vision how the Messiah would die: “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Is 53:7) Today as we enter upon Passion Week, let us bear in mind this symbol of Christ as a lamb, and during the narrative of His passion and death see how well it was fulfilled. (Father Robert F. McNamara). Among other things, Nouwen read the Passion narratives of the Gospels aloud to him because what this man was enduring parallels very clearly what Jesus endured in the hours leading up to his death, a time we Christians entitle, “the Passion of Jesus.” What exactly was the Passion of Jesus? L/20 

B.    From 

Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn't believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.

The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President's health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.

It's a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.

It happened that way to Jesus...
 "Everyone else is doing it."

Do you remember those words? Do you remember begging your Mom or Dad for permission to do something they would ordinarily not permit by insisting, "But Ma, everyone else is getting to do it!"

The typical parental response to such childish logic usually went something along the lines of, "Well, if everyone else jumped off a bridge would you do it too?" (Of course now that grown men and women actually PAY to go bungee jumping off of bridges, that argument might not have as much clout as it used to!)

Still, Mom and Dad's point holds water: Just because everyone else seems to being doing something, or just because everyone else seems to be saying something, doesn't mean it is the right thing to do, or say. In fact, it very often means that a lot of those people have no idea why they are acting as they are acting, or saying what they are saying.

Too often "everyone else is doing it" is a "mob mentality," a "crowd consciousness," that spurs on our most worst actions.

In 2003 yet another new techno-inspired word was coined - "flash mob." A "flash mob" was a wholly e-mailed inspired random group of people who agreed to "show up" and participate in some unified, yet uninformed, communal act. The first successful "flash mob" was in a Macy's department store in the rug department. There a crowd of 200 strangers claimed to be shopping for a carpet for their "group home," and everyone had to agree on the design. Since then "flash mobs" have showed up - by definition randomly - all over. Impromptu gatherings of people with open umbrellas, doing jumping jacks, or having pillow fights. Acting together yet being basically uniformed about the "what" and the "why" is the core of a "flash mob" gathering.

But wait a minute. The first "flash mobs" were not inspired by anonymous e-mails... 
There Is Still Hope

The reality is that, if we figure to survive in this world, we had better have hope. The ancients knew that. Do you remember Pandora? Mythology has her as a lady endowed with every charm...the gift of all the gods. She was sent to earth with a little box which she had been forbidden to open, but curiosity finally got the better of her...she lifted the lid and out from that box escaped every conceivable kind of terror. Pandora made haste to close the box up again, but it was too late. There was only one thing left...HOPE. That was the ancients' way of saying how important hope is. Even when all else is lost, there is still hope.

This was what had sustained the Israelite faithful from generation to generation. This was what energized the crowd along Jesus' parade route that day.

David E. Leininger, Sunday's Coming!
Creating Turmoil

In his book, The Freedom Revolution and the Churches, Robert Spike recalls an incident from the early years of the turbulent civil rights movement. Flying out of Jackson, Mississippi, Spike overhears the conversation of a Catholic sister, sitting across the aisle from him, with her seat companion. The sister is lamenting all the unrest in Mississippi, and she complains about the "outside agitators," the students and church leaders who have come to her state in support of civil rights, certain that their presence is provoking violence on the part of white racists. "I do not question their dedication, nor even the rightness of their position," said the sister. "But surely it is a bad thing to create turmoil by stirring up people who feel differently." As the sister talks, all the while she is nervously fingering a cross hanging around her neck.

There's a tragic irony in the sister's words and actions, not unlike that of the first Holy Week. For the one whose cross the sister holds most dear, Jesus, would never have taken the risk of going to Jerusalem and proclaiming a new way of living, would never have confronted comfortable patterns and ultimately endured the cross, had he followed the sister's philosophy.

Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?
Life Is Difficult

I remind you of the famous first words in Scott Peck's book, The Road Less Traveled. His first words are, "Life is difficult." Then he goes on to say,

This is a great truth, but most of us can't see it. Instead we moan more or less incessantly, noisily, or subtly, about the enormity of our problem. As if life is supposed to be easy for us, and therefore what has happened to us has never happened to anybody else before, at least not in this excruciatingly painful or insoluble way that it has burdened us.

Peck says that he wrote that not because as a therapist he hears his patients say that, but because he has been tempted to say that himself. You could call it the "Law of Exceptionalism," the idea that this has never happened before, at least not to the degree that it has happened to me. "Exceptionalism."

I like that cartoon I saw a long time ago showing a huge desk, a huge CEO sitting behind the desk, in a huge leather chair. Standing meekly in front of the desk is a man in work clothes, obviously a lowly employee in that corporation. The worker says to the boss, "If it's any comfort, it's lonely at the bottom too."

Life is difficult for everyone. Someone explained to me once why they don't like Lent. They said, "I'm not into suffering." I like that. Like it's optional. Like it's an adopted lifestyle.

Well Jesus was not into suffering either. You remember he prayed, "Let this cup pass from me." But when the time came for him to go on "The Hero's Quest," the text says, "He set his face steadfastly for Jerusalem."

Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons,
The Tomb Is Easier than the Cross

In just a matter of days Holy Week takes us from the mountain of festive palms to the mountain of Golgatha's despair. And that is why we resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What's so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What's wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb.

Well, I think we know the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. Add to that all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration? But as much as we'd like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we're part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus' disciples are still running away.

Jeffrey K. London, And When You Think It's All Over
You Brought Pavement?

I love the story about a rich man who wanted to take his money with him beyond the grave. When he was nearing death, he prayed fervently about this matter. An angel appeared to him and said, "Sorry, you can't take all your wealth with you after death, but the Lord will allow you to take one suitcase. Fill it with whatever you wish." Overjoyed the man got the largest suitcase he could find and filled it with pure gold bars. Soon afterward he died and showed up at the gates of heaven. St. Peter, seeing the suitcase, said, "Hold on, you can't bring that in here with you." The man explained how God had given him special permission." St. Peter checked it out with the angel Gabriel and the story was verified. "Okay," said St. Peter, "You can bring the suitcase in with you, but first I must check its contents." He opened the suitcase to see what worldly items this man had considered too precious to leave behind. "I don't believe it!" said St. Peter. "You brought pavement??"

Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons,
He Expected Fruit

The disciples come upon a fig tree which is showing a burst of new leaves. But Jesus looks among them, and says that there is no fruit. He expected fruit. It is the condemnation of promise without fulfillment. Charles Lamb told of a certain man in whose life, he said, there were three stages. When he was young, people said of him, "He will do something." As he grew older and did nothing, they said of him, "He could do something if he tried." Towards the end of his life they said of him, "He might have done something, if he had tried." That could be the epitaph of too many Christians...and too many churches.

Donald B. Strobe, Collected Words,
What Is Good For Us Is Hidden

Martin Luther often spoke of this aspect of the theology of the cross, concerning how God works in a hidden way through contrasts. In a series of lectures that Luther gave in 1515 and 1516 on the Book of Romans, he wrote: "For what is good for us is hidden, and that so deeply that it is hidden under its opposite. Thus our life is hidden under death, love for ourselves under hate for ourselves ... salvation under damnation, heaven under hell ... And universally our every assertion of anything good is hidden under the denial of it, so that faith may have its place in God, who is a negative essence and goodness and wisdom and righteousness, who cannot be touched except by the negation of all our affirmations."

Martin Luther had one more observation about why God operates this way - under contrasts and opposites. In another of his sermons, he put it this way: "He thrusts us into death and permits the devil to pounce on us. But it is not his purpose to devour us; he wants to test us, to purify us, and to manifest himself ever more to us, that we may recognize his love. Such trials and strife are to let us experience something that preaching alone is not able to do, namely, how powerful Christ is and how sincerely the Father loves us. So our trust in God and our knowledge of God will increase more and more, together with our praise and thanks for his mercy and blessing.

Otherwise we would bumble along with our early, incipient faith. We would become indolent, unfruitful and inexperienced Christians, and would soon grow rusty."

Mark Ellingsen, Preparation and Manifestation, CSS Publishing
Lose Yourself

What does a Christ-like mind look like as we live in the world? We can see it clearly in the great saints and martyrs, such as Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer. I'm drawn as well to the idea William Placher suggests in his book "Narratives of a Vulnerable God" as he uses an illustration from the world of basketball. Professor Placher writes, "In basketball the players who are always asking, 'How am I doing? Am I getting my share of the shots?' Those are the ones who never reach their full potential. It is the players who lose themselves who find themselves. And it's that kind of self-forgetfulness that makes the best players." And isn't that the case with all of us in whatever we do?

I read about one of the fastest growing churches in the world, with branches in 32 countries already. It is called the Winners Church, and according to its leaders, it lives by a motto that comes from America's religious culture. Here's the motto: "Be happy. Be successful. Join the winners." People flock to that kind of church, I guess. But it all depends, doesn't it, on how we define winning? I wonder what kind of church you would have if your motto were "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant." Or about this one for a motto, "Those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for my sake, will find them."
Joanna Adams, A Beautiful Mind
Passion Sunday: Surprising and Inevitable

At a pre-concert lecture, the conductor of a symphony orchestra was telling the audience about the major work that the orchestra would be performing at that evening's concert. The conductor told the people that if they listened carefully to the music, they would discover that it was both surprising and inevitable. On the one hand, the musical score would take a fair number of rather jarring and unexpected twists. There would be points in the concert when the blare of the trumpet or the sudden rolling of the timpani would seem to come from out of nowhere in a surprising fashion. On the other hand, however, the conductor noted that in the long run, these surprises would themselves become part of a larger coherence. Once listeners heard the entire piece from start to finish, they would find in the music an air of inevitability--how could it ever have been written any differently?

Surprising and inevitable. Palm Sunday and the events of Holy Week are both surprising and inevitable. The truth is that we are not completely sure what to make of Palm Sunday...

C. Fr Jude Botelho:

Procession: The reading starts on a triumphant note, the celebration of a victory parade. Parades and processions have always been part of worship in Jewish and Christian tradition and they were the most normal way for people to acclaim the victories and triumphs of their heroes and heroines. When the parade is over the heroes fade away and are forgotten and Jesus whom we acclaim in today's victory procession will momentarily fade into his passion and death, but then he will rise again and live on. What is worth noting is the attitude of Jesus as He is about to enter into the final phase of his life. He meets his opponents openly as he triumphantly enters into Jerusalem. He does not merely tolerate and endure the passion rather he wholeheartedly chooses and accepts it. Far from being a defeat his passion starts as a victory, we see Jesus is in command of the situation rather than overpowered by it. He gives orders: Go to the village, find the donkey, if anyone asks say the Master needs it. And he went riding in and they acknowledged him. Hosanna to the Son of David!!! We remember that the palms we carry today will be burned and the ashes for next year's Ash Wednesday will be made from them. The sign of glory and the sign of conversion are made of the same stuff and meet in our flesh and lives.

The first reading from Isaiah describes the attitude and behaviour of the servant of Yahweh who foreshadows Jesus and all those persecuted for sake of justice and God's honour. This is not just a word of comfort and consolation but the rousing word of the good news, the imminent coming of the kingdom breaking into the lives of those bent under the weight of evil. This word teaches us how to resist without violence and how to rely on the strength that is always offered. Their shield that they grasped and held on to was God. Isaiah promised a servant of God, who would have a face like flint, to brave the pummeling, the spit and the ridicule, he would take on everything.

Look at my hand!
A vacationing family drives along in their car, windows rolled down, enjoying the warm summer breeze of the sunny day. All of a sudden a big black bee darts in the window and starts buzzing around inside the car. A little girl, highly allergic to bee stings, cringes in the back seat. If she is stung, she could die within an hour. "Oh, Daddy," she squeals in terror. "It's a bee! It's going to sting me!" The father pulls the car over to a stop, and reaches back to try to catch the bee. Buzzing around towards him, the bee bumps against the front windshield where the father traps it in his fist. Holding it in his closed hand, the father waits for the inevitable sting. The bee stings the father's hand and in pain, the father lets go of the bee. The bee is loose in the car again. The little girl again panics, "Daddy, it's going to sting me!" The father gently says, "No honey, he's not going to sting you now. Look at my hand." The bee's stinger was there in his hand.

As told in today's gospel by St. Matthew, whose account is probably the most authentic representation of what happened, the passion story is recounted not that we might feel sorry for Jesus because of what he suffered but that we might be touched by the love he had for us that motivated him to suffer the passion. As we go through the story we can be spectators or participants, we can look at it as a drama acted out or as something that I am part of right now, with people with whom I can identify. We can be part of the crowd or Pilate or Peter or Jesus.

Would you take his place?
After years of wandering, Clint Dennis realized that something important was missing from his life. He decided to attend Church. As he entered a church for the first time he noticed people putting on long robes. They were tying ropes around their waists and wrapping headdresses around their heads. "Come be part of the mob," a stranger told him. It was Palm Sunday and the church was enacting the Crucifixion in costume. He would be part of the crowd that shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Hesitantly, he agreed. Then another stranger hurried up to him. "The man who is supposed to play one of the thieves on the cross didn't show up," he said. "Would you take his place?" Again, Clint agreed and was shown the cross where he would look on as Jesus died. Just then, though, something about Clint's manner caught a member's eye. He turned to Clint and asked, "Have you ever asked Jesus to forgive your sins?" "No," Clint replied softly, "but that’s why I came here." There beneath the cross they prayed, and Clint asked Jesus to come into his heart. What the church didn't know was that Clint had been in prison for ten years. He was a real thief. Even after his release he had gone on stealing cars and trucks until he realized something was missing from his life.
Jo Hart

The passion narrative starts with the betrayal of Judas Iscariot; in the face of this betrayal Jesus chooses to celebrate the Passover meal and give them his best gift: the gift of himself. When man is at his worse God is at his best! Jesus' way of responding to hurt and betrayal can be ours only when love has become the motive power of our lives. Even when Jesus is confronted by Judas who blatantly asks, "Not I Rabbi, surely?”, Jesus does not condemn him or embarrass him in front of the others. Even in the face of evidence Jesus refuses to judge, so unlike us. It is worth remembering that when we judge others we judge ourselves. After the celebration of the Passover sacrifice as they were leaving for the Mount of Olives Jesus predicts "You will all lose faith in me this night." But Peter is sure that he is not like the rest. There are many times when we can identify with Peter, we feel we are not like the rest of the disciples. We won't make the same mistakes that others make. Let's remind ourselves that our faith journey is not a competition to see who does better than others. The faith journey cannot be accomplished if we rely on our own strengths and capabilities, instead one needs to humbly acknowledge our inadequacies and rely on the Lord to see us through. As we go through the entire narrative of the passion what will strike us is that Jesus died a shameful death, reserved for the worst of criminals. Even though he died willingly and in a manly way, this manner of death would seem to wipe off with one stroke all the good he had done. If Jesus were truly the beloved Son of God, would God have allowed him to be overcome by his enemies? But God turned this human way of thinking completely upside down. By raising Jesus from the dead, God honoured Jesus more than anyone ever could have. He obliterated Jesus' shame with the glory of the resurrection. It is from this standpoint that one needs to reinterpret the passion. While it reports seemingly shameful events like the betrayal, the false witnesses, the trumped-up charges and the like, a careful reading shows that Jesus is master of his fate throughout the story. He knows that he is in the right; he trusts that God will vindicate him. Jesus is like every other innocently suffering person in the history of Israel: absolutely confident that God will set it all right. Today we dwell on the passion in order to draw closer to the person of Jesus and his great love for humanity and unflinching faith in the Father. To be like Jesus we have to be with Jesus. As we draw close to Jesus we are bound to change and become like the Son. “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all to myself!"

The Traveller
Richard Matheson wrote a science-fiction story called "The Traveller." It's about a scientist called Paul Jairus, who is part of a research time that has developed an energy screen to permit people to travel back into time. The first trip is scheduled to take place a few days before Christmas and Jairus has been picked to make the trip. He decided to go back in time to the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary. Jairus is a non-believer and anticipates finding the crucifixion different from the way the Bible describes it. When the historic moment comes, Jairus steps into the energy screen and soon finds himself soaring back into time -100 years, 1000 years, 2000 years. The energy screen touches down on target and Calvary is swarming with people, everybody's attention is focused on three men nailed to crosses about 100 feet away. Immediately Jairus asks the Command Centre for permission to move closer to the crosses, they grant it, but tell him to stay inside the energy screen. Jairus moves closer and as he does, his eyes come to rest on Jesus. Suddenly something remarkable begins to happen, Jairus feels drawn to Jesus, as a tiny piece of metal is drawn to a magnet. He is deeply moved by the love radiating from Jesus, it's something he'd never experienced before. Then contrary to all his expectations, events on Calvary begin to unfold exactly as the Gospel described them. Jairus is visibly shaken. The Command Centre realises this and fears he's becoming emotionally involved. They tell him to prepare for immediate return to the 20th century. Jairus protests, but to no avail. The trip back goes smoothly. When Jairus steps from the energy screen, it's clear he's a changed man.
Mark Link

‘The Passion of the Christ’

In 2004, Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ created waves worldwide for its pathos and power. On viewing it, many ‘cold’ Christians’ faith was rekindled. James Caviezel who played Jesus said, “I had to prepare myself physically, spiritually, and emotionally for many months before playing the most demanding role of my career…. I couldn’t imagine that someone could endure such unbelievable and unbearable degradation and death for the sake of others.” He added, “All through the production as if ‘Someone’ was watching over me!” Playing Christ was a profound conversion experience for Caviezel. The most wonderful ‘witness’ of the Passion is Fr. Christudas, who on September 2, 1997, was beaten, stripped and paraded naked in Dumka, north India. His ‘passion’ continues since he is unjustly convicted for fabricated crimes. Christudas testifies: “I couldn’t bear the humiliation and pain until suddenly I felt one with Jesus who suffered everything, and even more than myself. Thereafter, I surrendered!” Does that ‘Someone’ who ‘watched over’ Caviezel’s action also ‘part-take’ in these ‘passions’?
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for daily Deeds’