On the Road Together for Palm Sunday, April 14
by Tracy Rodenborn, Director of RCIA
Our Sin and Christ Crucified
During Holy Week, we hear the Passion of Jesus twice: once on Palm Sunday from the Gospel cycle we are currently in (Luke this year) and once on Good Friday (always from John’s Gospel). Palm Sunday provides us with many readings for reflection. We have a Gospel passage for the preparation of the palms to begin Mass. We have a reading from Isaiah about the suffering servant who freely gives over his life, and we have the “Christ-hymn” from the Letter of Paul to the Philippians about how God emptied Himself in Christ Jesus. Our holiest week starts off with many avenues of entry into the holy Paschal Mystery, from death to new life.
Something immediately striking in Luke’s version of the Passion is Pilate’s numerous attempts to attest to the innocence of Jesus. More than in any other Gospel, Pilate tries to find Jesus not guilty – even passing him on the Herod – and again trying to just have Jesus flogged instead of crucified. Yet over and over the crowds call for Jesus’ death. Again, Jesus’ innocence is highlighted by two other people in this Gospel: one of the criminals being crucified with Jesus who proclaims that “this man has done nothing criminal” and the centurion who utters “this man was innocent beyond a doubt.” So, Luke here and in the Acts of the Apostles, puts the onus of Jesus’s condemnation and death on all the people, “this Jesus whom YOU crucified.”
As we take part in the Passion narrative this weekend, may we think about the ways that we participate in Jesus’ death. Though uncomfortable and painful, the author of Luke is calling us to think about our part, our sinful ways, our own ‘getting caught up in the crowd’, and the sinful tendencies of our humanity that indeed is part of this horrible, out of control, scene. Luke’s insistence on Jesus’ innocence, coupled with the readings on the suffering servant who willingly gives his life and the Christ-hymn about the emptying Godself, all help us see that God’s divine plan is indeed at work here in the messiest and most humiliating of circumstances for all of humanity.
As poorly as all of humanity shows in this Passion narrative, there are moments of redemption, like when the people witnessed happened and then they returned home beating their breasts. The Roman centurion and the criminal on the cross both recognize Jesus’ innocence and begin to glorified God. And the ending of the passage includes Joseph of Arimathea wading through the messiness of the situation, bravely asking for Jesus’s body from Pilate to perform the necessary preparations for the honor of His burial.
We begin this Holy Week with a heavy heart, burdened by our part in Christ’s death and contemplating all the ways we have, indeed, not been a part of the life-giving love of God. We sit with what it means to have sinned, and we consider what Christ has done for us.
Readings for April 14:
on Thursday, April 11 at 2:57PM