The Triumphant Passion Play
This journey doesn’t end well. Or does it? At Masses in the Catholic Church, we get to participate in Jesus’ life in a special way. It’s Palm Sunday! We get real palms that are blessed. We ‘welcome’ Jesus like they did on the road. Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.
It doesn’t take long for us to enter into the worst part of the story. We hear the words of Jesus from the cross as he prays Psalm 22: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Have you ever felt that way? At the worst or most painful moments, we can fear that God is not with us.
Today, we participate in this drama with parts of our own: Crucify him! Pilate washes his hands of Jesus fate. We will free Barabbas instead. You see, like us, Pilate is able to decide what the truth is. He doesn’t stand for what is right. He gives in to public opinion as he sends Jesus to a horrible death. We stand by as Peter, overcome with fear, denies knowing Jesus and being his follower three times. You are not one of his disciples, are you?
If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself! Jesus is crucified but only one thief asks forgiveness as he tells Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. His faith has saved him! Jesus promises that he will be with him in Paradise that day! No waiting!
The veil in the Temple is torn. After Jesus says, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit, we all kneel in silence. We try to imagine how Mary, his mother, and John, sit at the foot of the cross. We imagine Jesus being taken down from the cross and placed in Mary’s arms as she weeps. The Centurion has a spiritual awakening and recognizes that truly this was the Son of God. Joseph of Arimethea claims Jesus’ body and places him in his tomb with loving care. The Eucharist is placed at the altar of repose. Jesus is no longer present in the Church. We pray, sing and wait with our Lord if only for a little while.
During Holy Week, we enter into his story on Holy Thursday with the Passover Meal which becomes the institution of the Eucharist as Jesus offers himself in bread and wine. We feel the betrayal of Jesus as Judas sells his location for 30 pieces of silver. We venerate the cross at the Good Friday Mass. The cross is an instrument of death that holds no power over him. The Church becomes aglow as we light each other’s candles at the Easter Vigil and hear Scriptures telling our salvation history. God is faithful and sent his only Son, that whoever believes in Him might have Eternal Life! John 3:16
Do you believe? Try to look through the eyes of Mary, John or Judas. We are the crowd who tells Jesus that we don’t need him. But he prays to the Father asking him to forgive us for, “They do not know what they do.”
Do we betray Jesus today? How? Do we wash our hands like Pontius Pilate? Do we stand for the truth?
For kids: Find a play about the Last Supper for them to act out. Break bread and pass it to the person next to you. Talk about how Jesus offers himself in the Eucharist every day. We enter into Jesus story at every Mass. We are called to the supper of the Lamb. Will we go? Will we leave early?
Spoiler alert: The tomb is empty! Next Sunday’s Mass tells how Mary Magdalene went to pray at the tomb and what she didn’t find!
Sunday Readings for April 14, 2019 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041419.cfm Luke 23:1-49