Video Lessons on the “four pillars” of the Catechism
The Suffering Servant
In Isaiah’s mind, the servant spoken about may have been an individual or the nation of Israel. The servant is entrusted with a special mission on behalf of God’s people. The servant is, first of all, portrayed as a disciple who listens to God. Morning after morning, the Lord ‘opens’ the ear of the servant that he may hear God’s Word. Unlike the Israelites in the desert, the servant is not rebellious, nor does he turn back.
Because of his faithfulness to God, the servant undergoes all kinds of humiliations and sufferings. (Looking at the servant as Israel, the sufferings might point to her time in exile.) In the midst of his sufferings, the servant displays great trust in God. “The Lord is my help, therefore, I will not be disgraced.” The phrase ‘set my face like flint’ refers to the servant’s determination to be faithful to God.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Psalm 22 is the moving psalm that Jesus prayed on the Cross. It is a combination of lament in a time of great suffering and thanksgivingfor God’s deliverance. The imagery used in Psalm 22 is very powerful and vivid. The opening verses describe the suffering and derision that the psalmist endures from onlookers. Among other things, they mock him for placing his trust in God. But the mockery and brutality of the onlookers cannot undermine the devotion of the psalmist who remains steadfast in his trust in God. Psalm 22 ends on a positive note with the psalmist proclaiming God’s goodness in the midst of the assembly.
A lament unusual in structure and in intensity of feeling. The psalmist’s present distress is contrasted with God’s past mercy in Ps 22:2–12. In Ps 22:13–22 enemies surround the psalmist. The last third is an invitation to praise God (Ps 22:23–27), becoming a universal chorus of praise (Ps 22:28–31). The Psalm is important in the New Testament. Its opening words occur on the lips of the crucified Jesus (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46), and several other verses are quoted, or at least alluded to, in the accounts of Jesus’ passion (Mt 27:35, 43; Jn 19:24). (Source: NAB notes).
Paul’s Plea for Humility
Writing from prison, Paul addresses the community of Philippi, a people with proud and independent ways, which often leads to bickering and disharmony amongst them. Paul admonishes the community to set aside their bickering and to live in harmony.
He holds up as a model before them the ‘attitude of Christ,’ who ‘emptied himself’ and became like a ‘slave’ (or like the servant in the first reading). Because Christ emptied himself and because of his humility, God raised him up and exalted him. Like the servant in the first reading, God came to the help of Jesus, the servant par excellence, and gave him the name ‘Lord,’ a name given only to God in the Old Testament.
To be filled with God, we must first do the work of self-emptying/ridding ourselves of our false self that is proud, jealous, greedy, rude, unforgiving, dishonest, self-sufficient, etc.
Fulfillment of the Scriptures
Matthew’s Gospel is written primarily for Jewish audiences who have embraced Christianity. Matthew goes to great pains to show that the events spoken about in his Gospel, including his Passion narrative, happened not because of some outside forces, but to fulfill what was foretold in their Hebrew Scriptures about God’s plan.
The Passion story begins with the betrayal of Jesus by Judas for 30 pieces of silver. This event is alluded to in Zechariah 11:12-13. When Jesus is arrested, Matthew says: “All this happened to fulfill the prophecies in scripture” (26:56). Immediately after this statement, Matthew tells us: “All the disciples left him and fled” (v.57), thus fulfilling Jesus’ earlier prediction (26:31) as well as the prophecy of Zechariah, “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (13:7). During his trial, Jesus’ behavior and the mistreatment heaped upon him parallel the experiences of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (see today’s first reading). On the Cross, Jesus prays with the words of today’s Psalm 22.
Obedient and faithful Son of God
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the faithful Israelite who enjoys a unique relationship with his Father. Judas is mentioned more as a means of contrast: he is the ‘dark side of discipleship.’ In Matthew’s Passion story, Jesus is depicted as strong, peaceful and faithful despite all the infidelity, hatred, violence and cowardice around him. He especially shows himself to be a faithful friend to his Apostles. He forgives them for their weaknesses and failures. Most of all, he remains faithful to his Father. The seeming cry of despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” should not be interpreted as Jesus feeling abandoned by God. This lament, which is taken from Psalm 22, “lays bare the tortured body and spirit of the believer who complains to God and cries out for relief, but never doubts that he will be saved and vindicated” (Patricia Sanchez).
Matthew contrasts Jesus’ faithfulness to the unfaithfulness of his Apostles and his own people who betray him, reject him, beat him, jeer at him, deny him, fall asleep on him, and abandon him in his greatest hour of need. Of course not all of them fail him. Simon helps him to carry his Cross and the women are faithful, even if at a distance. Jesus is presented as the suffering servant, obedient unto death, even death on the Cross (second reading)
For the forgiveness of sins
On this aspect of Matthew’s Passion story, Scripture scholar Sr. Barbara Reid writes:
“… in Matthew, Jesus’ death is not framed as a sacrifice of atonement but rather the result of living a life of forgiving love and teaching others his way of forgiveness (5:38-48; 9:2-8; 6:12, 14-15; 18:23-35). Unique to Matthew is the fuller account of the treachery of Jesus’ friend and disciple Judas, and his tragic end. A question is set before us, whether we, like Judas, will be incapable of accepting forgiveness or, like Peter, will be open to the forgiveness, Jesus freely offers when we fail. Further, can believing communities embrace those who have sinned grievously?”
(Copyright 2013 “Abiding Word: Sunday Reflections for Year A” by Barbara E. Reid, OP, Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission. P. 31)
1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way? Which part of the Passion story speaks to you most this year? Why?
2. How hard is it for you to pray: “Not my will but yours be done?” Can you think of one example of when you had to pray that prayer?
3. What happened to Peter (to deny Jesus) and to Judas (to betray him)? What is the difference between both failures? How can we deny or betray Jesus?
4. What helps you the most to cope with the suffering or cross dimension of life, be it your own or someone else’s?
5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.
Call to Action
Be patient with the sufferings in your life; join them to the sufferings of Christ and offer them up for some cause in the world. Pray for people carrying a heavy cross at this time. Pray that morning after morning, the Lord may open the ears of your heart to hear God’s Word.
Jesus, share with me a little bit of your patience, courage and strength in the face of suffering.
Lord, as we enter this most sacred week of our Church year, give us new eyes to see what great loveyou have for us. May your example of laying down your life inspire us to lay down our lives for all we are called to serve. Amen.
Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.
A Transformation of our suffering and uncertainty awaits us
“Christ’s resurrection reveals that a transformation of our suffering and uncertainty awaits us. And like Jesus’s first followers, it is a transformation far beyond what we can fathom—whether at our best or at our most undone. We do not know when it will come, or what it will look like. We do not, in fact, know how this will end. But we profess that, by the grace of God, our unraveled lives will be transformed in glory. It is transformation, not reversal or erasure, that awaits us this Holy Week.”
CATHOLIC WOMEN PREACH – April 5, 2020
EXCERPT — Today we enter into the heart of the Gospel and our faith. Again, we look at the question of life and death, with a focus on Jesus’ suffering and death. We are always looking forward, but there is no escaping death — and for most of us — some level of suffering in life. How do we deal with, accept and relate to this reality? Fortunately, we have a model in Jesus. Will the model inspire or repel us? Or, in a world of “reality” in the media, will it have any impact at all?
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Joan DeMerchant
NOTE: Fr. George Sigma’s BUILDING ON THE WORD does not have any homilies available for Palm Sunday. His parish exercises the option to proclaim the full account of the passion and to omit the homily.
EXCERPT — On Calvary, we are before a tortured human being, one excluded from society, completely isolated, condemned as a heretic and subversive by the civil, military and religious courts. At the foot of the cross the religious authorities confirm for the last time a failed rebellion, and publicly renounce Him (Mt 27:41-43). And it is at this hour of death that a new significance comes to life again. The identity of Jesus is revealed by a pagan: “In truth this man was son of God!” (Mt 27:54). From this point on, if you really wish to meet the Son of God, do not seek Him up above in the far away heavens, nor in the Temple whose veil was torn, but seek Him close to you, in the excluded, disfigured, ugly human being. Seek Him in those who, like Jesus, give their lives for their brothers and sisters. It is there that God hides Himself and reveals Himself, and it is there that we can meet Him. There we find the disfigured image of God, of the Son of God. “Greater love than this no one has than to give one’s life for the brothers and sisters!”
THE ORDER OF CARMELITES – Lectio Divina: Sundays of Lent
EXCERPT — Today may be the most overwhelming day of the overwhelming holy week to come. Palm Sunday takes us step-by-step through Jesus’ last days and then leaves us holding emptiness, seeing only death. The church calls this day Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, an inelegant mouthful that tells us exactly what’s coming: high acclaim followed by treachery and tragedy. When we take it seriously, this week is too much to handle in just eight days. We need to choose a focus, knowing that every one of its moments and movements is sacramental and full of grace.
NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER – Mary M. McGlone, CSJ
EXCERPT — At services during Holy Week, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” will be widely sung. Originally sung by African slaves, this hymn is beautifully somber, professing the deep faith of people who were denigrated and dehumanized like Christ. As we listen to Matthew’s Passion, we should consider who we might be in the narrative. Who was there in Jesus’ time of need?
AMERICA MAGAZINE – Jamie Waters
EXCERPT — From Rwanda to Northern Ireland, from Bosnia to Guatemala City, from Johannesburg to Washington, the great contemporary struggle of faith is its clash with nationalism and tribalism. Under every moral crisis lurks a dread that if we ever fully followed Jesus, we would lose our holy privilege and our clannish protections. In Jesus’ time, he was rejected and condemned for reasons of national security So he is today. So he was rejected throughout history—when Christianity seized the mighty throne of Europe, when missionaries blessed the search for gold and turned their shamed eyes away from torture, when good Christians prayed for their slaves, their just wars, their blessings of property and plunder.
SUNDAY WEB SITE – Father John Kavanaugh, SJ
EXCERPT — Judas will betray him, Peter will deny him, and all the others will abandon him. Only some faithful women stand by the cross. At the end of the Gospel, the Risen Jesus will gather his scattered disciples and heal their lack of faith and courage. This vivid Gospel account confronts us with powerful questions. How faithfully do we strive in the everyday decisions of our life to search for God’s will? How deep is our trust in God, even in the face of uncertainty and suffering? — 2020 Reflections
CHICAGO CATHOLIC – Father Donald Senior, CP
THIS WEEK’S CATECHISM EXCERPTS
“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.”
From the Homiletic Directory
CCC 557-560: Christ’s entry into Jerusalem
CCC 602-618: the Passion of Christ
CCC 2816: Christ’s kingship gained through his death and Resurrection
CCC 654, 1067-1068, 1085, 1362: the Paschal Mystery and the liturgy
Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem
Jesus’ ascent to Jerusalem
557 “When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem.”304 By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”305
558 Jesus recalls the martyrdom of the prophets who had been put to death in Jerusalem. Nevertheless he persists in calling Jerusalem to gather around him: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”306 When Jerusalem comes into view he weeps over her and expresses once again his heart’s desire: “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”307
Jesus’ messianic entrance into Jerusalem
559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.308 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.309 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.310 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.311 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,312 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.
560 Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection. It is with the celebration of that entry on Palm Sunday that the Church’s liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week.
The Passion of Christ
“For our sake God made him to be sin”
602 Consequently, St. Peter can formulate the apostolic faith in the divine plan of salvation in this way: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers. . . with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake.”402 Man’s sins, following on original sin, are punishable by death.403 By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”404
603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.405 But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”406 Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all”, so that we might be “reconciled to God by the death of his Son”.407
604 By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”408 God “shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”409
605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”410 He affirms that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.411 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”412
606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]”,413 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”414 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”415 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”416 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”417
607 The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life,418 for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.”419 And again, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”420 From the cross, just before “It is finished”, he said, “I thirst.”421
608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.422 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover.423 Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”424
609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”425 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.426 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”427 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.428
610 Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve Apostles “on the night he was betrayed”.429 On the eve of his Passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: “This is my body which is given for you.” “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”430
611 The Eucharist that Christ institutes at that moment will be the memorial of his sacrifice.431 Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them perpetuate it.432 By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant: “For their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”433
612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,434 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. . .”435 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.436 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.437 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”438
613 Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,439 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.440
614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.441 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.442
615 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”443 By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who “makes himself an offering for sin“, when “he bore the sin of many”, and who “shall make many to be accounted righteous”, for “he shall bear their iniquities”.444 Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.445
616 It is love “to the end”446 that confers on Christ’s sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life.447 Now “the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.”448 No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all.
617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ’s sacrifice as “the source of eternal salvation”449 and teaches that “his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us.”450 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: “Hail, O Cross, our only hope.”451
618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.452 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.453 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,454 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”455 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.456 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.457
- Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.458
Christ’s kingship gained through his death and Resurrection
2816 In the New Testament, the word basileia can be translated by “kingship” (abstract noun), “kingdom” (concrete noun) or “reign” (action noun). The Kingdom of God lies ahead of us. It is brought near in the Word incarnate, it is proclaimed throughout the whole Gospel, and it has come in Christ’s death and Resurrection. The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst. The kingdom will come in glory when Christ hands it over to his Father:
- It may even be . . . that the Kingdom of God means Christ himself, whom we daily desire to come, and whose coming we wish to be manifested quickly to us. For as he is our resurrection, since in him we rise, so he can also be understood as the Kingdom of God, for in him we shall reign.86
The Paschal Mystery and the Liturgy
654 The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”526 Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace.527 It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ’s brethren, as Jesus himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: “Go and tell my brethren.”528 We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection.
1067 “The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He accomplished this work principally by the Paschal mystery of his blessed Passion, Resurrection from the dead, and glorious Ascension, whereby ‘dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.’ For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth ‘the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.”‘3 For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation.
- For it is in the liturgy, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, that “the work of our redemption is accomplished,” and it is through the liturgy especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.4
1085 In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father “once for all.”8 His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.
1362 The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. In all the Eucharistic Prayers we find after the words of institution a prayer called the anamnesis or memorial.