Background on the Gospel Reading
This Sunday, called Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of Holy Week. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday are called the Triduum, three days that are the highlight of the Church year. There are two Gospels proclaimed at today’s Mass. The first Gospel, proclaimed before the procession with palms, tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Riding on a borrowed colt, Jesus was hailed by the crowds as they shouted blessings and praise to God. This event is reported in each of the four Gospels.
Luke’s Gospel is the only one to report the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees as Jesus enters Jerusalem. Jesus’ response shows that this event, and those yet to come, are part of a divine plan. We hear this echoed again in Luke’s description of the Last Supper when Jesus speaks of Judas’ betrayal, saying that the Son of Man “goes as has been determined.”
At the Liturgy of the Word on this Sunday, the events of Jesus’ passion are proclaimed in their entirety. In Lectionary Cycle C, we read the passion of Jesus as found in the Gospel of Luke. We will hear these events proclaimed again during the Triduum when we read the passion of Jesus from the Gospel of John.
Throughout Luke’s Gospel we see that Jesus’ words and actions proclaim the Kingdom of God. This motif continues throughout Luke’s passion narrative. Jesus appears to be in total command of events at the Passover meal as he hands over the kingdom to his disciples. He welcomes them to the Passover meal announcing that this will be his last until the Kingdom of God is fulfilled.
As throughout Luke’s Gospel, however, the disciples show little understanding of this kingdom that Jesus often announces. Following the meal, the disciples argue about who is the greatest. Jesus takes the opportunity to distinguish the meaning of leadership in the Kingdom of God from the forms of leadership seen in the world.
Jesus initiates a conversation with Simon and predicts his denial. Jesus then instructs his disciples to prepare themselves for the events that will follow. His words reveal an awareness of the challenges that all of them will face in the days ahead. As the disciples and Jesus enter the Mount of Olives, Jesus indicates the importance of the disciples’ time in prayer, telling them that through prayer they will be able to face the challenges ahead.
As he prays, Jesus is tested. In the garden, an angel is sent to strengthen him and to prepare him for the events ahead. After this moment, Jesus is again in charge of the events and circumstances.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as active and vocal throughout his passion. When one of the disciples strikes the high priest’s servant, Jesus heals the man, an event reported only in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus stops the disciples’ protest against his arrest by noting that this is the “time for the power of darkness.” Jesus engages and responds when brought before the Sanhedrin; his words speak about the “power of God” that will bring about the reign of the Son of Man. When questioned by Pilate, Jesus responds with just one phrase; yet before Herod, Jesus refuses to speak.
When Luke describes the Way of the Cross and Jesus’ crucifixion, he calls to our attention many events that are not reported in the other Gospels. Throughout his Gospel, Luke has paid heed to the women who accompanied Jesus. Now, on the road to Calvary, Jesus speaks to the women who walk with him. Only Luke reports Jesus’ words of forgiveness spoken from the cross. And only Luke reports the dialogue between Jesus and the good thief. Finally, in contrast with the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, Luke reports no words of abandonment spoken by Jesus on the cross. Instead, Jesus, in full command until his death, commends his spirit to his Father and takes his final breath.
Throughout Holy Week, we will continue to reflect on the events of Jesus’ passion and death. As we meditate on the cross, we ask again and anew what it means to make the statement of faith that Jesus, in his obedient suffering and dying, revealed himself to us as God’s Son and brought to fulfillment the Kingdom of God.
Gospel: Luke 19:28-40
Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord.
Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If any one asks you, “Why are you untying it?” you shall say this, “The Lord has need of it.”’ So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. As he was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.
We also read the Passion of our Lord
Gospel: Luke 22:14-23:56
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
Key: N. Narrator. ✠ Jesus. O. Other single speaker. C. Crowd, or more than one speaker.
In our Gospel reading for the Palm Sunday procession, Jesus sends his disciples into Jerusalem to prepare for his triumphal entry. They are told to untether a donkey, and if there is any protest from the owner, they are to say simply, “The Master has need of it.” Strictly speaking, God has need of nothing, since he is the unconditioned act of existence. God doesn’t need our praise or our good works or anything. But this phrase signals the wonderful truth that God allows us to cooperate with his grace so that we can participate in the work that he wants to do. He gives us what Aquinas called “the dignity of causality.” We are privileged to be instruments in his hands.
“What is written about Me is coming to fulfillment,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel (see Luke 22:37). Indeed, we have reached the climax of the liturgical year, the highest peak of salvation history, when all that has been anticipated and promised is to be fulfilled. By the close of today’s long Gospel, the work of our redemption will have been accomplished, the new covenant will be written in the blood of His broken body hanging on the cross at the place called the Skull.
In His Passion, Jesus is “counted among the wicked,” as Isaiah had foretold (see Isaiah 53:12). He is revealed definitively as the Suffering Servant the prophet announced, the long-awaited Messiah whose words of obedience and faith ring out in today’s First Reading and Psalm.
The taunts and torments we hear in these two readings punctuate the Gospel as Jesus is beaten and mocked (see Luke 22:63–65; 23:10–11, 16), as His hands and feet are pierced (see Luke 23:33), as enemies gamble for His clothes (see Luke 23:34), and as three times they dare Him to prove His divinity by saving Himself from suffering (see Luke 23:35, 37, 39).
He remains faithful to God’s will to the end, does not turn back in His trial. He gives Himself freely to His torturers, confident that, as He speaks in today’s First Reading: “The Lord God is My help . . . I shall not be put to shame.”
Destined to sin and death as children of Adam’s disobedience, we have been set free for holiness and life by Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father’s will (see Romans 5:12–14, 17–19; Ephesians 2:2; 5:6).
This is why God greatly exalted Him. This is why we have salvation in His Name. Following His example of humble obedience in the trials and crosses of our lives, we know we will never be forsaken, that one day we too will be with Him in Paradise (see Luke 23:42). Seeing and Believing.