Read Isaiah 50:4-7, Ps. 22:8-9,17-20,23-24, Phil. 2:6-11, Luke 22:14-23:56
“Being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:8-10)
Today is Palm Sunday otherwise known as Passion Sunday. Unlike the usual liturgy where the priest alone reads the Gospel passage, we have not only listened but also took part in the reading of the Passion narrative. We have been able to re-live the experience of Jesus’ last supper, His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, His trial by Pilate and Herod, His scourging at the pillar and the harsh treatment of the soldiers, His sentencing and carrying of the cross, His crucifixion on the Cross alongside two criminals and His death on the cross.
We saw the harsh treatment of the crowd who called for the release of Barabbas while they asked Pilate to crucify Jesus meanwhile, these were the same people who sang “hosannas” and spread their clothes on the ground for Jesus. The very persons who witnessed the miracles of Jesus and followed Him wherever He went turned against Him. Even Jesus’ own accountant, Judas Iscariot betrayed Him with a kiss. You can never be too careful in this life; those smiling with you now could become your worst enemies tomorrow.
Jesus took his disciples to the Mount of Olives and instructed them to pray so as not to fall into temptation, but they fell asleep instead. Later on, Peter who had boasted to stand by Jesus through thick and thin denied Jesus three times. Meanwhile, the other disciples fled. This is exactly what becomes of us when we don’t pray. The best time to pray is when you do not feel like praying because, at that moment, the devil doesn’t want you to be prepared for the kind of temptation he is about to send your way.
Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent but instead of taking a firm decision tried to escape responsibility. First, he ordered Jesus to be sent to Herod but Herod sent Him back. Pilate then reminded the people of their custom to release a prisoner but the people preferred Barabbas. Pilate thought that chastising Jesus would be enough but even after the soldiers had beaten the life out of Jesus, the people insisted: “Crucify Him.” In the face of injustice, never try to be diplomatic. It is better to be hated by everybody for doing what is right than to consent to evil in an attempt to please people.
Herod was excited when he heard that Pilate sent Jesus to him. Herod was hoping to be entertained by some magical performance but Jesus did not even utter a word. Herod was completely disappointed. Herod represents many who are interested in Jesus just because of what they hope to gain from Him. Of course, this includes miracle-seeking Christians who flock from church to church hoping they would be the next to receive a miracle. If the only reason you are in the church today is to see signs and wonders, you will be disappointed. A faith built on miracles is like a house built on sand.
The crowd at the foot of the cross said: “If you say you are really God, save yourself; come down from the cross.” Even one of the two criminals asked Jesus: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Jesus kept quiet! At that moment, it seemed as though He wasn’t Christ. Let us search our hearts. Don’t we also demand God to prove Himself by answering our prayers? Don’t we sometimes become ashamed of our Christian faith and begin to doubt if God truly exists when we find ourselves in certain unpleasant circumstances?
Since Jesus remained quiet like a sheep led to the slaughter, the crowd laughed at Him. Surely, you will experience moments when your enemies would have their filled day laughing at you and making a mockery of your faith. Maybe you are even going through one now – you are asking God like our Psalmist today: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” See how Isaiah concludes our first reading today: “I have set my face like a flint and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” Hold on. Keep trusting God. In the end, you will not be put to shame.
The other criminal did not join in the mockery. He recognized Jesus as God and was sincerely remorseful for his misdeeds. He knew that Jesus was innocent so he challenged his fellow criminal for mocking Jesus. Like the tax collector who confessed his sins and prayed for mercy, this man turned to Jesus saying: “Remember me when you come into your kingly power.” Instantly, Jesus gave this man a ticket to heaven. This shows us that God listens to the prayer of sinners and there is no limit to His mercy. It doesn’t matter what your past has been, come to Jesus today. Begin afresh.
Do you feel like abandoning your faith because it has become too difficult for you to continue practicing Christian virtues (keeping the commandments of God)? Reflect on St. Paul’s words in today’s second reading. Jesus obeyed even to the point of accepting death but today, the name of Jesus is above every name in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess and Jesus Christ is God. Obedience to God might be difficult but the reward is worth more than all the sacrifices.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to be patient in suffering so that I may merit the full fruits of your resurrection. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. (Palm Sunday. Luke 19:28-40, Bible Study: Isaiah 50:4-7, Ps. 22:8-9,17-20,23-24, Phil. 2:6-11, Luke 22:14-23:56).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu