Christ’s Passion – Palm Sunday

“Simon of Cyrene” by James Patrick Reid (

Due to the unique length of today’s readings, this outline will be limited to a few points about the meaning of the texts. Also, due to their length, I will not reproduce the actual readings here. One good source for accessing the Lectionary readings is here.

Lectionary 37 & 38.

At the Procession With Palms – Gospel Mk 11:1-10 or Jn 12:12-16

  • The crowd proclaims Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah. By this, they understand him to be the God-sent, long-awaited heir of David as king.
    • Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
  • But in just a few days they either will abandon him out of fear or will betray him by calling for his crucifixion.
  • Nevertheless, the Anointed King that the prophets foretold was entering his city, Jerusalem, to redeem the Chosen People and all humanity.
    • Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes.
  • So, despite people’s fickleness, it was a moment of legitimate great joy.
  • But no one accompanying Jesus the Master had any idea how that redemption would be accomplished, even through it was right there in the Old Testament Scriptures, for example in our first reading and in our responsorial psalm.

At the Mass – First Reading Is 50:4-7

  • In the first reading, Isaiah gives us a prophetic portrait of Jesus Christ the Messiah as the Suffering Servant.
    • The Suffering Servant belongs to God.
      • No prophet ever belonged to God more than Christ because he was God’s only beloved Son.
    • The Suffering Servant is always listening to God in prayer and has completely conformed himself to God’s will.
      • No prophet ever had Christ’s life of prayer and conformity to the will of the Father.
    • The Suffering Servant speaks God’s compassionate word to the people for their salvation.
      • No one ever spoke more compassionate words to people for their own salvation.
    • The response the Suffering Servant receives back is physical abuse. Prophets are rejected.
      • No one ever faced more severe physical abuse than Christ and he was condemned and reviled.
    • The virtue Christ exercised the most in his Passion was fortitude.
      • Fortitude is courage in the face of fear and toughness in the face of suffering.
        • I have set my face like flint.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

  • Christ is the Son of David, the human author of this psalm.
  • Long before Isaiah foresaw the suffering Messiah, King David also foresaw his descendant’s ordeal.
  • This is truly a startling prophecy of the Passion of Christ down to minute details.
  • At the same time, for anyone who has ever been set upon by evil men, it is sickeningly familiar. It was perhaps David’s own experience when he was hunted by those loyal to Saul.
  • David also foresaw his descendant’s redemption. Despite his unjust ordeal, the suffering servant “will proclaim [God’s] name to my brethren” and will praise God “in the midst of the assembly.”

Reading 2 Phil 2:6-11

  • This selection from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the key passages in the New Testament. It is a meditation on what theologians call Christ’s kenosis or self-emptying [Gr. ekenosen].[1]
    • God the Son came to earth not in the form of God but in the form of man.
    • He came not in the form of a great man but in the form of a humble man.
    • He came in a form so humble that he permitted other men to put him to death.
    • He did this out of obedience to his Father.
    • This is how Christ redeemed us and became the exalted Savior of the world.

Gospel Mk 14:1—15:47

  • The Gospel reading ends before the Redemption is complete, before Christ rises from the dead.
  • Christ did all he did out of love for us.
  • Christ first left behind for us the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
  • Then he underwent the full human drama Mark recounts which fulfilled the predictions of the Old Testament.
  • Without being facetious, we can say it is no fun to be a prophet and even less to fulfill a prophecy. The self-emptying required is hard. Noting could be harder than redeeming the world, so only God-made-Man could do it.
  • No one had any idea how that redemption would be accomplished. We do now. This is why we kneel at the point in the proclamation of the Gospel when Christ’s body hangs dead on the Cross. It is our confession, not just with our minds and hearts but also with our bodies, that Jesus Christ, seemingly defeated, is Lord.

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism Points and themes for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion:

  • 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


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