First Reading (Isaiah 50: 4-7)
The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 22: 8-9, 17-20, 23-24)
Refrain: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
1) All who see me scoff at me. they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads.
"He relied on the LORD; let him rescue him, if he loves him. (Refrain)
2) Indeed, many dogs surround me, a pack of evildoers closes in upon me.
They have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. (Refrain)
3) They divide my garments among them. and for my vesture they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, be not far from me, O my help, hasten to aid me! (Refrain)
4) I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.
"You who fear the LORD, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel!" (Refrain)
Second Reading (Philippians 2: 6-11)
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days time. So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death. They said, Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people.
When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days wages and the money given to the poor. They were infuriated with her.
Jesus said, Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them. When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover? He sent two of his disciples and said to them, Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, The Teacher says, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.
The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, he came with the Twelve. And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.
They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, Surely it is not I?
He said to them, One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish. For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, Take it; this is my body.
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Then Jesus said to them, All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed. But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee. Peter said to him, Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.
Then Jesus said to him, Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.
But he vehemently replied, Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.
And they all spoke similarly.
Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, Sit here while I pray.
He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.
He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.
When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him.
He returned a third time and said to them, Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.
Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.
He came and immediately went over to him and said, Rabbi. And he kissed him.
At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priests servant, and cut off his ear.
Jesus said to them in reply, Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled. And they all left him and fled.
Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.
They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.
Peter followed him at a distance into the high priests courtyard and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none. Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands. Even so their testimony did not agree.
The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you? But he was silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him and said to him, Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?
Then Jesus answered, I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.
At that the high priest tore his garments and said, What further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think? They all condemned him as deserving to die. Some began to spit on him. They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, Prophesy! And the guards greeted him with blows.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priests maids came along. Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.
But he denied it saying, I neither know nor understand what you are talking about. So he went out into the outer court. Then the cock crowed.
The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, This man is one of them. Once again he denied it.
A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.
He began to curse and to swear, I do not know this man about whom you are talking. And immediately a cock crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times. He broke down and wept.
As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him, Are you the king of the Jews?
He said to him in reply, You say so.
The chief priests accused him of many things.
Again Pilate questioned him, Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.
Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested. A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion. The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.
Pilate answered, Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews? For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Pilate again said to them in reply, Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?
They shouted again, Crucify him.
Pilate said to them, Why? What evil has he done?
They only shouted the louder, Crucify him.
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, Hail, King of the Jews! and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage.
And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.
They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Unus, to carry his cross. They brought him to the place of Golgotham- which is translated Place of the Skull. They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.
Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take. It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, The King of the Jews.
With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.
Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe. Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.
At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three oclock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? which is translated, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Some of the bystanders who heard it said, Look, he is calling Elijah.
One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink saying, Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Here all kneel and pause for a short time.
The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, Truly this man was the Son of God!
There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.
And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseswatched where he was laid.
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
- Days of the Lord, Volume 2, pp. 210-231. Copyright 1991 by the Order of Saint Benedict. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
- The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B, pp. Copyright 1997 by John J. Pilch, the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
- The Passion Narrative, from The Gospel of Mark, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland.
- True Godhead And True Manhood, Humiliation and Exaltation & All for God. From The Letter to the Philippians, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Reflections. From Good News. Copyright 1998 by Rev. Joseph T. Nolan. Liturgical Publications, Inc., 2875 South James Drive, New Berlin, WI. 53151.
- A Colt Is Not A Horse. From Dynamic Preaching, Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922.
- Emptying and Exalting. By Eric S. Ritz, from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Copyright Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922.
- Passion Sunday (B), by Thomas McGonigle, O.P. Copyright 1989 by Pueblo Publishing Company, New York, New York and 1991 by the Order of St. Benedict, Collegeville, MN. From Homilies for the Christian People, pp. 250-252, the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
- Passion Sunday (B) by Reginald H. Fuller. Copyright 1984 by the Order of St. Benedict. From Preaching the Lectionary, pp. 245-249, the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
- Passion Sunday (B), copyright 1996 by Richard Viladesau. From The Word In And Out of Season, pp. 125-127, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ 07430.
- Passion Sunday (B), copyright 1995 by Liam Swords. From Sunday Homilies, pp. 44-46, Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT 06355.
- Passion Sunday (B) by Roland J. Faley. Copyright 1994 by the Third Order Regular of St. Francis. From Footprints on the Mountain, pp. 787- 795, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ 07430.
- Passion Sunday (Psalm 22). From Sing a New Song, by Irene Nowell, pp. 16-18. Copyright 1993 by the Order of St. Benedict. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
- The Crossmaker, from Soul Saving Stories, pp. 126-130. Copyright 1997 by John Powers, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ.
(Due to the extended reading of the Lord's passion, this homily is shorter than usual.)
- In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey tells a heart-breaking story very much like Christ's humiliation. The story comes from a memoir by Pierre Van Paassen about the years before World War II. In this memoir Van Paassen tells of an act of humiliation by Nazi storm troopers who had seized an elderly Jewish rabbi and dragged him to headquarters. In the far end of the same room, two colleagues were beating another Jew to death, but the captors of the rabbi decided to have some fun with him. They stripped him naked and commanded that he preach the sermon he had prepared for the coming Sabbath in the synagogue. The rabbi asked if he could wear his yarmulke, and the Nazis, grinning, agreed. It added to the joke. The trembling rabbi proceeded to deliver in a raspy voice his sermon on what it means to walk humbly before God, all the while being poked and prodded by the hooting Nazis, and all the while hearing the last cries of his neighbor at the end of the room.
"When I read the gospel accounts," says Yancey, "of the imprisonment, torture, and execution of Jesus, I think of that naked rabbi standing humiliated in a police station. Even after watching scores of movies on the subject, and reading the Gospels over and over, I still cannot fathom the indignity, the shame endured by God's Son who was stripped naked, flogged, spat on, struck in the face and garlanded with thorns. (1)
Over the past few weeks of Lent, I was able to re-read a book that had a profound effect on me when I first read it almost 50 years ago in the Jesuit seminary. I tried in vain to locate it until a few years ago when I discovered that it had been reprinted. It is called A Doctor At Calvary and was written in the 1950's by a French doctor named Pierre Barbet who had studied the Shroud of Turin. Through his studies and medical knowledge, he was able to describe what our Lord must have suffered during his passion. And part of that suffering included the indignity of being flogged and crucified as naked as the rabbi in our story. He also points out the following:
- first of all, Barbet verifies through medical knowledge what Luke has recounted in his passion narrative that severe emotional stress could well bring someone to the point of sweating blood which would drop to the ground in clots.
- He points out that this would have made the skin very sensitized to the later flogging, which was inflicted not only on his back but also on his legs and chest.
- From the evidence on the shroud, the nose has been broken and there is a large bruise on the right cheek from blows received during his interrogation in the courts of Pilate.
- The thorns were not those of roses but rather from a tree very common in the near East which had very sharp thorns almost two inches long. These were shaped not into a crown, but into a cap which covered his entire scalp. Ironically, similar caps (called a "pileus") were worn by freed slaves as a symbol of their freedom.
- Christ did not carry the entire cross on the way to Calvary but only the patibulum or transverse beam which was raised up on the stipes, or vertical beam, on Calvary.
- He fell several times which caused bruises on his knees which are evident on the Shroud.
- Death was caused by asphyxiation due to the inability of the body to exhale breath because of the weight of the body on the hands. This was relieved only by pushing the body up from the nail in the feet.
- The wounds of the nails were not in the palm of the hands but in the "place of Destot", a gap in the wrist between the bones of the arm and the hand. There, the nails would have pierced the main mesial (sensory and motor) nerve in the body, thus causing excruciating pain each time he moved during the three hour agony. (For an analysis, consider the pain caused when a nerve in our teeth is touched and multiply that by the number of times Christ pushed his body up during his agony.
I have mentioned all this not for shock value but to demonstrate the enormous love which God has for us as demonstrated by the sufferings of his Son. And the more we enter into his passion, the more we can understand the depth of that love. In that way, we can also draw closer to our Lord, in much the same way as some of the saints - like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine of Siena - did and who were blessed with the stigmata.
As we enter into this most solemn week in the Church's liturgical year, take time to meditate on what Christ endured for you. That way, when the time comes, because of your faith in the Son of God who walked the way to Calvary, you will know beyond a doubt that "you will never walk alone".
1. from The Jesus I Never Knew copyright 1995 by Philip Yancey, p. 199. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI. As cited in Who Could Forget That?, from The Best of Dynamic Preaching, Volume IV (1995-1997), from Seven Worlds Corporation, Knoxville, TN. (You can order these products, and many other resources, at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
(Copyright 2018 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Some years ago, I was the organist/choir director in a Methodist church near my home in Trenton. The congregation was half white and half Liberian. The Liberian members of the choir asked me if we could do some spirituals. Knowing nothing about them, I decided that this would be a learning opportunity for me, so I set out to secure some sample chorals from publishers. Soon I discovered a wealth of material to use in our services. I came upon one piece entitled Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb? It wasn't a difficult setting, considering the limited resources of our aging congregation with a pretty melody, so we performed it one week during Lent. I never knew what the title meant until I was preparing today's homily and stumbled on the following explanation:
- There is a book written by Jeff Smith, who was also known as the Frugal Gourmet, called THE FRUGAL GOURMET KEEPS THE FEAST. This book contains a most memorable discussion of how the shedding of Christ's blood reconciles us to God. Smith says he learned it from a shepherd. It has to do with what he calls "the blood of adoption." "In the morning a shepherd awakes to find that a ewe has given birth to a child . . . and the child has died. In another portion of his flock the shepherd finds another ewe that gave birth during the night and the mother died! So, the shepherd has a childless mother on the one hand, and the mother will probably die of a broken heart. On the other hand he has an orphan. All logic tells him to put the orphan with the childless mother. Should work, shouldn't it? It will not work, not at all, as the mother knows the child is not hers and the child [itself] is confused and starving. "The old prophets and the old shepherds," says Smith, "saw in this regular event in their flock a perfect image of our relationship to God. We are so alienated from one another that we are dying from starvation and God is dying of a broken heart. But one thing can be done, and only one. If the shepherd [takes] the dead lamb and drains [its] blood, he can then wash the orphan in the blood of the [dead] lamb, and the mother, smelling her own, immediately moves so that the orphan may suckle. In other words, the orphan is brought to table and to life by [its] adoption through the blood. The early Scriptures promised that a Messiah would come and be the lamb by which we were brought to an intimate relationship with God." (1)
Of course, it was the blood of the lamb which saved the first-born of the Israelites from the angel of death and ultimately led to their freedom from slavery in Egypt. Forty years later, God brought them into the Promised Land. How fitting it is that the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, has freed us from slavery to sin and opens up for us the kingdom of heaven, our own promised land. As we continue our journey through this Holy Week, I think we ought to reflect on how Christ shed his blood for us so that, just like in real life, he could wash our souls in his blood and make of us a presentable offering to his Father.
1. THE FRUGAL GOURMET KEEPS THE FEAST. Copyright 1995 by Jeff Smith. William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, pp. 59-60. As cited in Who Could Forget That?, from The Best of Dynamic Preaching, Volume IV (1995-1997), from Seven Worlds Corporation, Knoxville, TN. (You can order this product, as well as many other resources, at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.
(Copyright 2015 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION (B)
Lord Jesus, you willingly emptied yourself and became one like us. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you humbled yourself and obediently accepted death on a cross. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, through your suffering and death, you revealed the depth of God's love for us. Lord, have mercy.
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION (B)
Celebrant: Our Lord was obedient to the will of the Father and now reigns in glory at the Father's right hand. Therefore, confident that he will intercede for us as only a brother can, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer."
That the leaders of the Church will follow the example of Christ by being humble servants of the servants of God, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will turn from segregation, prejudice and hatred to peace with one another, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the terminally ill and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one may find comfort in Christ who suffered for them, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of our parish will participate in the liturgies of the Triduum, in order to more fully appreciate the joy of Easter, we pray to the Lord.
That the imminent reception of those about to receive their first sacraments at the Easter Vigil will provide us with a renewed devotion to our own faith, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the sight of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Merciful Father, you sent your Son to suffer and die for us. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to always follow his ways and thus gain the eternal life he won for us at such a great price. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.