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Triumph and Sacrifice
The elders of the people, chief priests and scribes, arose and brought Jesus before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.” On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” (Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder.) Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished. As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.
Opening Prayer: My Lord and Savior, today we recall your triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the bitter suffering of your Passion. I am overwhelmed by the sacrifice you endured. Please give me a heart of gratitude for your selfless love. As I meditate today on this painful Gospel, open my eyes to your love, your mercy, and my own deep need for redemption.
- Triumph and Acclaim: Today our readings take us first from the joyous and triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, to the glorious events of Holy Thursday, and finally, to the betrayal, anguish, and suffering of Good Friday. During the Gospel reading and the procession with palms, we proclaim with the disciples, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 12:12-13). We are reminded of the Sanctus we say at every Mass and silently bow in heart and mind once again before our King in humble adoration. We ponder the majesty of our Lord and give him the praise he is due. “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:39-40).
- Abandonment and Betrayal: Jesus asked an agonizing question in today’s responsorial psalm: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” He had been wounded to the core when his friends fell asleep as he suffered in the garden of Gethsemane, when his disciple Judas betrayed him, when his right-hand man Peter denied knowing him. In our darkest hours, we can unite our suffering and feelings of abandonment to Jesus. He understands. He knows our pain. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14, RSV).
- Death and Redemption: In her books chronicling the lives and struggles of several Church of England priests during WWII, author Susan Howatch reminds us again and again that there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. Since we, as Catholics, know the end of the story, there is a temptation to gloss over the grim reality of Holy Week. Although Jesus has indeed conquered sin and death, and has in fact opened up the gates of Heaven to us all, his suffering and death–this act of perfect love–was an integral part of the process. His redemption of our souls was only made possible by his suffering, death, and Resurrection. “Do not pass one day without devoting a half hour, or at least a quarter of an hour, to meditation on the sorrowful Passion of your Savior. Have a continual remembrance of the agonies of your crucified Love, and know that the greatest saints, who now, in heaven, triumph in holy love, arrived at perfection in this way” (St. Paul of the Cross). This Holy Week is a solemn period, given to us by Mother Church, to deeply ponder and appreciate all he suffered for us.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, how uncomfortable it is to really contemplate what you did for me on the cross. To do so brings me face to face with my own sin. I ask that you unite all of my sufferings today, whether large or small, to yours. I give you thanks for your sacrifice. Jesus, heal me from sin and bring me ever closer to you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer up any suffering, inconvenience, or annoyance I encounter in thanksgiving for your sacrifice.
For Further Reflection: What Palm Sunday Means.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland with her husband, Mike. They have been partners in business, marriage, and parenthood for over thirty-one years. She enjoys reading, daily Mass, exercise, and time with her five young adult children, large extended family, and friends. Cathy is a lay member of Regnum Christi, an occasional speaker at women’s retreats, and an active member of her parish and Walking With Purpose.