Palm Sunday [a]

Engaging Faith | Fri, Apr 8, 2011

By John Bucki, SJ

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion [a]

April 17, 2011



At the Procession with Palms: Matthew 21:1-11

Mass:   Isaiah 50:4-7

Philippians 2:6-11

Matthew 26:14--27:66



April 19: The Jewish observance of Passover begins at sundown

April 21: Holy Thursday

April 22: Good Friday

April 22: Earth Day

April 23: Holy Saturday

April 24: Easter

April 25: World Malaria Day




It is by uniting their own sufferings for the sake of truth and freedom to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross that human beings are able to accomplish the miracle of peace and are in a position to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil and the violence which, under the illusion of fighting evil, only makes it worse.

John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 25


Christ crucified and risen, the Wisdom of God, manifests the truth that divine justice and renewing power leavens the world in a way different from the techniques of dominating violence.  The victory of shalom is won not by the sword of the warrior god, but by the awesome power of compassionate love, in and through solidarity with those who suffer.

Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is, 159


The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts.

Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 1


A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth - beware! - is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call.

Archbishop Oscar Romero


Thoughts for your consideration


Why is the crowd in the Palm Sunday story so excited?

Jesus has no economic, military, or political power.


Why is there a sense of excitement as we begin to enter the “Holy Week experience?”

Shouldn’t we be ready to give up? [After all Jesus is about to be killed.]

Shouldn’t we be discouraged by the human situation today – by war, violence of all sorts, selfishness, failure, injustice, radical income inequality, discrimination, poverty, abuse of the environment, etc.? 


Do we really want to or need to remember the pain and the sorrow that we see in the passion of Christ?  Is there not enough pain in the world today?


There was an excitement in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and there is an excitement as we process with palms. Why?


Is it a sense of excitement because God is among us and part of our human situation?

Is it a sense that God is with us in the midst of all the suffering and injustice?

Is it a sense that God is present in the midst of our deepest longings and dreams?

Is it a sense that God is present in the midst of our deepest struggle for what is right?

Is it a sense that God is here in the midst of the great biblical story of liberation and freedom?

Is it a sense that God is calling us to work for liberation and justice?

Is it a sense that apparent defeat is not the final word or end of the story?




Solidarity is one of the central themes of Catholic Social Teaching. The Holy Week story is a story which deals with issues around communion and solidarity:

-          in the Passover Meal that Jesus celebrates

-          in the model of service that we see in the washing of feet on Thursday

-          in Jesus’ empowerment of his followers at the Last Supper and in the resurrection stories

-          in all the courageous actions of Jesus in the midst of opposition

-          in the betrayal of Jesus by his closest companions

-          in the suffering and death of Jesus on Friday

-          in the victory of resurrection and liberation that is revealed on Easter.


We can treat the passion in a sentimental sort of way and force a certain sense of grief upon ourselves.  However, maybe we are more importantly called to connect Jesus’ experience to our own experience today – an experience that continues today to include life and death, injustice and courage, violence and peace.


Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

Where do you see the passion of Christ in your own personal life? 

Where do you see it being played out in the pubic world today?




Jesus is welcomed into the city and then is put to death.

Share examples of how public opinion changes in our culture.

Does this result in injustice?  How are people hurt? 


Actions - Links


Students at the Jesuit Spring Hill College in Alabama have created a Facing Poverty website to tell the story of people who experience poverty in their area.  Look at it at


The Church World Service has a Peace and Justice page and invites individuals to speak out by e-mail or phone about various justice concerns.  Go to:


The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers have various online resources for “mission education.”  They write “Through baptism, all Christians are called to participate in Christ's mission of bringing the Good News to all people.  Mission education is the process by which Christians become more aware of their role in the mission and are formed to carry out the mission.   For over 100 years, Maryknoll has been animating, encouraging and supporting Catholics in the U.S. to engage in mission.”  Check out their resources at  and look at their blog for sharing best practices at


“Crazy Facts”


The following is from  “The Economic Policy Institute finds that the richest 20 percent of Americans saw their share of all Americans’ wealth increase by 2.2 percentage points between 2007 and 2009. The remaining four-fifth of Americans saw their wealth decline by the same amount.”  Read the report at

  • In 2009, approximately one in four U.S. households had zero or negative net worth, up from 18.6% in 2007. For black households the figure was about 40%.
  • The median net worth of black households was $2,200 in 2009, the lowest ever recorded; the median among white households was $97,900.
  • Even at the 2007 economic peak, half of all U.S. households owned no stocks at all—either directly or indirectly through mutual or retirement funds.


Prayers of Intercession


Response: The Lord God is our help.

For all those in prison or jail, we pray….

For all those unjustly condemned by our criminal justice system, we pray….

For those who are criticized or attacked for trying to do what is right, we pray…

For those oppressed by unjust political systems, we pray….

For those who are victims of lies and unjust attacks, we pray….

For those who are unemployed or underemployed, we pray….

For all those who do not share justly in the wealth of our society, we pray…

For those in any way find themselves sharing in the passion of Christ, we pray….

For an end to all our wars and violence, we pray….

Prayer - Meditation


Stations of the Cross of Jesus Christ

1. Jesus is condemned to death

                Jesus is trapped by the same system that brings us the death penalty, the harshness of life in prison, political prisoners, torture, white color crime, racial profiling, the criminalization of the poor, and all the inequities of our world’s “criminal justice systems.”

2. Jesus is made to carry his cross

                Jesus carries his burden as do all those who work the land, labor for low wages, struggle to find work, care for their children and family, worry over their debts, strive for their children, attend poor schools, are abused by their bosses, or in any way struggle to make it in this world.

3. Jesus falls the first time

                The burden that crushes Jesus can be compared to the burdens of today - the burden of debt that crushes the poor economies of the world - the unequal distribution of resources which stifles development for many people and nations.

4. Jesus meets his mother

                Jesus looks on his mother with love and sees all the pain and possibility of relationship, deep family love and fidelity, abuse and violence, mutual loving care, separation and divorce, loneliness and community.

5. Simon helps Jesus carry his cross

                Jesus' story becomes Simon’s story as well. Globalization can be both a burden and a relief, a freedom and a limit. Jesus and Simon are both victims and helpers. Good and evil play out as their lives are connected.

6. Jesus falls the second time

                The burden that crushes Jesus is unfair - as are the economic and political inequalities of our day - wages, resources, schools, rights, beauty, power, savings, taxes. Our systems are not always fair.

7. Veronica wipes the faces of Jesus

                This “small” act of charity is a most wonderful action of great compassion. It seems to be all that Veronica can do at the moment, yet the injustice remains. She cannot stop the suffering of Jesus. The compassion of Veronica calls out for social change, for an end to injustice, for a new way of living together.

8. Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem

                Women seem to bear the burdens of the world in a special way.  Women feel deeply the pain and injustice of our systems. The experience of women throughout the ages calls us to end the injustice.  It calls us to a new heaven and a new earth, to a new way of being sisters and brothers.

9. Jesus falls the third time

                The burden that crushes Jesus is like the burden of materialism. Every time the world worships things before people, power before justice, and consumption before the spirit, we lose what it means to be human and alive.

10. Jesus is stripped of his garments

                This radical loss of everything continues to be felt in the lives of all the poor - those without enough food, clothing, shelter, education, respect, dignity, human rights, and community.

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

                Jesus is a person of active nonviolence, yet here he comes to know violence against his person - the same violence that is seen in all our wars and preparation for war, in all the violence on our streets and in our homes, in all our weapons of mass destruction, in ethnic cleansing, in genocide, in all the countless examples of violence.

12. Jesus dies on the cross

                Power and control seem to be strong values in our world, yet Jesus seems to lose all of these things that the world considers important. Yet at the same time, in Jesus nailed to a cross, we see a person of great freedom and compassionate love and a special awesome power - the power of the suffering God crying out for justice.

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross

                Jesus is radically stripped of everything. He is a human person whose rights and dignity and been taken away. In Jesus, we see all the women and men of our world who still seek their basic human rights - rights to the basics like food, water, clothing, shelter, education, political freedom, development and justice.

14. Jesus is placed in the tomb

                Jesus is carefully placed into the earth - an earth that is the divine creation - a planet that we so often abuse as we waste resources, seek profit before all else, consume without awareness, and disrespect the awesome beauty that is God’s gift.


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