Lessons From the Passion Account for Palm Sunday

Sunday, March 24, is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.

‘We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world!’
‘We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world!’ (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, March 24, is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. Mass readings: Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11;  Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39.

In the Passion account, it is of value to examine the problems associated with the persons in the drama. There are at least five problems that emerge. They are unhealthy and sinful patterns that spring from fear generated by not trusting Jesus’ words that he would rise in three days.

The Lord asks Peter, James and John to pray with him. But they doze off, unwilling or unable to deal with the stress of the situation. A common human technique for dealing with stress and the hardships of life is to drift off into a sort of moral slumber. We may stop noticing or even caring about critically important matters. We can anesthetize ourselves with things like alcohol, drugs, creature comforts, and meaningless distractions. Prayerful vigilance poses too many uncomfortable questions, so we often just daydream about meaningless things like what a certain Hollywood star is doing or how the latest sporting event is going.

When Peter finally awakens, he lashes out with a sword, wounding the servant of the high priest. It is true that we are required to confront evil, resist injustice and speak with clarity to a confused world. But, above all, we are called to love those whom we address. There is little place for fear or violence in our conversations with the world. The truth will prevail. In Christ, we have already won. This confidence should give us serenity.

Confronted with the fearful prospect of being condemned along with Jesus, Peter denies being one of his followers. He dissociates himself from Christ. And we, confronted with the possibility of far milder things such as ridicule, often deny a connection with the Lord or the Church. Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). But too easily we are ashamed. 

When Jesus is arrested, all the disciples except John are nowhere to be found. Only John remained by the Lord’s side. We, too, can run away. And rather than face our fears, whether they come from within or without, we just run away — instead of going to Christ, as we should.

The Scriptures make it clear that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent; but because he feared the crowds, he handed Jesus over. Yet notice that he tries to deflect his choice, how “he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility’” (Matthew 27:24). Well actually, Pilate, it is also your responsibility. You had a choice, and you made it. Your own career and your own considerations were more important to you than justice. So, too, for us. We also often favor our career and worldly standing over doing what is right. And in so doing, we often blame others for what we have freely chosen. We try to wash our hands of responsibility. We excuse our silence and inaction in the face of injustice and sin.

And all this is done out of fear.

We can forget what the victorious end shall be and focus on the fearful present. We often lack the vision that Jesus is trying to give us: that we will rise with him. We may stay blind to that and only see the threat of the here and now. 

May we prayerfully walk with Our Lord this week and reflect on how we can better walk with him each day.