“Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy.”
The Passion Of Christ, Strengthen Me Prayer
Passion of Christ, strengthen me! Strengthen me under the pressure of temptation. Strengthen me when principle is at stake. Strengthen me to do Your Will, My God. Strengthen me in moments of suffering, in times of loneliness, in periods of depression. Strengthen me that I may never swerve from You, dear Christ, nor weaken through human respect, through a desire to be popular, through hope of social distinction. Strengthen me to accept my cross and carry it generously to the end. On the battlefield of life, stand by me that I may never prove a traitor in the ranks. Stand by me that I may not be dazzled by the glitter and glow of the enemy camp. We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit
to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson
of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
THE COMMEMORATION OF THE LORD’S ENTRANCE INTO JERUSALEM
At The Procession With Palms
Gospel Lk 19:28-40
Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.
As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany
at the place called the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of his disciples.
He said, “Go into the village opposite you,
and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered
on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
And if anyone should ask you,
‘Why are you untying it?’
you will answer,
‘The Master has need of it.’”
So those who had been sent went off
and found everything just as he had told them.
And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them,
“Why are you untying this colt?”
“The Master has need of it.”
So they brought it to Jesus,
threw their cloaks over the colt,
and helped Jesus to mount.
As he rode along,
the people were spreading their cloaks on the road;
and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives,
the whole multitude of his disciples
began to praise God aloud with joy
for all the mighty deeds they had seen.
“Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest.”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
He said in reply,
“I tell you, if they keep silent,
the stones will cry out!”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.1 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.2 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.3 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.4 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,5 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.
1 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.
2 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.
3 Cf. Jn 18:37.
4 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.
5 Cf. Ps 118:26.
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.
The sufferings and crucifixion of our divine Lord in his humanity are the Christian’s source of strength and encouragement in his daily struggles against, the enemies of God and of his own spiritual progress. Because of our earthly bodies, and because of the close grip that this world of the senses has on us, to keep free from sin and to keep close to God on our journey to heaven is a daily struggle for even the best among us. But we have the example before our eyes, the example of our true brother. He was one of ourselves, the truly human Christ. He not only traveled the road before us and made the journey, to heaven possible for us, but he is with us every day, close beside us, to encourage and help us on the way.
We need to remind ourselves daily of this. We have the crucifix in our Christian homes, on our rosary beads, on our altars, on the very steeples of our churches. These crucifixes are not ornaments, but stark reminders that our Savior’s path to heaven led through Calvary and through all that preceded Calvary. They are also stern reminders to us that the carrying of our crosses on the road to heaven is not an unbearable burden for us, but an essential aid to our progress.
When you are tried by temptations, when you are tested by bodily pain or mental suffering, worried to death perhaps by the bodily needs of yourself or your family or by the disobedience and insults of ungrateful children, stop and think on the Leader and his humiliations and sufferings. He came to open the road to heaven for us, to make us all sons of God, to preach the message of divine forgiveness and mercy to mankind. What did he get in return? He was scourged, tied to a pillar, spat upon and insulted, jeered at and mocked. He was nailed to a cross on Calvary between two thieves!
How light is my cross in comparison, how easy my Calvary. But he was sin less; his obedience, as man, to the Father was perfect. Can we or should we complain, we whose life up to now has often been far from perfect? Stop, think and listen to today’s lesson.
Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
All who see me scoff at me;
they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:
“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,
let him rescue him, if he loves him.”
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
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.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
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.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
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!”
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
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.
As Christians we have no doubt as to the two natures of our Savior. He was the God-man. He humbled himself so low in order to represent us before his Father and by his perfect obedience. (“even unto the death on a cross”) earn for us not only God’s forgiveness but a sharing in the divinity, through his being our brother but also the Son of God. These words of Paul, or rather of the early Christian hymn he is quoting, are for us today a consolation and an encouragement.
Surely every sincere Christian must be consoled by the thought of Gods infinite love for him, as shown in the Incarnation. We are not dealing with some distant, cold, legal God of justice who spends his time marking up our sins and failures against us. We are dealing with a loving Father who sent his own beloved Son to live among us and die for us in order to bring home to us the greatness of divine love. Could any human mind, even the minds of the greatest of this world’s philosophers, have invented such a humanly incredible story of true love? No, it was only in the infinite mind of God that such a proof of love could have its source.
What encouragement this should and does give to every sincere Christian. We know we are weak. We can and do sin often. We know we are mean and ungrateful and that we seldom stop to thank God for the love he has shown us. If we were dealing with a human, narrow-visioned God, we should have reason to despair, but when our Judge is the all-loving, all-merciful God how can even the worst sinner ever lose hope?
No, there is no place for despair in the Christian faith. But there is room for gratitude and confidence. We can never thank God sufficiently for all that he has done for us. Eternity itself will not be long enough for this, but we must do the little we can. Let us face this coming Holy Week with hearts full of thanks to God and to his divine Son for all they have done for us. When meditating on the passion of Christ on Good Friday let us look with gratitude and confidence on the Son of God who died on the cross in order to earn eternal life for us.
He did not die to lose us but to save us. He has done ninety per cent of the work of our salvation. And, even as regards the remaining ten per cent that he asks us to do, he is with us helping us to do it. Could we be so mean and so foolish as to refuse the little he asks of us?
When the hour came,
Jesus took his place at table with the apostles.
He said to them,
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,
for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again
until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said,
“Take this and share it among yourselves;
for I tell you that from this time on
I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine
until the kingdom of God comes.”
Then he took the bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
“This is my body, which will be given for you;
do this in memory of me.”
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
which will be shed for you.
“And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me
is with me on the table;
for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined;
but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.”
And they began to debate among themselves
who among them would do such a deed.
Then an argument broke out among them
about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.
He said to them,
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them
and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’;
but among you it shall not be so.
Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest,
and the leader as the servant.
For who is greater:
the one seated at table or the one who serves?
Is it not the one seated at table?
I am among you as the one who serves.
It is you who have stood by me in my trials;
and I confer a kingdom on you,
just as my Father has conferred one on me,
that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom;
and you will sit on thrones
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded
to sift all of you like wheat,
but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail;
and once you have turned back,
you must strengthen your brothers.”
He said to him,
“Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.”
But he replied,
“I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day,
you will deny three times that you know me.”
He said to them,
“When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals,
were you in need of anything?”
“No, nothing, “ they replied.
He said to them,
“But now one who has a money bag should take it,
and likewise a sack,
and one who does not have a sword
should sell his cloak and buy one.
For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me,
namely, He was counted among the wicked;
and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.”
Then they said,
“Lord, look, there are two swords here.”
But he replied, “It is enough!”
Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives,
and the disciples followed him.
When he arrived at the place he said to them,
“Pray that you may not undergo the test.”
After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling,
he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing,
take this cup away from me;
still, not my will but yours be done.”
And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him.
He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently
that his sweat became like drops of blood
falling on the ground.
When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples,
he found them sleeping from grief.
He said to them, “Why are you sleeping?
Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.”
While he was still speaking, a crowd approached
and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas.
He went up to Jesus to kiss him.
Jesus said to him,
“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked,
“Lord, shall we strike with a sword?”
And one of them struck the high priest’s servant
and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said in reply,
“Stop, no more of this!”
Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.
And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards
and elders who had come for him,
“Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?
Day after day I was with you in the temple area,
and you did not seize me;
but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.”
After arresting him they led him away
and took him into the house of the high priest;
Peter was following at a distance.
They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it,
and Peter sat down with them.
When a maid saw him seated in the light,
she looked intently at him and said,
“This man too was with him.”
But he denied it saying,
“Woman, I do not know him.”
A short while later someone else saw him and said,
“You too are one of them”;
but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.”
About an hour later, still another insisted,
“Assuredly, this man too was with him,
for he also is a Galilean.”
But Peter said,
“My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.”
Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed,
and the Lord turned and looked at Peter;
and Peter remembered the word of the Lord,
how he had said to him,
“Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”
He went out and began to weep bitterly.
The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him.
They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying,
“Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”
And they reviled him in saying many other things against him.
When day came the council of elders of the people met,
both chief priests and scribes,
and they brought him before their Sanhedrin.
They said, “If you are the Christ, tell us, “
but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe,
and if I question, you will not respond.
But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated
at the right hand of the power of God.”
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied to them, “You say that I am.”
Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony?
We have heard it from his own mouth.”
Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him 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.
Here all kneel and pause for a short time.
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.
Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who,
though he was a member of the council,
had not consented to their plan of action.
He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea
and was awaiting the kingdom of God.
He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
After he had taken the body down,
he wrapped it in a linen cloth
and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb
in which no one had yet been buried.
It was the day of preparation,
and the sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind,
and when they had seen the tomb
and the way in which his body was laid in it,
they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils.
Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.
The story and most, if not all, of the details of our divine Lord’s sufferings at the hands of his fellow-Jews, his Father’s Chosen People, on that first Holy Thursday night in Jerusalem and the subsequent sentence of crucifixion pronounced by a pagan Roman judge on one he had declared innocent of any crime, is well-known to any Christian, worthy of the name. But theoretical knowledge is not what makes a Christian or a follower of Christ. Down through the ages great men have lived and died and their lives and deeds have benefited others in many ways, for greater or lesser periods. But the life and death of Christ has not only benefited man’s life on earth, it has changed the very purpose of man’s existence, for it has changed his relationship with God and with his eternal destiny.
Through and by the Incarnation, death, resurrection of Christ, we, mere human mortals, have been made sons of God by divine decree, and heirs of God’s eternal kingdom of heaven. This was God’s original plan in creating the universe. Man was to be the masterpiece of the divine act of creation and the master of the universe. He contains within himself a part of every created being and has the necessary faculties to dominate all the lesser creatures. But he was to be more than that. His human nature was to be raised to union with the Godhead in the Incarnation. This completed plan was eventually fulfilled in Christ.
Therefore, the life and death of Christ is not just some recorded bit of history of the past, rather it is for all men, not Christians only, a fact of the past which dominates and basically affects rational man’s purpose in life today and always as well as his day-to-day mode of living that life. There are millions on our earth today who, through no fault of their own, have not yet heard of God’s infinite love for them as proved in the Incarnation, but God will find ways of extending its benefits to them if they do their part. There are millions too who have heard the good news but refuse to believe it or to act according to it; those too we can safely leave to the all merciful God. But for ourselves, professed followers of Christ, who during this Holy Week will be reminded daily of what God has done and is continuing to do for us, our only answer is to beat our breasts in humble contrition like some of the crowds returning from Calvary on that first Good Friday.
We know we are utterly unworthy of the unfathomable love that God has shown us. When we look at the crucifix and see the Son of God nailed hands and feet to that cross, slowly shedding his heart’s blood for us, what can we do but bow our heads in shame? If we did not jeer at him and mock him openly as the Pharisees did that day on Calvary, we did so indirectly by our coldness, our forgetfulness, and worse still by our many deliberate sins against God and neighbor. Pilate condemned the innocent Christ “for fear of the Jews, for fear of losing his job (St. John says); Judas betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver; the Pharisees forced Pilate to crucify him because of their pride. If we look into our past, how often have we offended him, that is, condemned him for similar reasons, and we are less excusable than these people were. We do, or should, know so much better than they did what Christ means to us.
But while we have reason, all of us, to repent of our past faults during this Holy Week, we have also every reason not to despair but to hope. In the very height of his agony on the cross, our loving Savior uttered a fervent plea to his heavenly Father, asking for forgiveness for all those who had brought his death-agony on him. The words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” hold for all time, we too were included there, and God’s merciful answer to his dying Christ is for us too if we avail of it.
Holy Week will be truly a holy week and a turning point in our lives if we repent of our part and turn to our loving God. Through the life, sufferings and resurrection of his beloved Servant and Son, He has made us his adopted sons and heirs of heaven. He will not fail us now.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.
The Personal Dimension of Forgiveness
As sin, despite all our bonds with the human community, is ultimately something totally personal, so also our healing with forgiveness has to be something totally personal. God does not treat us as part of a collectivity. He knows each one by name, and he calls him personally and saves him if he has fallen into sin. Even if in all the sacraments, the Lord addresses the person as an individual, the personalist nature of the Christian life is manifested in a particularly clear way in the sacrament of Penance. That means that the personal confession and the forgiveness directed to this person are constitutive parts of the sacrament… Of course, the confession of one’s own sin can seem to be something heavy for the person, because it humbles his pride and confronts him with his poverty. It is this that we need: we suffer exactly for this reason: we shut ourselves up in our delirium of guiltlessness and for this reason we are closed to others and to any comparison with them. In psychotherapeutic treatments a person is made to bear the burden of profound and often dangerous revelations of his inner self. In the sacrament of Penance, the simple confession of one’s guilt is presented with confidence in God’s merciful goodness. It is important to do this without falling into scruples, with the spirit of trust proper to the children of God. In this way confession can become an experience of deliverance, in which the weight of the past is removed from us and we can feel rejuvenated by the merit of the grace of God who each time gives back the youthfulness of the heart.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
A Prayer for Healing
Lord, look upon me with eyes of mercy, may Your healing hand rest upon me, may Your life-giving powers flow into every cell of my body and into the depths of my soul, cleansing, purifying, restoring me to wholeness and strength for service in Your Kingdom. Amen.