Prayer for Palm Sunday
Almighty and ever-living God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient sufferings
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 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.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”1 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”2 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
1 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.
2 Phil 2:7.
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 sinless; 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, 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 God’s 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?
Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You say so.”
And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders,
he made no answer.
Then Pilate said to him,
“Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”
But he did not answer him one word,
so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Now on the occasion of the feast
the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd
one prisoner whom they wished.
And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them,
“Which one do you want me to release to you,
Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that they had handed him over.
While he was still seated on the bench,
his wife sent him a message,
“Have nothing to do with that righteous man.
I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”
The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds
to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.
The governor said to them in reply,
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They answered, “Barabbas!”
Pilate said to them,
“Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?”
They all said,
“Let him be crucified!”
But he said,
“Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder,
“Let him be crucified!”
When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all,
but that a riot was breaking out instead,
he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd,
saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.
Look to it yourselves.”
And the whole people said in reply,
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
Then he released Barabbas to them,
but after he had Jesus scourged,
he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium
and gathered the whole cohort around him.
They stripped off his clothes
and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head,
and a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
They spat upon him and took the reed
and kept striking him on the head.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him off to crucify him.
As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon;
this man they pressed into service
to carry his cross.
And when they came to a place called Golgotha
— which means Place of the Skull —,
they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.
But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.
After they had crucified him,
they divided his garments by casting lots;
then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
And they placed over his head the written charge against him:
This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,
one on his right and the other on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself, if you are the Son of God,
and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him
also kept abusing him in the same way.
From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.
Here all kneel and pause for a short time.
And behold, the veil of the sanctuary
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus
feared greatly when they saw the earthquake
and all that was happening, and they said,
“Truly, this was the Son of God!”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”1 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”2 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.3 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.4 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.5
CCC 363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.6 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,7 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.
CCC 441 In the Old Testament, “son of God” is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings.8 It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called “son of God”, it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus “son of God”, as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.9
CCC 443 Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah’s divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers’ question before the Sanhedrin, “Are you the Son of God, then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am.”10 Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as “the Son” who knows the Father, as distinct from the “servants” God had earlier sent to his people; he is superior even to the angels.11 He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying “our Father”, except to command them: “You, then, pray like this: ‘Our Father’”, and he emphasized this distinction, saying “my Father and your Father”.12
CCC 500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.13 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus”, are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary”.14 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.15
CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith16 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.17 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”18 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission
CCC 536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.19 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.20 Already he is coming to “fulfil all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.21 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.22 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.23 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”24 – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.
CCC 545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”25 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.26 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.27
CCC 585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building, of which there would not remain “one stone upon another”.28 By doing so, he announced a sign of the last days, which were to begin with his own Passover.29 But this prophecy would be distorted in its telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest’s house, and would be thrown back at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross.30
CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.31 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.32 Therefore his being put to bodily death33 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”34
CCC 591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father’s works which he accomplished.35 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new “birth from above” under the influence of divine grace.36 Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises37 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin’s tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.38 The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of “ignorance” and the “hardness” of their “unbelief”.39
CCC 596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus.40 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.41 To those who feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation”, the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”42 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.43 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.44
CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.45 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.46 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.47 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:
… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.48
CCC 600 To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”49 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.50
CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”51 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.52 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”53 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.54
CCC 610 Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve Apostles “on the night he was betrayed”.55 On the eve of his Passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: “This is my body which is given for you.” “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”56
CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,57 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”58 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.59 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.60 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”61
CCC 613 Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,62 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.63
CCC 764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.”64 To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.”64 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.66 They form Jesus’ true family.67 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.68
CCC 1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:
Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein69 and eulogein70 recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.
CCC 1329 The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.71
The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread,72 above all at the Last Supper.73 It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection,74 and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies;75 by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.76
The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.77
CCC 1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood:
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. ..” They went. .. and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”78
CCC 1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: “This is my body which is given for you” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”79 In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”80
CCC 1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”81
CCC 1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”82 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.” In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Maranatha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”83 “May your grace come and this world pass away!”84
CCC 1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners.85 The angel announced to Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”86 The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”87
CCC 2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, “You shall not kill,”88 and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.89 He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.90
CCC 2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with [him] one hour.”91
CCC 2733 Another temptation, to which presumption opens the gate, is acedia. The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”92 The greater the height, the harder the fall. Painful as discouragement is, it is the reverse of presumption. The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy.
CCC 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.93 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”94 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.95
CCC 2846 This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.”96 “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”;97 on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.
CCC 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.98 In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.”99 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.100 Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”101
1 Heb 1:6.
2 Lk 2:14.
3 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.
4 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.
5 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church
6 Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.
7 Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6 30.
8 Cf. Dt 14:1; (LXX) 32:8; Job 1:6; Ex 4:22; Hos 2:1; 11:1; Jer 3:19; sir 36:11; Wis 18:13; 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 82:6.
9 Cf. I Chr 17:13; Ps 2:7; Mt 27:54; Lk 23:47.
10 Lk 22:70; cf. Mt 26:64; Mk 14:61-62.
11 Cf. Mt 11:27; 21:34-38; 24:36.
12 Mt 5:48; 6:8-9; 7:21; Lk 11:13; Jn 20:17.
13 Cf. Mk 3:31-35; 6:3; I Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19.
14 Mt 13:55; 28:1; cf. Mt 27:56.
15 Cf. Gen 13:8; 14:16; 29:15; etc.
16 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.
17 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.
18 Col 2:9.
19 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.
20 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.
21 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.
22 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.
23 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.
24 Mt 3:16.
25 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.
26 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.
27 Mt 26:28.
28 Cf. Mt 24:1-2.
29 Cf. Mt 24:3; Lk 13:35.
30 Cf Mk 14:57-58; Mt 27 39-40.
31 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.
32 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.
33 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.
34 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.
35 Jn 10:36-38.
36 Cf. Jn 3:7; 6:44.
37 Cf. Is 53:1.
38 Cf. Mk 3:6; Mt 26:64-66.
39 Cf. Lk 23 34; Acts 3: 17-18; Mk 3:5; Rom 11:25, 20.
40 cf. Jn 9:16; 10:19.
41 Cf Jn 9:22.
42 Jn 11:48-50.
43 Cf. Mt 26:66; Jn 18:31; Lk 23:2, 19.
44 Cf. Jn 19:12, 15, 21.
45 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.
46 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.
47 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.
48 NA 4.
49 Acts 4:27-28; cf. Ps 2:1-2.
50 Cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18.
51 Jn 13:1; 15:13.
52 Cf. Heb 2:10,17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.
53 Jn 10:18.
54 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.
55 Roman Missal, EP III; cf. Mt 26:20; I Cor 11:23.
56 Lk 22:19; Mt 26:28; cf. I Cor 5:7.
57 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.
58 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.
59 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.
60 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.
61 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.
62 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:19.
63 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; Cor 11:25.
64 LG 5.
65 LG 5.
66 Lk 12:32; cf. Mt 10:16; 26:31; Jn 10:1-21.
67 Cf. Mt 12:49.
68 Cf. Mt 5-6.
69 Cf. Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24.
70 Cf. Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22.
71 Cf. 1 Cor 11:20; Rev 19:9.
72 Cf. Mt 14:19; 15:36; Mk 8:6, 19.
73 Cf. Mt 26:26; 1 Cor 11:24.
74 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.
75 Cf. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11.
76 Cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17.
77 Cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34.
78 Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.
79 Lk 22:19-20.
80 Mt 26:28.
81 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; cf. Mt 26:26 ff.; Mk 14:22 ff.; Lk 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor 11:24 ff.
82 Mt 26:29; cf. Lk 22:18; Mk 14 25.
83 Rev 1:4; 22 20; 1 Cor 16 22.
84 Didache 10, 6: SCh 248,180.
85 Cf. Lk 15.
86 Mt 1:21.
87 Mt 26:28.
88 Mt 5:21.
89 Cf. Mt 5:22-39; 5:44.
90 Cf. Mt 26:52.
91 Cf. Mt 26:40.
92 Mt 26:41.
93 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.
94 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.
95 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.
96 Cf. Mt 26 41.
97 Jas 113.
98 Cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44.
99 Jn 17:11; Cf. Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40.
100 Cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 5:8.
101 Rev 16:15.
Is there any human being, not to mention any Christian, whose heart is so hard and so callous, that he could read or hear of the torments Christ endured during his last twelve hours on earth without being moved to pity and to tears? Even if the victim of this, the cruelest form of execution, crucifixion, were guilty of crimes against humanity, as were the two robbers crucified with him, our hearts should be filled with sympathy for him.
But in the case of Christ we are dealing with a victim who not only had committed no crime, but was incapable of even a venial fault. He had come to save the whole human race–to make all men his brothers and thus co-heirs of an eternal life. To do this he had taken human nature in order to become our brother, and because of the sins of the world he had to die this excruciating death in order to save mankind from the effects of their sins, which would have been eternal death.
Lest we might think that his being divine as well as human might have eased his sufferings in any way, we have proof of the opposite in his agony in the garden, and his pitiful call to his Father as he was dying painfully and slowly on the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” His human nature had to bear the full effects of the torments inflicted on him. This was the will of his Father, which Christ willingly accepted as the prophet Isaiah had foretold centuries before, when he described the Messiah as the “suffering servant” of God.
Looking back today, on that sorrow-laden first Good Friday, there is not one of us who would not gladly have done everything in his power to ease the pains and the sufferings of our loving Savior if he had been there. But, mindful of any past loyalty or lack of loyalty to this Jesus who suffered for us, are we honest with ourselves when we express this sentiment? Did we never imitate Judas and betray Christ and his commandments for the sake of some few unjustly gained pieces of silver? Did we never let our pride and prejudice condemn, offend and unjustly injure out neighbor, just as the pride and prejudice of the chief priests and the Sanhedrin condemned Christ unjustly? Did we never crown him with thorns, and mockingly call him our king when we posed as loyal subjects of his while living lives of sin? Did we never imitate Pilate, who condemned an innocent man–a man he declared innocent–because he feared for his own future comforts and honors? Was our position in politics and power, or possessions, ever more important to us than the true following of Christ and his teaching?
We could go on with our examination of conscience, but surely each one of us can see that he played, in a greater or lesser degree, the part not of a comforter or consoler of Jesus in his torments, but the part of one or other of the wicked actors in the tragedy of Calvary. However, we have the great consolation of knowing that Christ prayed for his tormentors on the cross (Lk. 23:34). and that he included us in this solemn request to his Father. We can still repent of our past sins and turn with confidence to him, assured that he will forgive and forget, and give us a new start.
Let each one of us return from Calvary today, beating our breasts in sorrow for the pains and sufferings we have caused our loving Savior. He died an excruciating death so that we might live an unending life of happiness. We shall live that eternal life if we die now to our sins, our passions, and our weaknesses.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
The Liberation of the Resurrection
On the night of Passover the angel of death now passes over Egypt and strikes down its firstborn. Liberation is liberation for life. Christ, the firstborn from the dead, takes death upon himself and, by his Resurrection, shatters death’s power. Death no longer has the last word. The love of the Son proves to be stronger than death because it unites man with God’s love, which is God’ very being. Thus, in the Resurrection of Christ, it is not just the destiny of an individual that is called to mind. He is now perpetually present, because he lives, and he gathers us up, so that we may live: “Because I live, you will live also” (Jn 14: 19). In the light of Easter, Christians see themselves as people who truly live. They have found their way out of an existence that is more death than life. They have discovered real life: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17: 3). Deliverance from death is at the same time deliverance from the captivity of individualism, from the prison of self, from the incapacity to love and make a gift of oneself. Thus Easter becomes the great feast of Baptism, in which man, as it were, enacts the passage through the Red Sea, emerges from his own existence into communion with Christ and so into communion with all who belong to Christ. Resurrection builds communion. It creates the new People of God… The risen Lord does not remain alone. He draws all mankind to himself and so creates a new universal communion of men.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Prayer Commending Ourselves to God
O Lord, into your most merciful hands I commend
my body and soul, thoughts and acts, desires and
intentions. I commend the needs of my body and soul,
future and past, my faith and hope, the end of my life,
the day and hour of my death, the burial and resurrection
of my body. O most merciful God, whose clemency the
sins of the world can never transcend, take me, a sinner,
under the wings of our protection and deliver me from
every evil. cleanse my iniquities, grant me a reformation
of my life, and protect me against future transgressions,
that I may in no manner ever anger You. Shelter my
weakness from passions and evil persons, guard me
against my visible and invisible enemies, lead me on
the road of salvation and to Yourself, the safe harbor
and haven of my desires. Grant me a happy, peaceful,
Christian death, and protect me from evil spirits. Be
merciful to me, your servant, at the great judgment,
and number me among the blessed flock who stand on your
right, that, together with them, I may forever glorify
You, my Creator. Amen.