Sunday, 28 March 2021 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the occasion of the Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, and on this day we begin the solemn celebrations of the Holy Week. This marks the last week in which the culmination of the Lord’s mission in this world. Throughout this season of Lent, we have been preparing ourselves physically and spiritually to celebrate this most important moment in the history of the world and all mankind, the moment when God Himself came to save us.

This day we remember the moment when the Lord came down to Jerusalem hailed as a King, cheered on and praised by many who were there to welcome Him, just as prophesied in the Scriptures by the prophets of the Lord, as the King riding on a donkey entering into His city mentioned by the prophet Zechariah, ‘See Jerusalem, your King is coming to you, righteous and bringing salvation, riding on a humble donkey.’

This was not Jesus’ first time entering Jerusalem, as evidenced from the Gospels that He had been in Jerusalem a few times before, not least when He was consecrated to God at His circumcision and presentation to God, and when He was just twelve years old and was left at the Temple, and on other occasions during His ministry when He came and taught the people at the Temple and other places throughout Jerusalem and Judea.

However, that time, the Lord came to Jerusalem for the one last and final time, when He would embark on the final part of His mission in fulfilling what the Lord had promised us all mankind, His beloved ones, to save us and to rescue us from the bondage of sin and death, from the tyranny and the enslavement of the devil, which He had done by His Passion, that is His suffering and His death on the Cross.

The word Passion itself came from the Latin ‘passus sum’, which means to endure and persevere through something, and in this case, it is the sufferings, the trials and pain that the Lord has suffered and endured, all the humiliation and horrible treatment He experienced at the hands of His enemies and tormentors. All of these He had willingly done, because of the great love that He has, for each and every single one of us, without exception.

We remember that the Lord so loved the world, all of us mankind, that He sent us His only begotten Son, according to the Gospel of St. John, that through Him we are to find salvation and not perish, and through Christ, God’s own Son, we have been brought to the hope of a new and graceful existence, a way to eternal life, and to be reconciled with God, our loving Father, Lord and Creator.

In this we have seen the most wonderful love of God, presented to us through Christ, the One proclaimed as King and Holy One of God by the crowd of people in Jerusalem, welcomed with much festivities and with palm branches, the Son and Heir of David Who has come to claim the kingdom of His forefather David, king of all Israel. Yet, do we all realise that the same crowd who hailed Jesus as King and praised Him wonderfully with palm branches in hand were perhaps the same ones who then cried out, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ in just a few days afterwards?

For those who followed the Lord Jesus, like His disciples and others, it might seem that the moment of the entry to Jerusalem was indeed a triumphant moment as the Lord was hailed as King and many saw Him as someone who could liberate them from the rule of the Romans. But, the moment that they saw the Lord being accused of blasphemy and of sin against God and nation, they turned against Him and became His accusers instead. Those who remained faithful, like the Apostles, hid themselves in fear and were scattered.

The Lord knew exactly what would happen to Him, and He had already mentioned it on several occasions, how He would be betrayed even by those close to Him, one of His own Twelve would be the one to hand Him over to the Sanhedrin, be arrested and then condemned to death, suffering a most painful and humiliating death on the Cross. Knowing all these, the Lord Himself did agonise over it at the Gardens of Gethsemane just prior to His arrest, the weight of the whole responsibility that He was to bear, and yet, He obeyed completely to the will of His heavenly Father.

It is St. Paul spoke of in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, the Epistle to the Philippians, when he spoke of Christ, obedient unto death on the Cross, humbling Himself and emptying Himself of His divinity and glory, allowing Himself to be scourged, punished and to endure the greatest of pain, sorrow and suffering, bearing all the consequences and punishments that we should have suffered instead because of our many sins.

Christ, Our Lord, is the New Adam, the New Man, Who obeyed God so completely and dedicated Himself so thoroughly, in contrast with the old Adam, and thus, won for us all the victory against sin. While Adam fell into sin and corruption from that sin because he was unable to resist the temptations to sin, and thus fell by his disobedience, it was Christ’s obedience, emptying Himself of all glory, that led to our salvation.

For He offered Himself, as a worthy and perfect sacrifice, both as the High Priest of all, and as the Paschal Lamb to be sacrificed Himself, on the Altar of the Cross. And indeed, the Cross is also the Throne of our King, just as the title placed on the Cross, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, and also thus, King of all of us, King of Kings. There He is, on the Cross, suffering and dying for us, for as our King, He desires nothing less than our happiness and freedom from the tyranny of sin.

It was this that brings us to the Passion of Our Lord, as this Passion, the sufferings Christ suffered for us, shows us all His compassionate love. The word compassion itself again came from the root word of Passion, cum passus sum, meaning to endure and persevere together with us, to be with us through our sufferings, to sympathise with us not just through words but also through concrete action, as He was there up on the Cross, bloody and bruised, shedding His Blood and rending His Body for us all.

Through Christ’s obedience, and by bearing all of our sins to Himself, by uniting us all in our humanity to His own humanity, Christ suffered and died, so that by His death, we may gain access to new and everlasting life. And thus, today this Palm Sunday we mark the beginning of this intense culmination of the Lord’s ministry, the beginning of this great Passion of Our Lord, as we witness and are reminded yet again of all that the Lord had done for our sake, out of enduring love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we now enter into this Holy Week proper, are we going to celebrate it solemnly and properly, with clear understanding and appreciation? Or are we going to treat it just like any other week without any distinction? Let us think of how we can make our Holy Week meaningful and good, that we may benefit as much as possible, and become ever closer to God, being more faithful and dedicated to Him.

Let us all focus our attention on the Christ Crucified, and remind ourselves of what a wonderful grace and privilege we have received, to be beloved by God so much that He was willing to do all these for our sake. As we look on our Lord crucified, let us remember that His every wounds are our sins, our transgressions, our wickedness, and all that we have done which were in contradiction to the way of the Lord.

Christ endured all that pain and suffering, brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we still insisting on following the wrong path in life, in doing what is against God, and inflicting those wounds that we have seen on our Lord? The Lord did indeed suffer, in His humanity, and He did indeed die, suffering all these so that we may live. Let us all appreciate everything that He had done for us, and strive to do our best in life to be more and more committed, to be closer to God and to love Him more.

Let us all enter into this most solemn time of the Holy Week with clear focus on the Lord, on His Passion and suffering, His love and the great compassion He has shown to each and every one of us. Let us all be exemplary in our faith and be good role model to one another so that we may help our fellow brothers and sisters to find our way together to the salvation and eternal life in God. May God, our Crucified Christ, Our most loving Saviour, be with us all as we journey through this Holy Week, that we may come to share ever more deeply in the mysteries of His Passion, His suffering, death and Resurrection. Amen.

Sunday, 28 March 2021 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 14 : 1 – Mark 15 : 47

It was now two days before the Feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the teachers of the Law were looking for a way to arrest Jesus on a false charge, and put Him to death; but they said, “Not during the Festival, for there might be trouble among the people.”

Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. As He was reclining at dinner, a woman entered carrying an alabaster jar of expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfumed oil on Jesus’ head. Then some of them became angry and said, “What a useless waste of perfume. It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor.” And they criticised her.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why are you troubling her? What she has just done for Me is a very charitable work. At any time you can help the poor, for you always have them with you; but you will not have Me forever. This woman did what she had to do : she anointed My Body for burial, before I die. Truly, I say to you, wherever the Good News is proclaimed, and this will be throughout the world, what she has done will be told in praise of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests, in order to betray Jesus to them. On hearing him, they were excited and promised to give him money. So Judas started planning the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the day when the Passover Lamb was killed, disciples asked Him, “Where would you have us to go to prepare the Passover meal for You?” So Jesus sent two of His disciples with these instructions, “Go into the city, and there, a man will come to you carrying a jar of water.”

“Follow him to the house he enters and say to the owner, ‘The Master says, Where is the room where I may eat the Passover meal with My disciples?’ Then He will show you a large room upstairs, already arranged and furnished. There, you will prepare for us.”

The disciples went off. When they reached the city, they found everything just as Jesus had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were at table eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray Me, one who shares My meal.”

They were deeply distressed at hearing this and asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You?” And Jesus answered, “It is one of you Twelve, one who dips his bread in the dish with Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scriptures say He will. But alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed; better for him if he had never been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them. And He said, “Take this. It is My Body.” Then He took a cup, and after He had given thanks, He passed it to them and they all drank from it. And He said, “This is My Blood, the Blood of the Covenant, poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not taste the fruit of the vine again, until that day when I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.”

After singing psalms of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “All of you will be dismayed and fall away; for the Scripture says : I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after I am raised, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

Then Peter said to Him, “Even though all the others fall away, I will not.” And Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you, today, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But Peter insisted, “Though I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” And all of them said the same.

They came to a place which is called Gethsemane; and Jesus said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” But He took Peter, James and John along with Him, and, becoming filled with fear and distress, He said to them, “My soul is full of sorrow, even to death. Remain here and stay awake.”

Then He went a little further on and fell on the ground, praying that, if possible, this hour might pass Him by. Jesus said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Yet, not what I want, but what You want.” Then He came and found them asleep; and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not stay awake for one hour? Stay awake and pray, all of you, so that you may not slip into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the body is weak.”

And, going away, He prayed, saying the same words. When He came back to the disciples, He found them asleep again. They could not keep their eyes open; and they did not know what to say to Him. When He came back the third time, He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is all over, the time has come : the Son of Man is now given into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us go! Look : the one who betrays Me is approaching.”

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came up. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders. The traitor had arranged a signal for them, “The One I kiss, He is the Man. Arrest Him, and take Him away under guard.”

So, when He came, He went directly to Jesus, and said, “Master! Master!” and kissed Him. Then they seized Jesus and arrested Him. One of the bystanders drew his sword and struck out at the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Jesus turned to them and said, “So, you have set out against a robber! Did you need swords and clubs to arrest Me? Day after day, I was among you, teaching in the Temple, and you did not arrest Me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Then they all deserted Him and fled. A young man, covered by nothing but a linen cloth, followed Jesus. When they took hold of him, he left the cloth in their hands and fled away naked. They led Jesus to the High Priest; and all the chief priests assembled, with the elders and the teachers of the Law. Peter had followed Him at a distance; and went right into the courtyard of the High Priest, where he sat with the guards, warming himself at the fire.

Now the chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some evidence against Jesus so that they might put Him to death; but they were unable to find anything. Even though many came up to speak falsely against Him, their evidence did not agree. At last, some stood up and gave this false witness : “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made by human hands, and, in three days, I will build another, not made by human hands.” But even so, their evidence did not agree.

The High Priest then stood up in the midst of them and asked Jesus, “Have You no answer at all? What about this evidence against You?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. The High Priest put a second question to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Then Jesus answered, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Most Powerful, and coming with the clouds of heaven around Him.”

Then the High Priest, tearing his garments to show his horror, said, “What more evidence do we need? You have just heard His blasphemous words. What is your decision?” They all condemned Jesus, saying, “He must die.” Some of them began to spit on Jesus; and, blindfolding Him, they struck Him and said, “Play the prophet!” And the guards set upon Him with blows.

While Peter was below, in the courtyard, a servant girl of the High Priest came by. Noticing Peter beside the fire, she looked straight at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the Nazarene.” But he denied it, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out through the gateway, and a cock crowed.

The servant girl saw him there and told the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But Peter denied it again. After a little while, those standing nearby said to Peter, “Of course you are one of them; you are a Galilean, are you not?” And Peter began to justify himself with curses and oaths, “I do not know the Man you are talking about.”

Just then a cock crowed a second time, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Early in the morning, the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law (that is, the whole Council or Sanhedrin) had their plan ready. They put Jesus in chains, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” As the chief priests accused Jesus of many things, Pilate asked Him again, “Have You no answer at all? See how many charges they bring against You.”

But Jesus gave no further answers, much to Pilate’s surprise. At every Passover festival, Pilate used to free any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a man called Barabbas, jailed with the rioters who had committed murder in the uprising. When the crowd went up to ask Pilate the usual favour, he said to them, “Do you want me to set free the King of the Jews?” for he realised that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him out of envy.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask, instead, for the release of Barabbas. Pilate replied, “And what shall I do with the Man you call King of the Jews?” The crowd shouted back, “Crucify Him!” Pilate asked, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted the louder, “Crucify Him!”

As Pilate wanted to please the people, He freed Barabbas, and, having had Jesus flogged, Pilate handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers took Him inside the courtyard, known as the Praetorium, and called the rest of their companions. They clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head. Then they began saluting Him, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” With a stick they gave Him blows on the head and spat on Him; then they knelt down, pretending to worship Him.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and put His own clothes on Him. The soldiers led Him out of the city to crucify Him. On the way, they met Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country; and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they had led Him to the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He would not take it.

Then they nailed Him to the cross, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what every man should take. It was about nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified Him. The statements of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “The King of the Jews.” They also crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says : ‘And with lawless ones He was numbered.’

People passing by laughed at Him, shook their heads and jeered, “Aha! So, You are able to tear down the Temple and build it up in three days? Save Yourself now, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law mocked Him, saying to one another, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let us see the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from His cross, and then we will believe in Him.” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus insulted Him.

When noon came, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three o’clock; and at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?” As soon as they heard these words, some of the bystanders said, “Listen! He is calling for Elijah.” And one of them went quickly to fill a sponge with bitter wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Now let us see whether Elijah comes to take Him down.”

But Jesus uttered a loud cry and gave up His Spirit. And immediately, the curtain that enclosed the Temple Sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom. The captain, who was standing in front of Him, saw how Jesus died and heard the cry He gave; and he said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.”

There were also some women watching from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome, who had followed Jesus when He was in Galilee and saw to His needs. There were also others who had come up with Him to Jerusalem.

It was now evening, and, as it was Preparation Day, that is the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea boldly went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus. Joseph was a respected member of the Council, who was, himself, waiting for the kingdom of God. Pilate was surprised that Jesus should have died so soon; so he summoned the captain and inquired if Jesus was already dead. After hearing the captain, he let Joseph have the Body.

Joseph took it down and wrapped it in the linen sheet he had brought. He laid the Body in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone across the entrance to the tomb. Now Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joses took note of where the Body had been laid.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Mark 15 : 1-39

Early in the morning, the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law (that is, the whole Council or Sanhedrin) had their plan ready. They put Jesus in chains, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” As the chief priests accused Jesus of many things, Pilate asked Him again, “Have You no answer at all? See how many charges they bring against You.”

But Jesus gave no further answers, much to Pilate’s surprise. At every Passover festival, Pilate used to free any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a man called Barabbas, jailed with the rioters who had committed murder in the uprising. When the crowd went up to ask Pilate the usual favour, he said to them, “Do you want me to set free the King of the Jews?” for he realised that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him out of envy.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask, instead, for the release of Barabbas. Pilate replied, “And what shall I do with the Man you call King of the Jews?” The crowd shouted back, “Crucify Him!” Pilate asked, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted the louder, “Crucify Him!”

As Pilate wanted to please the people, He freed Barabbas, and, having had Jesus flogged, Pilate handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers took Him inside the courtyard, known as the Praetorium, and called the rest of their companions. They clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head. Then they began saluting Him, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” With a stick they gave Him blows on the head and spat on Him; then they knelt down, pretending to worship Him.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and put His own clothes on Him. The soldiers led Him out of the city to crucify Him. On the way, they met Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country; and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they had led Him to the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He would not take it.

Then they nailed Him to the cross, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what every man should take. It was about nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified Him. The statements of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “The King of the Jews.” They also crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says : ‘And with lawless ones He was numbered.’

People passing by laughed at Him, shook their heads and jeered, “Aha! So, You are able to tear down the Temple and build it up in three days? Save Yourself now, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law mocked Him, saying to one another, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let us see the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from His cross, and then we will believe in Him.” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus insulted Him.

When noon came, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three o’clock; and at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?” As soon as they heard these words, some of the bystanders said, “Listen! He is calling for Elijah.” And one of them went quickly to fill a sponge with bitter wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Now let us see whether Elijah comes to take Him down.”

But Jesus uttered a loud cry and gave up His Spirit. And immediately, the curtain that enclosed the Temple Sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom. The captain, who was standing in front of Him, saw how Jesus died and heard the cry He gave; and he said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.”

Sunday, 28 March 2021 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, 28 March 2021 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 21 : 8-9, 17-18a, 19-20, 23-24

All who see Me make a jest of Me; they sneer and shake their heads. “He put His trust in the Lord, let the Lord rescue Him! If the Lord is His friend, let Him help Him!”

Round about Me are vicious dogs, villainous rogues encircling Me. They have tied up My hands and feet. They can count all My bones.

Dividing My garments among them and casting lots for My raiment. O Lord, be not far from Me! O My strength, come quickly to My help.

I will proclaim Your Name to My brothers. I will praise You in the assembly. “All you who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him! All you sons of Israel, revere Him!

Sunday, 28 March 2021 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 50 : 4-7

The Lord YHVH has taught Me so I speak as His disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning He wakes Me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn.

I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.

Sunday, 28 March 2021 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 11 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples drew near to Jerusalem and arrived at Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of His disciples with these instructions, “Go to the village ahead of you and, as you enter it, you will find there a colt tied up that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘What are you doing?’ give this answer, ‘The Lord needs it, but He will send it back immediately.”

They went off and found the colt, out in the street, tied at the door. As they were untying it, some of the bystander asked, “Why are you untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them, and the people allowed them to continue. They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks on its back, and Jesus sat upon it. Many people also spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread leafy branches from the fields.

Then the people who walked ahead, and those who followed behind Jesus, began to shout, “Hosannah! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David, which comes! Hosannah in the highest!”

Alternative reading

John 12 : 12-16

At that time, the next day, many people who had come for the festival heard that Jesus was to enter Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him. And they cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

Jesus found a donkey and sat upon it, as Scripture says : ‘Do not fear, city of Zion! See, your King is coming, sitting on the colt of a donkey!’ The disciples were not aware of this at first, but after Jesus was glorified, they realised that this had been written about Him, and that this was what had happened to Him.

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers ands sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we begin the observation of the Holy Week, the holiest and pinnacle of the liturgical celebrations of the entire year, as we enter into the most solemn and important moments in the history of the salvation of mankind and the world. On this day we enter and experience together this very moment when the Lord finally put into place everything that He has promised to us, His people, heading to Jerusalem where He knew that the moments His Passion, suffering and death would come.

On this Palm Sunday, we heard two very discordant accounts from the time of the Lord’s triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, as well as from the time when He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, arrested, put on trial, handed over to the Romans, condemned to death and was crucified as a criminal. This represents a very distinct extremes between the glory and triumphant nature of the entrance procession into Jerusalem and the humiliating and painful nature of the crucifixion of the Lord at Calvary. And all these happened within just the span of a few days.

In our Gospel today read just before the Procession with the blessed palms, we heard of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah, speaking of the coming of the King on a donkey into His city. The people welcomed the Lord and sang praises, putting their garments and clothes on the ground for the Lord and His donkey to pass through on, and waving palm branches and leaves, a welcome truly fit for a great King.

The crowds sang ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ loudly, referring to the descent of the Lord Jesus from the much revered King David of Israel, the glorious kingdom and time of his kingship of old. The Lord Jesus had His descent as the Heir of David, through St. Joseph, His foster-father and also legal father, and therefore, Jesus is the One Whom God had promised to David that through Him, the kingdom and house of David would be glorious and strong forever. The Lord came to Jerusalem, the city of the King to claim His place as the one true King of Israel.

Certainly at that time, some people must have thought that Jesus would restore the old kingdom of Israel, defeat and drive out the Romans who were the overlords of Judea, and reign in a new era of glorious kingdom like that of the old kingdom of David and Solomon. Some of the people had tried to make Jesus as their King on several occasions, riding on the popular sentiment and the Lord’s immense following and popularity, only for the Lord to rebuff them by withdrawing every time they attempted to do so.

But as we then proceed into our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, of Whom the prophet Isaiah spoke about as One Who would bear the suffering and the punishments for our sins and faults. This is the revelation of the true purpose and mission of the Messiah’s coming, that His Kingship is achieved through not the glory of the world but through the glory of the Cross. He would have to suffer as part of God’s plan to save us mankind.

And this is what St. Paul spoke about in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, in our second reading today, as he spoke of the Christ, the Son of God Who humbled Himself completely and entirely, emptying Himself of His divinity and wonders, and willingly took up the Cross of suffering, filled with the mighty burdens and punishments due for our many and innumerable sins. He bore all of these on His own shoulders, and endured all of the pain, bitterness, rejections and ridicules because of His great and enduring love for each and every one of us.

God has loved us all so much that He was willing to do all these for our sake, and He endured all the humiliations as described throughout our Passion reading today, detailing how He was treated, ridiculed, condemned by His enemies and all those who sought to denounce and sentence Him to death. He was handed to the Romans, and rejected by the whole people who chose a criminal instead of Him to be freed. He was tortured and made to suffer such indignity, and endured the excruciating pain of nails driven into His hands and feet.

All these were what the Lord had been willing to go through for our sake. He has always been so patient and been so loving towards us. That is why today, at the beginning of this Holy Week, we are brought to focus our attention to the Lord’s Passion, His ever so great and wonderful love for each and every one of us that He was willing to go through all the sufferings for us. His love is so great that although He is King, but He desires not His own glory but instead, our own glorification, through His sacrifice on the Cross.

For through the Cross, by His obedience in His Father’s will, the Lord our Saviour has restored us to the glory that was ours before we fell into sin. He wants us to be reconciled to Him and to receive His saving grace. Unfortunately, it is often us who have been stubborn and rejected His generous offer for mercy and love. We have been like those who enthusiastically welcomed the Lord on Palm Sunday, and yet, shouted ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ on Good Friday just a few days later. We are also often like Judas Iscariot, who outwardly had faith in the Lord and yet, betrayed Him in the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin this solemn celebration of the Holy Week, let us make good use of this time and opportunities provided to us that we may redirect our lives and our focus and attention back towards God. This Holy Week, let us all spend more time with God in prayer, deepening our devotion through works of charity and through reading the Scriptures with greater clarity of purpose in mind. Let us all also spend some thoughts for all those who are suffering, sick and dying during these days, unable to rejoice and celebrate as how they have usually done.

Many of us these days are unable to celebrate as we usually do, and in many parts of the world, due to the current pandemic, the celebrations of the Masses publicly have been suspended, extending through to the Holy Week and possibly even through the Easter season. And even for some of us and our communities, much of this season of Lent had indeed been a time of spiritual desolation and sadness, as we have been in many ways deprived either the regular celebration of the Mass or access to the Eucharist.

However, this is probably a good time and reminder for us all that amidst all these darkness and uncertainties, all the despairs and terrible things all around us, we still have that very one hope, the hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, our King and Saviour. That is why we should still celebrate this Holy Week with much enthusiasm and faith, and we should try our best to bring forth this spirit of faith and enthusiasm to our fellow brothers and sisters. For we all should know that sin and darkness mo longer have permanent hold on us, as Christ has promised us freedom and liberation from these through His own suffering and death on the Cross.

Let us therefore enter into the Holy Week with an open heart and mind, welcoming the Lord to enter into our hearts and into our beings as gloriously and joyfully as the people of Jerusalem had welcomed Him with branches of palms and with great rejoicing and reverence. Let us all welcome the Lord into our beings that from now on, He may truly dwell in us, and be enthroned in our hearts, in our minds and in our whole beings, and that we may focus ourselves on Him from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He guide us through this blessed and most wonderful time of the Holy Week, that we may be filled with much faith and we may make good use of the time provided to us, to help us to draw ever closer to God, and to receive the fullness of God’s saving grace, forgiven from our sins and trespasses. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 26 : 14 – Matthew 27 : 66

Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “How much will you give me if I hand Him over to you?” They promised to give him thirty pieces of silver, and from then on, he kept looking for the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” Jesus answered, “Go into the city, to the house of a certain man, and tell him, ‘The Master says : My hour is near, and I will celebrate the Passover with My disciples in your house.'”

The disciples did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus sat at table with the Twelve. While they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you : one of you will betray Me.” They were deeply distressed, and they asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who dips his bread with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scripture says He will. But alas for that one who betrays the Son of Man : better for him not to have been born.” Judas, who was betraying Him, also asked, “You do not mean me, Master, do You?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said a blessing and broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take and eat : this is My Body.” Then He took a cup, and gave thanks, and passed it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you, for this is My Blood, the Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, I say to you : From now on I will not taste the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink new wine with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

After singing psalms of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will falter tonight because of Me, and all will fall. For the Scripture says : I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after My resurrection, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Peter responded, “Even though all doubt You and fall, I will never fall.” Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you : this very night before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said, “Though I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” And all the disciples said the same.

Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and He began to be filled with anguish and distress. And He said to them, “My soul is full of sorrow, even to death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell to the ground, with His face touching the earth, and prayed, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup away from Me. Yet not what I want, but what You want.” He went back to His disciples and found them asleep, and He said to Peter, “Could you not stay awake with Me for even an hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you may not slip into temptation. The spirit indeed is eager, but the body is weak.”

He again went away, and prayed, “Father, if this cup cannot be taken away from Me without My drinking it, let Your will be done.” When He came back to His disciples, He again found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them again, and went to pray the third time, saying the same words.

Then He came back to His disciples and said to them, “You can sleep on now and take your rest! The hour has come, and the Son of Man will be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look : the betrayer is here!” Jesus was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests and the Jewish authorities.

The traitor had arranged a signal for them : “The One I kiss, He is the Man; arrest Him.” Judas went directly to Jesus and said, “Good evening, Master”; and he gave Him a kiss. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then they laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him.

One of those who were with Jesus drew his sword, and struck at the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his ear. So Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place, for he who uses the sword will perish by the sword. Do you not know that I could call on My Father, and He would at once send Me more than twelve legions of Angels. If Scripture says that this has to be, should it not be fulfilled?”

At that moment, Jesus said to the crowd, “Why do you come to arrest Me with swords and clubs, as if I were a robber? Day after day I was seated among you teaching in the Temple, yet you did not arrest Me. But all this has come about in fulfilment of what the Prophets said.” Then all His disciples deserted Him and fled.

Those who had arrested Jesus brought Him to the house of the High Priest Caiaphas, where the teachers of the Law and the elders were assembled. Peter followed Jesus at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the High Priest; he entered and sat with the guards, waiting to see the end. The chief priests and the whole Supreme Council needed some false evidence against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.

But they were unable to find any, even though false witnesses came forward. At last, two men came up and declared, “This Man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'” The High Priest then stood up and asked Jesus, “Have You no answer at all? What is this evidence against You?” But Jesus kept silent.

So the High Priest said to Him, “In the Name of the living God, I command You to tell us : Are You the Messiah, the Son of God?” Jesus answered, “It is just as you say. I tell you more : from now on, you will see the Son of Man, seated at the right hand of God most powerful, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the High Priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has blasphemed. What more evidence do we need? You have just heard these blasphemous words. What is your decision?” They answered, “He must die!” Then they began to spit on Jesus and slap Him, while others hit Him with their fists, saying, “Messiah, prophesy! Who hit You?”

Meanwhile, as Peter sat outside in the courtyard, a young servant-girl of the house said to Him, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” And as Peter was going out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and told the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter denied it again with an oath, swearing, “I do not know that Man.”

After a little while, those who were standing there approached Peter and said to him, “Of course you are one of the Galileans : your accent gives you away.” Peter began justifying himself with curses and oaths, protesting that he did not know Jesus. Just then a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went away weeping bitterly.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met together to look for ways of putting Jesus to death. They had Him bound, and led Him away to be handed over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, the traitor, realised that Jesus had been condemned, he was filled with remorse, and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying an innocent Man to death.”

They answered, “What does it matter to us? That is your concern.” So throwing down the money in the Temple, he went away and hanged himself. The priests picked up the money and said, “This money cannot be put into the Temple treasury, for this is the price of blood.” So they met together, and decided to buy the Potter’s Field with the money, and to make it a cemetery for foreigners. That is why, to this day, that place has been called Field of Blood.

So what the prophet Jeremiah said was fulfilled : They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price which the Sons of Israel set in Him, and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord commanded me. Jesus stood before the governor, who asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.”

The chief priests and the elders of the people accused Him, but He made no answer. Pilate said to Him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against You?” But He did not answer even a single question so that the governor wondered greatly.

At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas. When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free : Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” For he realised that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

As Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy Man. Because of Him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus.

When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify Him!” Pilate insisted, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate realised that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He then asked for water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am not responsible for His Blood, it is your doing.” And all the people answered, “Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around Him. They stripped Him and dressed Him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked Him, saying, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, took the reed from His hand and struck Him on the head with it.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed Him in His own clothes again, and led Him out to be crucified. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not drink it.

There they crucified Him, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard Him. The statement of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left.

People passing by shook their heads and insulted Him, saying, “Aha! You Who destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it, save Yourself – if You are God’s Son – and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law mocked Him.

They said, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let the King of Israel now come down from His cross and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let God rescue Him if God wants to, for He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him insulted Him.

From midday, darkness fell over the whole land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means : My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.”

And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave Him to drink. Others said, “Leave Him alone, let us see whether Elijah comes to His rescue.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.

Just then the curtain of the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many.

The captain and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified, and when they saw the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.” There were also some women there, who watched from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had seen to His needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

It was now evening, and there came a wealthy man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus, and the governor ordered that the Body be given to him. So Joseph took the Body of Jesus, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet, and laid it in his own new tomb, which had been cut out of the rock.

Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and left. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there in front of the tomb. On the following day, the day after the Preparation for the Sabbath observance, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said to him, “Sir, we remember that when that Impostor was still alive, He said, ‘I will rise after three days.'”

“Therefore, have His tomb secured until the third day, lest His disciples come and steal the body, and say to the people : He is risen from the dead. This would be a worse lie than the first.” Pilate answered them, “You have soldiers, go and take all the necessary precautions.” So they went to the tomb and secured it, sealing the stone, and placed it under guard.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 27 : 11-54

Jesus stood before the governor, who asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” The chief priests and the elders of the people accused Him, but He made no answer. Pilate said to Him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against You?” But He did not answer even a single question so that the governor wondered greatly.

At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas. When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free : Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” For he realised that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

As Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy Man. Because of Him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus.

When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify Him!” Pilate insisted, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate realised that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He then asked for water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am not responsible for His Blood, it is your doing.” And all the people answered, “Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around Him. They stripped Him and dressed Him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked Him, saying, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, took the reed from His hand and struck Him on the head with it.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed Him in His own clothes again, and led Him out to be crucified. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not drink it.

There they crucified Him, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard Him. The statement of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left.

People passing by shook their heads and insulted Him, saying, “Aha! You Who destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it, save Yourself – if You are God’s Son – and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law mocked Him.

They said, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let the King of Israel now come down from His cross and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let God rescue Him if God wants to, for He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him insulted Him.

From midday, darkness fell over the whole land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means : My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.”

And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave Him to drink. Others said, “Leave Him alone, let us see whether Elijah comes to His rescue.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.

Just then the curtain of the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many.

The captain and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified, and when they saw the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.”

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 21 : 8-9, 17-18a, 19-20, 23-24

All who see Me make a jest of Me; they sneer and shake their heads. “He put His trust in the Lord, let the Lord rescue Him! If the Lord is His friend, let Him help Him!”

Round about Me are vicious dogs, villainous rogues encircling Me. They have tied up My hands and feet. They can count all My bones.

Dividing My garments among them and casting lots for My raiment. O Lord, be not far from Me! O My strength, come quickly to My help.

I will proclaim Your Name to My brothers. I will praise You in the assembly. “All you who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him! All you sons of Israel, revere Him!