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!

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 21 : 1-11

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples drew near Jerusalem and arrived at Bethphage, on the mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of His disciples, saying, “Go to the village in front of you, and there you will find a donkey tied up, with its colt by her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says something to you, say that the Lord needs them, and that He will send them back immediately.”

This happened in fulfilment of what the prophet said : Say to the daughter of Zion : See, your King comes to you in all simplicity, riding on a donkey, a beast of burden, with its colt. The disciples went, as Jesus had instructed them, and they brought the donkey with its colt. Then they threw their cloaks on its back, and Jesus sat on them.

Many people also spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people who walked ahead of Jesus, and those who followed Him, began to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was disturbed. The people asked, “Who is this Man?” And the crowd answered, “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Friday, 19 April 2019 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we gather together to celebrate the occasion of Good Friday, the day which commemorates the moment when Our Lord Jesus Christ bore His Cross and suffered for each and every one of us, and died on the Cross at Calvary, a pivotal and very important moment in the whole history of our salvation. That is why, despite the sufferings, pains and sorrows that are often associated with this day because of the Crucifixion, but we call this day Good Friday, because the Lord has truly brought us true goodness on this day.

And in order to understand this better, we have to understand and appreciate the significance of what happened on Good Friday, and know how Good Friday has changed our history and our lives forever. Before Good Friday, there was no hope yet for our salvation, and all of us mankind were still enslaved by sin, and there was no escape from our fate of death, for our disobedience and refusal to believe in God.

But after Good Friday, there is a fundamental transformation, as dramatically shown to us as the Lord’s death on the cross, and as the veil of the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem was torn open into two. For through the crucifixion, our Lord’s death and resurrection, the Lord has fulfilled completely all that He has promised to all of us from the very beginning, that is from the moment when we mankind first fell into sin.

And the Lord, Our Saviour and Liberator, became the New Adam, as the Son of Man and Son of God, in overturning all the old sins and faults of the old Adam, by which all of us mankind have been brought into sin, and separation from God, our loving Father and Creator. The New Adam brought with Him instead, reconciliation and new life blessed by the grace of God, and countered all that the devil had put in place to bring about our downfall.

The old Adam represents the old life of sin, which we too have had a share in, in our own sinful existence, in our disobedience and refusal to be wholly devoted and committed to God. While the New Adam, Christ was the revelation of the new life that we have been called to embrace, a life wholly dedicated to God, and marked by the love which Christ Himself has shown us, a perfect and selfless love for God and for our fellow men.

Let us begin the comparison and appreciate just how the Lord has overturned all the barriers and traps by which the devil had enslaved us with. In the Book of Genesis, Satan tempted both Adam and Eve, tempting them with the temptations of power and knowledge, embracing their ego and desires, that as Satan himself said, that if they took and ate of the fruits of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat, they would not die, but rather, became like God because they would come to know of all things good and evil, to be equal to God.

Eve succumbed to the temptation, and in turn, tempted Adam to do the same, and as a result, both sinned against God because of their disobedience, and Satan won his first victory against us, God’s beloved people. But almost immediately, God countered with a solemn promise and prophecy that Satan would be defeated and all of his wicked designs would be broken and defeated by His Saviour, the One Who was promised, and was fulfilled in Jesus, the Saviour of the whole world.

Jesus was born of Mary, His mother, and although He is the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who embraced the flesh of humanity, but He is also fully Man, just as He is fully Divine. And it is through Jesus, His Passion, suffering and crucifixion that Satan was handed the definitive and decisive blow, that completely countered and negated all the evil designs he had had for us mankind from the foundations of the world.

While Jesus is the New Adam, Mary is the New Eve. And both acted in ways that rebuked Satan’s attempts to bring about our downfall. While Eve was disobedient and persuaded Adam to disobey, Mary was faithful and committed totally to God, and in fact, faithfully stayed by the side of her Son, all the way through the Way of Suffering, following Him and remaining close by His side even when all of His disciples fled and ran in fear, right down to the feet of the Cross.

And this is the reflection of the ultimate faith, obedience and commitment that the Lord Jesus Himself showed, as He willingly obeyed His Father’s will, in taking up His Cross, despite of knowing fully what was awaiting Him, all the trials, torture, pain and suffering, challenges and difficulties, and the most humiliating and painful death He was to suffer from. He could have rejected it and abandoned His mission, and yet, He gave Himself so completely and obeyed so well that His prayers for our sake were heard and fulfilled.

While Adam was filled with greed and pride, and fell because of that pride, the Lord Jesus willingly emptied Himself from all glory, emptying Himself from the glory of His Kingship and Divinity, and accepted the most humiliating, inhumane and painful death, death of a criminal on the Cross, reserved for the worst of criminals and rebels at the time of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, while through pride and greed, Adam as well as Eve fell into sin, the Lord Jesus, together with His mother Mary through humility and faith regained for us our heavenly grace.

And last of all, while the old Adam and the first men fell because of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the forbidden tree, the Lord Jesus was crucified on another tree, the tree of the combination of all the sins and wickedness that we have committed because of our pride, our ego, our desire, all of the wicked things within us. And that tree, on which Our Lord and Saviour was hung, is none other than the Cross of our salvation.

Therefore, as we have seen and heard for ourselves, the Lord opposed the works of the devil on every front, and while men had faltered and fell into sin, the Lord showed that sin did not have the final say. For He is much more powerful than even sin and death, and His death on the Cross proved that He can conquer sin and death, and broke the hold that sin and death had over us all mankind, who believe and trust in Him. And we see the proof of this at the Resurrection.

And He also did this, by doing what the Father has willed Him to do, as mentioned by the second reading passage today, in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In that passage, we heard of how the Lord Jesus was described as a High Priest, and not just as any other High Priests, but the one and true, Eternal High Priest, Who has offered His offerings with tears and pain, with sorrow and suffering, for the offering He offered was not of animals and the blood of lambs, but of His own Flesh and His own Blood, He Who is our Paschal Lamb, making a new, Eternal and unbreakable Covenant with us.

A priest in the time of the Old Testament acted as the intermediary between God and man, as the bridge between God and man, linking what had been separated by sin. The priests offered on the altar, the blood of lambs to be the temporary atonement and source of consolation for the sins and rebelliousness of the people of God. But the priests themselves were sinners, and they had to offer sacrifices to atone for their own sins first as well. On the other hand, Christ, Who is the Sinless One, willingly took up upon Himself, both the role of the High Priest as well as the Paschal Lamb to be sacrificed.

We have to realise, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Cross of Christ, is the Altar upon which our Eternal and True High Priest, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, has offered Himself as the only perfect and worthy offering and sacrifice, by which He brought upon us, healing, pardon and complete reconciliation with God, bringing on us the promised salvation, grace and everlasting life and glory.

By His own loving sacrifice, His own selfless offering and love for God His heavenly Father and for each and every one of us, Our Lord Jesus has brought upon us the salvation that God has long promised to us, and He has brought upon us a new hope and the Light that pierced through the darkness that is in our lives. With Christ, a new Light has dawned, and a new Hope has come into our midst, that with Him, there is hope for each and every one of us sinners.

Today, on this blessed Good Friday, let us fix our attention on the One Who is hung on the Cross. Let us all gaze upon His wounded face, and look at all the wounds that cover His Precious Body. Let us realise that each and every one of those wounds are the very sins that we have committed each and every days of our life, even to the smallest and what is seemingly most trivial of sins. All of these are wounds that we have inflicted on the Lord, and yet, which He willingly took up on Himself because of the love He has for each and every one of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do we all know why is it that Christ suffered so dearly and so painfully? That is because of His love, His great and amazing love for all of us, even to the greatest of sinners. And it is because of this love that He experienced such great pain and sorrow, such suffering and agony, because He knows that unless we get rid from ourselves these sins, He will be separated from us eternally, as we fall into the eternal darkness, out of which there is no escape.

His agony on the Cross, as we continue to gaze on Him Who is hung on the Cross, is caused by all of our refusal to be faithful and to obey the will of God. His pain and sorrow are caused by our own pride, our own greed and jealousy, our ambition and selfishness, all of the wicked things we have done towards one another, every moments we have caused hurt on others, when we trample on the rights and dignity of our fellow brethren, and every time we fail to act with love, when there are people who are suffering and unloved in our midst.

Yet, He endured them all, because of His love for each and every one of us. His love and compassion for us so great that He even forgave His enemies and persecutors from the Cross, praying that their sins would not be held against them. Thus in the same way, God has also willingly loved us and desired to forgive us from our sins, and He extends His hands to us, to embrace us and to welcome us back, that we may be fully reconciled with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on the love of Christ made evident in the Cross today, on this Good Friday and beyond. Let us all bear our own cross with love, following the examples of Christ, that we accept His ever generous offer of mercy and embrace His compassionate heart. Let us all turn wholeheartedly to Him and abandon all things that have separated us from Him, all things that have caused Him to be wounded, our sins and rebelliousness.

Let us from now on, endeavour and do our best to love God, Who has loved us first so much that He endured all those sufferings for us. And let us all also love one another, that we truly become the beacons and bearers of Christ’s Light and love in this world of darkness, that through our love, many more will come to believe in the Lord and in the salvation He has brought to us through His Cross. Let us follow the example of the Christ, the New Adam, and abandon the past sins we have, the life of the old Adam, who fell into sin.

May the glorious Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ be our guide always, that each and every one of us will grow ever deeper in faith and in our love for God, remembering at each and every moments of our life, the boundless love that He has shown us through the Cross. May He continue to be present within our hearts, that the love of Christ Crucified will fill us to the brim, and allow us to be loving to one another and towards God in the same way that Christ has loved us, all the way to the Cross. Amen.