Sunday, 20 March – I Am Just As Culpable

20 March – Palm Sunday

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The Blessing of the Palms & Procession – This gospel is read at the procession with palms before Mass: 

Luke 19:28-40 

Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord.

Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. Now when he was near Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives as it is called, he sent two of the disciples, telling them, ‘Go off to the village opposite, and as you enter it you will find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” you are to say this, “The Master needs it”.’ The messengers went off and found everything just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owner said, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ and they answered, ‘The Master needs it.’
So they took the colt to Jesus, and throwing their garments over its back they helped Jesus on to it. As he moved off, people spread their cloaks in the road, and now, as he was approaching the downward slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they had seen. They cried out:
‘Blessings on the King who comes,
in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest heavens!’
Some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Master, check your disciples,’ but he answered, ‘I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out.’

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The following are the readings at the Mass itself:

Isaiah 50:4-7

The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

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Philippians 2:6-11

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

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Luke 23:1-49

Key: + Jesus. O. Other single speaker. C. Crowd, or more than one speaker.

The elders of the people and the chief priests and scribes rose, and they brought Jesus before Pilate.
They began their accusation by saying,
C. We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.
Pilate put to him this question:
O. Are you the king of the Jews?
He replied,
+ It is you who say it.
Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd,
O. I find no case against this man.
But they persisted,
C. He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judaea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.
When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.
Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. He said,
O. You brought this man before me as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, So I shall have him flogged and then let him go.
But as one man they howled,
C. Away with him! Give us Barabbas!
(This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.)
Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back,
C. Crucify him! Crucify him!
And for the third time he spoke to them,
O. Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go.
But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.
Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.
As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said,
+ Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, ‘Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’; to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?
Now with him they were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.
When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said,
+ Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.
Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.
The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him, saying,
C. He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.
The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said,
C. If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.
Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
One of the criminals hanging there abused him, saying,.
O. Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.
But the other spoke up and rebuked him:
O. Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
He replied,
+ Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.
It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said,
+ Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
With these words he breathed his last.
All kneel and pause a moment
When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said,
O. This was a great and good man.
And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.
All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.

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Crucify him! Crucify him!

Role-playing and acting is a really good way to get under the skin of the characters. In reading play scripts, we experience an energy that immerses us in character. Except, today’s Gospel reading of Luke calls us to participate in history – to become the very mob who storm Pilate’s courts and demanded Jesus’ crucifixion.

What kind of person does that? Knowing what I now know, and having chosen our Lord Jesus as my Saviour, I always find it hard to participate in this scene of the Gospel. Yet every Palm Sunday, we the faithful gather to imitate the scene of Jesus riding in on the donkey into Jerusalem, waving our triumphant palm branches and processing in to the church. As the Liturgy of the Word progresses, we switch roles from faithful flock heralding the Messiah’s entry, to a mob of unenlightened Jews, jealous chief priests and scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Only, it is hard to yell those words out (usually I hear people saying it in deadpan fashion). But I encourage you, do it. Yell it out. Because it will shock you. It should shock you. And it is so extremely humbling and disarming. It will shake your core of self-righteousness. God will not be any more wounded by your shouts to crucify His Only Begotten Son in the year 2016, than He was in 33 AD. I shouted it out loud – intentionally – to really, truly feel what it is like to malign, accuse, despise, and condemn the One who is my Saviour. I wanted to step back in time and return to the scene of Jesus’ Passion. A triad of male voices somewhere else in the church yelled even louder, with more viciousness. I was taken aback.

I am grateful for my experience in this moment. At once, I knew I am just as culpable of denying my Jesus – at times. At once, I knew I have been just as weak and fickle in my faith and trust in God – at times. At once, I felt the whole of humanity hurling ourselves against God in ungratefulness and unfaithfulness. And my sorrow came instantly; but His love and mercy covered me immediately.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave…
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.  

And still, Christ pleaded for us: Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.

Our daily lives are full of moments where we have a choice (consciously or unconsciously) to either imitate Christ and glorify God, or to deny and crucify Him. It isn’t always easy or natural, but we can seek God’s grace for the strength to acknowledge and follow Him always. Jesus tells us: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Through devoted prayer we will grow in courage to cling faithfully to Christ; and in Christ’s Precious Blood, we are cleansed from our iniquities.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Dear Saviour, I choose to return to Your sacred vine and graft myself desperately and faithfully onto Your saving grace. Without You, I am nothing. In You, I have everything.

Thanksgiving: Thank You God for choosing me and loving me first when You knit me in my mother’s womb.

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