Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Second Reading: St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 2:6-11
Gospel: According to St. Luke 22:14-23:56
“The New is hidden in the Old, and the Old is made known in the New.” St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo and one of the greatest minds that the Church has ever known, made this statement about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. He was describing the ultimate purpose that the Old Testament holds for those who follow Christ – it solidifies our belief that the Messiah has come and that His name is Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Son of God.
Is there any place in the Old Testament where this is made clearer than in today’s reading from the Psalms? It is eerily accurate as it describes the burdens of the one who feels abandoned by the Lord.
Some might ask how Jesus, if He is indeed the Son of God, could feel abandoned by the Father. Wouldn’t He, as the Second Person of the Divine Trinity, know that the Father would never desert Him? Indeed, as the Second Person, as the Divine Son, He possessed that knowledge. But the human Jesus, prone to all of our human traits, could feel what any one of us would feel if we were betrayed and abandoned by our closest friends; what any one of us would feel if we were tortured, mocked and nailed to a cross.
Is there another situation in all of history where a person could possibly feel more alone, more abandoned?
But to see the words of Christ from the Cross as an act of utter and total despair is to miss the point of why Jesus chose the words that He did.
Psalm 22, the psalm that accompanies this Sunday’s readings, is clearly one of lamentation. The phrasing is, from a purely human standpoint, heart-wrenching in its poignancy, and, from a specifically Christian standpoint, pointedly prophetic. How, other than through divine inspiration, could the psalmist have chosen the imagery that he did to describe what it is like to feel abandoned by God? It is as if he had the ability to see into the future and use the events of the Passion of Christ to convey the loss of all, the loss of God.
The strange thing about this psalm is that despite its early tone, the conclusion is one of great praise and thanksgiving to a God who does not abandon and who in the end brings salvation. The old adage that it is darkest just before the dawn might seem like an empty platitude, but as Jesus hung on the Cross and quoted this psalm He knew that He would be delivered by His loving Father.
Psalm 22 might begin with the line “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” but it concludes with these words: “The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.” We are those people who were “yet unborn,” and we have been delivered by the God Who hung from the Cross and felt all the pain of abandonment that we would ever, or could ever, experience. He took all of this upon Himself, and in doing so showed us an infinitely merciful God in Whom we should never lose hope.
You are invited to join us for a Palm Sunday Vigil Mass, at which we will remember Kevin Healey '07, son of Theology teacher Tom Healey '77. Kevin passed away 10 years ago after a battle with cancer; this weekend he would have celebrated his 30th birthday. Learn more about a special Ask for Almsgiving in his honor and memory HERE.
Mass will be at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, in St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel at Saint Ignatius. All are welcome.