Welcoming, Valuing, Accompanying, Choosing and Helping Jesus this Holy Week, Palm Sunday (A), April 13, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Palm Sunday, Year A
April 13, 2014
Mt 21:1-11, Is 50:4-7, Ps 22, Phil 2:6-11, Mt 26:14-27:66

To listen to an audio recording of the chanted Passion of the Lord according to St. Matthew, please click below: 

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

The following text guided the homily: 

The meaning of Holy Week

We have now begun the week that the Church calls “holy.” It’s holy, first, because of all Jesus Christ did during these days, from the triumphal entry into his city at the beginning of this Mass, to his teaching in the Temple, to the Last Supper, to his prayer in Gethsemane, to his arrest, torture, crucifixion, preaching and death on Good Friday, to his rest in the tomb, and his glorious resurrection on the third day. It’s also called holy because it’s meant to make us holy, if we live this week the right way, if we enter into the mysteries we celebrate, if we internalize all Jesus won for us during these most holy of days. Holy Week is supposed to be our most faith-filled week of the year, but that requires our choosing to make it the most faith-filled week of the year.

Today in the Gospel at the beginning of Mass and in the Passion we just chanted, we see five different ways we’re called to respond to Jesus with faith this week so that he through these sacred mysteries may fulfill his desire to save and sanctify us.

Welcoming Jesus

The first thing we learn is how to welcome Jesus.

There was great expectation as to whether Jesus was coming to the feast. Many thought he wouldn’t because they had heard the rumors that the chief priests and the Sanhedrin were trying to arrest Jesus and have him executed. But Jesus came anyway. And we see how the people responded. St. Matthew tells us in the Gospel that we heard before our procession, “The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following, [especially the young people,] kept crying out, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” There was tremendous excitement. People came out of their homes. They laid down their clothes on the road, something they would do only for a king. They saw him riding on a donkey, just as David had Solomon do when he made him a king (1 Kings 1:33, 38). They recognized that this was the fulfillment of Zechariah’s Messianic prophecy, “Say to daughter Zion, ‘Behold your King comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

Their attitude shows us the type of exhilaration we should have to welcome Jesus this Holy Week. We should be running out of our homes. We should be praising him with our words, with our gestures like waving palms, with our clothes, and with our whole mind, heart, soul and strength. Our life should change as we seek to come out to welcome Jesus as he during this week seeks to rescue us from sin and death and make eternal life possible.

If we’re looking for an even deeper image of how we’re supposed to welcome Jesus and live this Holy Week we can turn to the donkey that Jesus used to enter into the Holy City. Jesus had sent two disciples ahead of him, saying, “Go into the village opposite you and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The Master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.” And that’s precisely what happened. We’re called to serve Jesus like that donkey. The Master has need of us this week.

As we were processing into the Church today, we sang together the classic Palm Sunday hymn, “All Glory, Laud and Honor, which is a 19th century translation of a hymn that has been sung by Christians on this day for 1200 years. When the Anglican translator John Neale was bringing this ancient prayer into English, however, he intentionally omitted one of the verses because he thought during the Victorian era in Britain that to mention the English typical word for “donkey” — “jackass” or “ass” for short — would have negative consequences in people’s prayer. But in excluding that verse he also left out what we all can learn from the donkey. The Latin words were, “Sis pius ascensor, tuus et nos simus asellus. Tecum nos capitat urbs veneranda Dei,” which can be translated in lyrical English as, “Be thou, O Lord, the Rider and we the little ass, that to God’s holy city, together we may pass.” Jesus wants to enter the Holy City with us. He wants us to collaborate with him in this work of his salvation.

St. Josemaria Escriva, the great 20th century apostle of the sanctification of the laity, sought to imitate and help others to emulate this donkey in welcoming Jesus and assisting his work. He wrote, “Jesus makes do with a poor animal for a throne. I don’t know about you; but I am not humiliated to acknowledge that in the Lord’s eyes I am a beast of burden: ‘I am like a donkey in your presence, [Lord,] but I am continually with you. You hold my right hand, you take me by the bridle. You have led me to carry out your will, that is, you have made me faithful to my vocation.’” He wrote on another occasion, “There are hundreds of animals more beautiful, more deft and strong. But it was a donkey Christ chose when he presented himself to the people as king in response to their acclamation.” Jesus wants us, like a donkey, to be a docile, diligent, steady companion. “With your donkey,” St. Josemaria would pray elsewhere, speaking to the Lord about himself, “do whatever you please. Like the mischievous children of earth, pull my ears, give this silly donkey a good whack, and make him run the way you want… I want to be your donkey. I want to be patient, hardworking, and faithful… Make your donkey, Jesus, get such control over his poor asinine sensuality that he doesn’t respond to the spurs with kicks, that he carries his load with delight, and that his thoughts and his braying and his work are saturated with your Love.”

That’s the type of cooperation Jesus wants in all of us this Holy Week. He hopes that we will make our own St. Josemaria’s words to Jesus, “Here I am, because you called me! Like a donkey – a faithful little donkey who won’t leave your side!”

What’s Jesus worth? 

The second thing we learn is how to value Jesus appropriately.

At the beginning of the Passion account, Judas goes to the Chief Priests and the Scribes and asks, “What are you willing to give me if I hand Jesus over to you?” They gave him 30 pieces of silver, which likely meant the 30 shekels of silver that it cost to purchase a slave. One shekel of silver was about 3 days wages. And so Judas got the equivalent of about 90 days wages, or a quarter-of-a-year’s salary. For someone making $40,000 today, that would be about $10,000 in today’s money. Judas took the deal.

It raises the question for us as to how much we value Jesus. Would we take $10,000 to betray him? What about $100,000? What about $1 billion? Do we have a price for betraying Jesus? The reality is that many people today betray Jesus not for 90 days wages but for one day’s wage, putting work above worship on the Lord’s day. Many account Jesus less valuable than an extra hour’s sleep. Some sell him out for soccer practice. We need to be candid about these betrayals.

If we’re going to live Holy Week — and life — the way God wants, we need to commit ourselves never to sell Jesus out.

We see an example of someone who would never betray Jesus in the scene that occurred right before the Palm Sunday procession. Jesus was in the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany. Mary came and anointed Jesus with costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and dried Jesus’ feet with her hair. Judas — who as Archbishop Sheen once said knew the price of everything and the true value of nothing — objected, “Why was this oil not sold for 300 days wages and given to the poor?” If Mary were earning $40,000 today, Judas was saying she had just “wasted” $33,000 anointing Jesus’ feet! Jesus, however, defended her, not because he wanted such attention, but because of the love that was behind her gesture. “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” he said. “She has anointed my body beforehand for burying and wherever the Gospel is preached what she did will be told of her.”

We need to ask ourselves the question: What are we going to do in anticipation of Jesus’ burial? Are we going to “waste” our time, “waste” our money, “waste” our lives on Jesus like Mary did, or are we going to say that Jesus isn’t worth it? Mary of Bethany was willing to spend 6/7 of her annual salary on Jesus. What sacrifices are we willing to make for him who made the supreme sacrifice for us?

We will sing at the end of Mass today one of the greatest Christian hymns ever written in English, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. The final verse of the hymn is so moving: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small, for love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” To celebrate Holy Week well, we need to give Jesus our all. If we’re not willing to give all for him who gave all to us, then, in fact, we have found a price that we’ll take to betray him.

Strengthening our Weak Flesh through Prayer 

The third thing the readings today teach us is how important it is to stay awake with Jesus in prayer.

We see what happened with St. Peter and the other apostles. St. Matthew describes that when they arrived in Gethsemane, Jesus said to them, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.’” Peter said to him in reply, “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.” Jesus answered, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter forcefully retorted, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” St. Matthew tells us all the disciples spoke likewise. But we know that within a few hours Peter three times denied knowing Jesus and all of the other disciples abandoned him as well. During the Last Supper shortly before, Jesus had said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” He could have save more accurately, “Amen, I say to you, all of you will betray me?”

But the question for us is why. Why did they betray the one they truly loved? We can somewhat understand why Judas treacherously betrayed Jesus. But why did Peter and the others? Jesus gave the explanation to Peter and to us in the Garden of Gethsemane. He brought Peter, James and John with him to a secluded place of the Garden to pray with him, but when he returned to where the three apostles were, he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Peter’s spirit would never betray the Lord, but his flesh was frail and needed to be fortified in order to remain faithful.

As we enter into this Holy Week, Jesus wants us to come away with him and pray that we may not undergo the test, that our flesh might be strengthened to be faithful like our spirit wants to be faithful. Like Peter, we who have so often professed our faith in Jesus have fallen when the temptations have struck, temptations to hide our faith in him in the front of family members, or coworkers, or fellow students or the general public. We’ve failed to remain faithful when tempted toward all types of sins. We’ll be tempted again this week to focus on all types of other things than to focus on the Lord Jesus. Jesus says to us, what he said to Peter, James and John, “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. For the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” He wants to strengthen us through prayer to remain true to him under trial, as he was faithful all the way to the end. Pope Francis poignantly asked us this morning in his homily during Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square: Are we like the disciples who “slept while the Lord was suffering? Is my life asleep?” If it is, this is the week to wake up from sleep, to rise from a somnolent or dead spiritual life.

Jesus asks us to come away and pray with him, however, not just to help strengthen our flesh to withstand temptations, but simply because he wants our solidarity. Back in 2012, Pope-emeritus Benedict said, Jesus “does not want to be left alone. … He wants at least three disciples to be near him, to be in a closer relationship with him. This is a spacial closeness, a plea for solidarity at the moment in which he feels death approaching, but above all it is closeness in prayer, in a certain way to express harmony with him at the moment when he is preparing to do the Father’s will to the very end; and it is an invitation to every disciple to follow him on the Way of Cross.” Pope Benedict concludes, “The Gospel accounts of Gethsemane regretfully show that the three disciples, chosen by Jesus to be close to him, were unable to watch with him, sharing in his prayer, in his adherence to the Father and they were overcome by sleep. … Let us ask the Lord to enable us to keep watch with him in prayer, to follow the will of God every day even if he speaks of the Cross, to live in ever greater intimacy with the Lord.”

Jesus wants us all to come away with him and pray during these holy days. He wants our company. He wants to strengthen us.

When does he want our company? If this week is going to be holy, he wants it throughout the week, but the most important times are the three nights of the Holy Triduum.

  • Jesus wants us to come on Holy Thursday night for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 pm. Jesus said to the apostles at the beginning of that most precious meal of all time, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.” Jesus says the same thing to us: with great eagerness, he wants to eat that Passover with you and me. But are we going to put Jesus before everything else that might be on the schedule that night?
  • Jesus wants us to come on Good Friday for the Passion Service at 7 pm, in which we will together be with Jesus as he dies for us on the Cross to save us, as we hear St. John’s account of his suffering and death, as we venerate his Cross, as we receive the body and blood he gave for us on the Cross. We’ve shifted the time from 3 to 7 to make it easiest for people to come, but if there’s one day during the year in which every Christian should think about taking a personal day, it’s Good Friday. If there’s a day in which students should play hookey from school, it’s Good Friday. Most of us would readily take time off of work to be with someone we love — a mother or father, a husband or wife, a child or best friend — as they were dying. We need to be just as practical about being with Jesus on Good Friday as he dies so that through his death we won’t have to die forever.
  • Jesus also wants us to come to the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, which is by far the most important and beautiful Mass of the entire year, in which we thank God the Father for the great gift of Jesus’ resurrection and what it means for us and the world. There are also Masses on Easter Sunday morning, but they’re not the same thing as the Easter Vigil, in which we enter with faith into all the central events of salvation history, see how they’re all fulfilled in Christ, and rejoice in faith for the new life that God gives us. It’s the most important Mass of the year and the Mass that changes us most as we celebrate it, because it helps us to push ourselves to the limit in our love and gratitude to God and in the celebration of our faith in Jesus’ resurrection and what that means for each of us here and now.

Those are the three most important events. But there are others to which he invites us to join him, to strengthen our weak flesh and to help him not experience the abandonment of which he cries out on the Cross and experienced in the Garden.

  • On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be daily Mass at 8 am focusing on what happened immediately before the Last Supper to get us ready. The chapel will be open for prayer afterward until 3.
  • On Holy Thursday, after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we’ll have a beautiful altar of repose in the chapel where we will be with Jesus until midnight. Jesus asked Peter, James and John in the Garden after the Last Supper, “Can you not stay awake with me and pray for an hour?” He would love to have each of us make a commitment to be here with him in prayer for an hour or more.
  • On Good Friday, we will have several events before the Passion Service. From noon to three, we will a beautiful service of prayer, preaching and music on the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross, entering into Jesus’ mind and heart as struggled through excruciating pain to say these words to us from the Cross and what it means for our journey in faith. At 3 pm, we will begin the Novena to Divine Mercy, followed by confessions. And at 6 pm, to get us ready for the Passion Service, we will pray the Stations of the Cross.

Please make a commitment to come to be with Jesus so that he may strengthen and sanctify you this week as he wants to.

Choosing Jesus

The fourth thing today’s readings teach us is about the dramatic choice we’re called to make.

After Pontius Pilate recognized that Jesus was being framed, he wanted to set him free, but he wanted to do it in a way in which the crowd would take responsibility for his liberation rather than he take it, so that he wouldn’t be so vulnerable to retaliation if the Sanhedrin reported him to his superiors in Rome. So he proposed, according to custom at Passover time, to set free one prisoner, and he chose a “notorious” one he never could have imagined the crowds would choose over the innocent Jesus. And he asked, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas or Jesus, called Messiah?” Spurred on by the chief priests and the elders, only five days after they hailed Jesus saying “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” the mob in the praetorium shouted, “Barabbas!” Pilate, shocked, said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” And St. Matthew tells us the crowd yelled, “Let him be crucified!” Pilate was aghast, saying, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” And so Pilate, a true coward, assented.

We’ve heard the name Barabbas so many times that the choice that was made in that courtyard doesn’t shock us as much as it startled Pontius Pilate. But to update it in today’s terms, to choose Barabbas then would be like choosing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber, today if Pilate asked, “Whom do you want me to release to you, Jesus or Dzhokar?” Or it would be as if Pilate put forward Osama bin Laden or Ted Bundy or Adolf Hitler. Pilate nominated someone that he never thought the crowd would choose over Jesus and yet the crowd not only chose the insurrectionist, thief and murderer but clamored for Jesus’ crucifixion!

We might look back and say that we would never have done that if we were present in Pilate’s courtyard that day. But as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen says in his beautiful Stations of the Cross we pray each Friday night, “How would I have answered that question had I been in the courtyard that Good Friday morning? I cannot escape answering by saying that the question belongs only to the past, for it is as actual now as ever. My conscience is the tribunal of Pilate. Daily, hourly, and every minute of the day, Christ comes before that tribunal, as virtue, honesty, and purity. Barabbas comes as vice, dis¬honesty, and uncleanness. As often as I choose to speak the uncharitable word, do the dishonest action, or consent to the evil thought, I say in so many words, ‘Release unto me Barabbas.’ And to choose Barabbas means to crucify Christ.”

Choosing Jesus on the most momentous occasions comes from choosing Jesus repeatedly and faithfully in small decisions, choosing to pray, choosing to receive his forgiveness and share it, choosing to love him in our neighbor, choosing to ponder his words in the Bible rather than spending our time watching or reading the news, choosing to make him in the Eucharist the source and summit of our life. To live a truly Holy Week, we must choose Jesus over all of the tempting Barabbases that will come our way. And we’ll be tempted by Barabbas in disguise this week, to put something more important than God on Holy Thursday, or Good Friday, or Holy Saturday. Stay alert!

Becoming Simons of Cyrene

The last thing that the readings teach us to live Holy Week well is our need to help Jesus carry his Cross

St. Matthew tells us, “As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they compelled into service to carry his cross.” Simon didn’t want to do it. They needed to force him. But he did it and over the course of the journey he was transformed, such that not only he became a disciple but his whole family did, such that his sons Rufus and Alexander became leading members and missionaries among the first generation of Christian disciples.

Similarly, this week, God the Father is compelling us to help his Son carry his Cross. Jesus said that we cannot be his disciples unless we deny ourselves, pick up our Cross each day and follow him. That’s a condition for the entire year, but especially in Holy Week, it’s a particularly pressing summons. Jesus wants us to be co-redeemers with him, to make up what is lacking in his sufferings for the sake of the salvation of the world. As he was dying, he was incorporating into himself all our sacrifices, all our crosses, united with his. He continues to carry his Cross through time, in all the suffering members of his body. This week is a week in which we help him carry his Cross by helping others carry theirs, by visiting and consoling the sick, by offering to drive the infirm or elderly to the services during the Triduum, by finishing well, even heroically, the Lenten call to almsgiving. The Father compels us like the Romans compelled Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry his Cross because if we’re carrying the Cross we Jesus we will be near him, we will be united with him, we will be collaborating with him throughout this week, which is exactly how this week will be holy and make us holy.

To welcome Jesus, to value him appropriately, to accompany him in prayer, to choose him over every Barabbas, and to help him carry his redeeming Cross, that is the means by which we will live with faith this most important week of the year. That’s the pathway by which Jesus will make us holy like he is holy during this special week of sanctification.

Living Holy Week Every Mass

There is no better place to start on those five activities than here at Palm Sunday Mass. The Mass we celebrate is in itself Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday altogether in one. In a few minutes we again will shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.” We will enter into the Upper Room. We will climb Calvary where we will be not just witnesses but participants in the very same death of the Lord once-and-for-all for us and our salvation. And through receiving his risen Body and Blood, we will leave with him from the tomb of death and get a foretaste of the eternal wedding banquet in that kingdom Jesus won for us by the very passion, death and resurrection we will be celebrating this week and celebrate now.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

At The Procession With Palms – Gospel
MT 21:1-11

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me.
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply,
‘The master has need of them.’
Then he will send them at once.”
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
“Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them,
and he sat upon them.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from the trees
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”
And the crowds replied,
“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

At The Mass – Reading 1
IS 50:4-7

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

R/ (2a) My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
All who see me scoff at me;
they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:
“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,
let him rescue him, if he loves him.”
R/ My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Indeed, many dogs surround me,
a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;
They have pierced my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
R/ My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
They divide my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, be not far from me;
O my help, hasten to aid me.
R/ My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, praise him;
all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”
R/ My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Reading 2
PHIL 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel
MT 26:14-27:66

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity
to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
“Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He said in reply,
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating,
Jesus took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and giving it to his disciples said,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink from it, all of you,
for this is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed on behalf of many
for the forgiveness of sins.
I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it with you new
in the kingdom of my Father.”
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Then Jesus said to them,
“This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken,
for it is written:
I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed
;
but after I have been raised up,
I shall go before you to Galilee.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Though all may have their faith in you shaken,
mine will never be.”
Jesus said to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
this very night before the cock crows,
you will deny me three times.”
Peter said to him,
“Even though I should have to die with you,
I will not deny you.”
And all the disciples spoke likewise.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane,
and he said to his disciples,
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee,
and began to feel sorrow and distress.
Then he said to them,
“My soul is sorrowful even to death.
Remain here and keep watch with me.”
He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying,
“My Father, if it is possible,
let this cup pass from me;
yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep.
He said to Peter,
“So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?
Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again,
“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass
without my drinking it, your will be done!”
Then he returned once more and found them asleep,
for they could not keep their eyes open.
He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time,
saying the same thing again.
Then he returned to his disciples and said to them,
“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?
Behold, the hour is at hand
when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.
Get up, let us go.
Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

While he was still speaking,
Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived,
accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs,
who had come from the chief priests and the elders
of the people.
His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying,
“The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.”
Immediately he went over to Jesus and said,
“Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him.
Jesus answered him,
“Friend, do what you have come for.”
Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus
put his hand to his sword, drew it,
and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear.
Then Jesus said to him,
“Put your sword back into its sheath,
for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father
and he will not provide me at this moment
with more than twelve legions of angels?
But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled
which say that it must come to pass in this way?”
At that hour Jesus said to the crowds,
“Have you come out as against a robber,
with swords and clubs to seize me?
Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area,
yet you did not arrest me.
But all this has come to pass
that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.”
Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Those who had arrested Jesus led him away
to Caiaphas the high priest,
where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
Peter was following him at a distance
as far as the high priest’s courtyard,
and going inside he sat down with the servants
to see the outcome.
The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin
kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus
in order to put him to death,
but they found none,
though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward who stated,
“This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God
and within three days rebuild it.’”
The high priest rose and addressed him,
“Have you no answer?
What are these men testifying against you?”
But Jesus was silent.
Then the high priest said to him,
“I order you to tell us under oath before the living God
whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“You have said so.
But I tell you:
From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power’
and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’”
Then the high priest tore his robes and said,
“He has blasphemed!
What further need have we of witnesses?
You have now heard the blasphemy;
what is your opinion?”
They said in reply,
“He deserves to die!”
Then they spat in his face and struck him,
while some slapped him, saying,
“Prophesy for us, Christ: who is it that struck you?”
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard.
One of the maids came over to him and said,
“You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”
But he denied it in front of everyone, saying,
“I do not know what you are talking about!”
As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him
and said to those who were there,
“This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.”
Again he denied it with an oath,
“I do not know the man!”
A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter,
“Surely you too are one of them;
even your speech gives you away.”
At that he began to curse and to swear,
“I do not know the man.”
And immediately a cock crowed.
Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken:
“Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.”
He went out and began to weep bitterly.

When it was morning,
all the chief priests and the elders of the people
took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.
They bound him, led him away,
and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned,
deeply regretted what he had done.
He returned the thirty pieces of silver
to the chief priests and elders, saying,
“I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.”
They said,
“What is that to us?
Look to it yourself.”
Flinging the money into the temple,
he departed and went off and hanged himself.
The chief priests gathered up the money, but said,
“It is not lawful to deposit this in the temple treasury,
for it is the price of blood.”
After consultation, they used it to buy the potter’s field
as a burial place for foreigners.
That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah
the prophet,
And they took the thirty pieces of silver,
the value of a man with a price on his head,
a price set by some of the Israelites,
and they paid it out for the potter’s field
just as the Lord had commanded me.

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You say so.”
And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders,
he made no answer.
Then Pilate said to him,
“Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”
But he did not answer him one word,
so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast
the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd
one prisoner whom they wished.
And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them,
“Which one do you want me to release to you,
Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that they had handed him over.
While he was still seated on the bench,
his wife sent him a message,
“Have nothing to do with that righteous man.
I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”
The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds
to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.
The governor said to them in reply,
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They answered, “Barabbas!”
Pilate said to them,
“Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?”
They all said,
“Let him be crucified!”
But he said,
“Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder,
“Let him be crucified!”
When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all,
but that a riot was breaking out instead,
he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd,
saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.
Look to it yourselves.”
And the whole people said in reply,
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
Then he released Barabbas to them,
but after he had Jesus scourged,
he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium
and gathered the whole cohort around him.
They stripped off his clothes
and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head,
and a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
They spat upon him and took the reed
and kept striking him on the head.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him off to crucify him.

As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon;
this man they pressed into service
to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha
¬—which means Place of the Skull —,
they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.
But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.
After they had crucified him,
they divided his garments by casting lots;
then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
And they placed over his head the written charge against him:
This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,
one on his right and the other on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself, if you are the Son of God,
and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him
also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus
feared greatly when they saw the earthquake
and all that was happening, and they said,
“Truly, this was the Son of God!”
There were many women there, looking on from a distance,
who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.
Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph,
and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

When it was evening,
there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph,
who was himself a disciple of Jesus.
He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus;
then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.
Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen
and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock.
Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb
and departed.
But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

The next day, the one following the day of preparation,
the chief priests and the Pharisees
gathered before Pilate and said,
“Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said,
‘After three days I will be raised up.’
Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day,
lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people,
‘He has been raised from the dead.’
This last imposture would be worse than the first.”
Pilate said to them,
“The guard is yours;
go, secure it as best you can.”
So they went and secured the tomb
by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.