Gospel for Palm Sunday (Luke 22: 14-23:56)
This Palm/ Passion Sunday Gospel ushers us into Holy Week, into the unique reality of the Passion of Christ, where we look betrayal in the face.
Jesus comes to the table, eagerly desiring to have this last meal with his friends, but immediately he is betrayed, betrayed by one of his chosen and trusted: ‘The one who betrays me is with me and his hand is on the table.’ Later in the garden that same hand is lifted towards Jesus to kiss him. Jesus calls him by name, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’
Another friend, Peter, the one who had claimed that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God, betrays him now not once but three times. Jesus is betrayed again by the angry mob, the High Priest and the Scribes, the Council – his very own people, by Pilate, by Herod and back to Pilate again, all the way to the cross.
Right through this trial and path of betrayal, and through the whole journey of His passion, Jesus speaks only words of mercy. When he meets and addresses the women, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, no, weep for yourselves and for your children’, and on the cross itself, He pleads God’s mercy for his executioners: ‘Father forgive them they do not know what they are doing.’
Finally, we see this loving and merciful Jesus, who in his own agony, reaches out to his criminal companion saying, ‘Amen I am telling you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ We can only sit and listen in awe, for truly the sword of betrayal is sharper than the sword of war and death – but that sword is deflected by Jesus’s words of prayer – ‘Father, forgive.’
As we sit with this Gospel, let us hold those whom we know to have been betrayed in front of this loving, merciful, forgiving Saviour – perhaps a spouse betrayed by an unfaithful partner, maybe a young family evicted by an unscrupulous landlord and left homeless, perhaps an elderly parent abandoned and neglected by their selfish, ambitious son or daughter. You will have your own stories/examples of betrayal.
Who have we betrayed, or who has betrayed us and have we forgiven them? Can we hold some of this pain in front of the Betrayed One, allowing his merciful and forgiving love to transform us during this Holy Week?
Sr. Marie Cunningham OP