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Saturday 4 April 2020

Palm Sunday, A.D. 2020 (in time of pandemic)

In the Church’s liturgical year we approach the peak of salvation history. All that has been anticipated and promised is fulfilled through the Passion of the Christ.  

In a stark metaphor, the world today is reaching a peak in the infection models that are depicted everywhere in the media. These grim predictions come even as, collectively, we go through a valley of human dread – "the valley of the shadow of death" as the world confronts the Coronavirus (COVED-19), an evil and unseen menace which threatens millions.  

The Passion of Christ comes to pass in fulfillment of what the prophets had foretold as Jesus, himself, tells us in the Gospel according to Matthew (26:56).  

The work of our redemption is accomplished; the new covenant is written in the blood of Jesus’ whose broken body hangs upon the cross at the place called the Skull, an all too vivid image of human frailty and mortality.

During his Passion, Jesus is “counted among the wicked,” as Isaiah had foretold (Isaiah 53:12). He is revealed definitively as the Suffering Servant. The prophet announced the long-awaited Messiah whose words of obedience and faith ring out in today’s reading from Isaiah: "I was not rebellious, I turned not backward, I gave my back to those who struck me."

The taunts and torments we hear in these readings punctuate the Gospel as Jesus is beaten and mocked (Matt 27:31).  His hands and feet are pierced, even as enemies gamble for his clothes (Matthew 27:35). His enemies dare Jesus to prove his divinity by saving himself from suffering (Matthew 27:39–44).

Jesus remains faithful to the will of God. He does not turn back in his suffering for us and so today is with us in our fear and suffering. Jesus gives himself freely in submission to his torturers, confident as he expresses confidence in the words of the Prophet: “The Lord God is my help. . . . I shall not be put to shame.”

Having fallen into sin and death as children of Adam’s disobedience, we are set free for holiness and life by Christ’s perfect obedience to the will of God even as he faces the starkest of human suffering. (Romans 5:12–14, 17–19)

God greatly exalts Jesus as the conqueror of sin and death and so those baptized into his suffering and death are given the gift of salvation, resurrection and communion with God and his saints.

Following the example of Jesus in humble obedience in the trials and crosses of our lives, we know that we will never be forsaken. We know, as the centurion acclaimed: "truly [Jesus] is the Son of God." (Matthew 27:54)

Isaiah 50:4–7
Psalm 22:8–9, 17–20, 23–24
Philippians 2:6–11
Matthew 26:14–27:66

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