Category Archives: Palm Sunday


14 APRIL 2019.
Homily delivered before the reading of the Passion according to Luke
Rev Tony van Vuuren.

During Holy Week we recall Jesus’ last week on earth and so it opens today as we heard from the Gospel account earlier at the point where Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, welcomed by large crowds of people who have started to identify him as the long-awaited Messiah. But then Luke’s Passion reading will remind us, as Jesus himself warned his disciples, that his mission would not be completed amid popularity and acclaim; the Messiah had to suffer and die in order to reconcile humanity with God.

Palm Sunday isn’t just a commemoration of Jesus’ passion and death: that script belongs particularly to Good Friday, at the end of Holy week.

The Palm Sunday liturgy is more about the movement away from the jubilation and triumph and the popularity Jesus enjoyed among the crowds of ordinary people as he arrived in Jerusalem, to the rejection and hostility he encountered at the end. The character and the message of Palm Sunday is the rapid movement from “Blessings on the King who comes!” to “Away with him! Give us Barabbas! Crucify him!”

Luke describes Jesus’ passion as the ultimate confrontation between the son of God and the forces of evil. It is an opportune time for the devil to attempt to complete the temptation he began in the desert three years ago.

Luke starts his telling of the Passion with an account of the Last Supper which contains some subtle, intimate details. He says, “I have longed to eat this Passover with you.” And as the first Eucharist is celebrated, Jesus uses the words “for you” after the bread and cup are shared, which encourages us to accept Jesus on a personal level.

We will listen as Jesus’ agony in the garden is described in vivid detail, but ultimately we will hear that Jesus accepts his cup of suffering because His one desire is to accomplish His Father’s will and thereby destroy the power of the devil.

In quick succession Luke relates for us how Jesus is arrested, mocked, beaten and questioned, but his messianic strength cannot be overcome. Peter’s denial must be disappointing for Jesus, but when he turns and looks at Peter, we can trust that it is with a look of mercy and forgiveness. Even when he appears to be helpless and defeated Jesus continues to minister powerfully to his disciples.

Jesus is the perfect witness as he testifies to the truth before the chief priests and ultimately before Pilate. He does not refuse the titles “Christ” and “Son of God.” And ultimately seals his own fate by proclaiming that he will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.

Even after he is condemned to death and begins the walk to Golgotha, he stops to comfort some women who are mourning for him. Through unwavering faith and trust in God’s plan, Jesus maintains his union with God and so his ability to still comfort people along the way and despite his agony on the cross comforts and promises eternal life for the repentant criminal.

Jesus begins his passion as he is crucified by uniting himself to the Father in prayer “Father forgive them…”and we hear how he maintains this union to his very last moment. “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Luke’s account has a whole host of characters and so where will we see ourselves among all these people?

What have our past thoughts and actions been regarding the will of the Father?

When have we known the right thing to do but just didn’t do it?

How will reflecting today on Jesus’ Passion and Death and the people he encounters lead us to be strengthened to embrace His Resurrection next weekend?

What darkness holds us back?

How can we change the path we are on to realign it more closely with the will of the Father?

How can we be instrumental in changing our future?

Many questions for us to reflect on as we stand and listen to the Passion of our Lord!


God so loved the world …….

Palm Sunday
Year B
25 March 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

We have arrived at the last Sunday in Lent and the start of Holy Week. In this coming week we commemorate the most profound mysteries of life and death; of God and humankind; of love and sin. The Triduum starting on Thursday evening and continuing through to Easter Sunday is the most holy celebration in our faith.

This is the very nucleus of our faith. Without the events of the Easter Triduum, Christianity would not exist.

We recall the Passion today and we’re going to hear it again on Good Friday.
In the Passion we relive a most defining moment in human history: the brutal killing of the Son of God and the salvation of the world.

With each hearing we hopefully embrace anew the wonder and profound significance of God’s consummate sacrifice of love for us.

I’ve currently reading a book called Rediscovering Catholicism written in 2010 by Matthew Kelly, an American based author and founder of the Dynamic Catholic Institute. In the prologue to the book he presents an analogy of this sacrifice of love that I’d like to share with you in an abridged version.

He says:
Imagine you hear a report on the radio about a small village in India where at least four people have died, suddenly, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. You don’t think too much about it until you hear a week later that the death toll from this, as yet unidentified flu, has risen to thirty thousand in the back hills of India; whole villages have been wiped out.

Within a few days it’s the lead story in all media and the disease is spreading. There are now reports of deaths in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and North Africa. World authorities are scrambling to identify this ‘mystery flu’ and find a vaccine or at least a way to treat those who have been infected. As best they can tell, after contracting the disease, you have it for about a week without any signs of illness, then you have four days of ghastly symptoms, and then you die.

The President of France announces that he is closing the French borders after a man dies from this flu in a hospital in Paris. Panic strikes Europe which soon spreads to the rest of the world.

The British close their borders, but it’s too late; there are reports of people dying in Southampton, Liverpool and London. The United States cancels all flights to and from the USA. But there are already accounts of infected people dying in cities throughout the States and in many more countries around the world.

Scientists in laboratories are working frantically around the clock to find a cure. And then there’s a break through. The code has been broken. A cure has been found. A vaccine can be made. But it’s going to take the blood of someone who hasn’t been infected.

So you and I are asked to do just one thing: Go to the nearest hospital and have our blood tested.

At the hospital there are long lines of people and a constant rush of doctors and nurses taking blood samples. Finally, it’s your turn. You go first, then your spouse and children follow. Once the doctors have taken your blood they tell you to wait in the large car park outside for your name to be called. You stand around with your family and neighbours, scared, waiting, hoping and wondering if this is the end.
Nobody seems to have had their name called.

But then suddenly a young doctor comes running out of the hospital waving a clipboard and yelling a name. You don’t hear him at first but then a whole team of medical staff come out yelling the name and your son tugs at your sleeve and says “Dad, that’s my name they are calling.”
Before you know it they have grabbed your boy and are rushing him back into the hospital.

“Wait a minute. Hold on!” you say, “That’s my son!”
“It’s okay”, they reply “Your son’s blood is perfect and we can use it make a vaccine.”

As the news begins to spread across the car park, people scream and pray and laugh and cry and everyone’s hugging each other.
But there’s a problem. The doctor pulls you aside and tells you “We weren’t expecting it to be a child …….we need you to sign consent.”

“How much of his blood do you need?” you ask.
The doctor looks uncomfortable and after a short pause says quietly “We are going to need it all!”
“What do mean you need it all? I don’t understand! He’s my only son!”

The doctor grabs you by the shoulders and looking straight into your eyes says “We are talking about the whole world here. Do you understand? The whole world! Please sign the form.”

In numb silence you sign the form because you know it’s the only thing to do.
You walk into the hospital room where your son is being prepared for the procedure but are soon asked to leave.

Your son is crying out to you “Mom? Dad? What’s going on? Where are you going? Don’t leave me alone! Why are you abandoning me?”

A few months later, they hold a ceremony to honour your son for his phenomenal contribution to humanity …..but some people sleep through it, others don’t even bother to come, while others sit and fidget and say things like “This is so boring.”
Would you not want to stand up and say “Excuse me! My son died so that you could live. He died for you! Does it mean nothing to you?”

Perhaps that is what God wants to say.
Perhaps when we hear the Passion read again on Friday we’ll comprehend a little better the great love that our Father has for us.

Matthew’s Passion narrative

Palm Sunday
Cycle A
13th April 2014.

Homily given before reading the Passion.

Imagine that you are a non-Christian, reading a copy of Matthew’s Gospel for the very first time. Not knowing anything about Christianity, you would probably notice an odd thing about the writing; in Matthew’s Gospel there is more detail supplied about Jesus’ final hours than about any other event in his life. Immediately you ask: “What was so significant about this person’s death? Why would it overshadow all the good things he said and did during his life?”

The community of believers that Matthew wrote his Gospel for were primarily Jewish converts to Christianity. They were under tremendous pressure; not only were they still under Roman rule, but they were driven out of their synagogues for their belief in Jesus. And on top of this their newly born church was witnessing an influx of non-Jewish converts. For the first time, Jews found themselves worshipping and living alongside Gentiles who accepted the Gospel. The pressure to accept this new reality must have been great.

It was to this situation of community upheaval that Matthew began speaking and writing of things that were important to his audience’s circumstances. So while Matthew did reveal the importance of Jesus’ sayings and miracles, he maintained the primary focus on Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, death and resurrection because in these events he saw the principal work of our salvation.

Without Jesus’ cross, all his words and deeds would lose their power and meaning.

By listening to and examining some of the key elements in Matthew’s passion narrative we can appreciate the community for which Matthew wrote and gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ victory on the cross as it applies to our lives today.

From the outset Matthew’s passion narrative reveals Jesus as a Messiah who remains in control of the events leading to his arrest and death. A difficult trial faces Jesus, but he embraces the struggle decisively, confident as the Son of God that he is doing his Father’s will; fulfilling his plan in all things. Here at the end of his ministry he is readily moving forward to his trial and death.

God is in control’ despite the upheaval, chaos and pain. However it may appear to the chief priests and scribes thinking they have the upper hand, Jesus decisively embraces the passion as the very moment for which he has been preparing his whole life.

Jesus’ suffering is no accident or twist of fate. It is not a by product of the chief priests’ opposition, Judas’s betrayal or Pilate’s power. Jesus’ death is God’s will for the salvation of all humankind. Matthew makes no attempt to hide the emotional turmoil this decision causes Jesus.

Listen and you will hear the real, human sorrow and anguish evident when Jesus prays: “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass me by.” Jesus does not shrink back from the anguish of his cross.

He endures it to win our salvation. Matthew’s community undergoing upheaval and suffering was also encouraged to follow the way of the cross.

At the end of the Last Supper Jesus tells his disciples: “I shall not drink wine again until that day when I will drink new wine with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Indicating his awareness of his fate and it also made Matthew’s early readers aware that they could no longer look back to the Mosaic laws and rituals from which they had come.

This new stage of history begins at the very moment of Jesus’ death, as Matthew shows with the dramatic events that occur immediately thereafter: such as the earth shaking and rocks splitting and the tombs of the saints opening.

Jesus’ death accomplishes the very thing that Judaism looked for with the coming of the Messiah; the new era of the reign of God; when he promised to shake the earth and raise up his holy ones. Our salvation and renewal began when Jesus died on the cross.

Yet God’s chosen people; even ten of Jesus’ own disciples; missed its inauguration. It is left to a group of outsiders, the roman soldiers, who readily accept the cross and the signs of transformation that accompanies it.

By telling the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection as he did, Matthew sought to hold out hope to a community undergoing enormous pressure from inside and out. On a personal level we all experience struggles: the pain of rejection, the challenge to do God’s will in the face of opposition; the sorrow of apparent failures that face us every day.

Like Matthew’s community, we too can learn that not every obstacle comes from outside ourselves. “The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak.” Growth and renewal come at a price; opening ourselves to be shaken up and allowing the Spirit to breathe new life into us. Let us look inside ourselves to discover that part of us that is the least like the Spirit and thus the weakest part of us.

The message of the passion is that Jesus is with us in this process of upheaval of our old life. While it is a challenge to follow the way of the cross, it is at the same time our best hope.

If we understand anything from listening and praying through Matthew’s narrative, the truth is that Jesus has already won the victory. We do not see its fullness, but neither could Jesus’ disciples. Hopefully we can take it in little by little, perhaps it takes a whole lifetime for that truth to reach our human brains, melt into our hearts and transform our very lives.

Perhaps a final comment after listening to the passion narrative is simply a quietly personal, yet profound “Thank you.”

Ref: Devotional Commentary

Leo Zanchettin