Liturgical Readings for Palm Sunday
St. Paul’s Bible Group
The readings for Palm Sunday are unique, there is no other Sunday of the year where
we begin rejoicing chanting “Hosanna” and end up yelling “Crucify him!” But doesn’t
this sound like what is happening today in the world towards Christ and his Church with
so many nations who were once very Catholic and today despise the faith.
PROCESSION GOSPEL : Luke 19:28-40
Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. Now when he was near Bethphage and
Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives as it is called, he sent two of the disciples, telling
them, ‘Go off to the village opposite, and as you enter it you will find a tethered colt
that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you
untying it?” you are to say this, “The Master needs it”.’ The messengers went off and
found everything just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owner said,
‘Why are you untying that colt?’ and they answered, ‘The Master needs it’.
So they took the colt to Jesus, and throwing their garments over its back they helped
Jesus on to it. As he moved off, people spread their cloaks in the road, and now, as he
was approaching the downward slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole group of
disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they
had seen. They cried out:
‘Blessings on the King who comes, in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in
the highest heavens!’
Some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Master, check your disciples’, but he
answered, ‘I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out’.
* King: Quoting psalm 118:26, which was the processional hymn sung at the Feast of
Tabernacles, St. Luke adds the word “king” to refer to our Lord’s triumphant entry into
the Holy City, however, Jesus knows that He is entering Jerusalem for the last time, to
be treated as a mock king and put to death among criminals.
Peace in heaven: This reminds us of the message the angels brought to the shepherds
at the birth of our Lord (Lk 2:14). From the beginning of his earthly life and up to the
end, Jesus remains the Prince of peace.
If these keep silence the stones will cry out: This echoes the Baptist’s admonition: “And
do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that
out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” (Mt 3:9)
FIRST READING: Isaiah 50:4-7
The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue. So that I may know how to reply to the
wearied he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear.
For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.
The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.
*A disciple’s tongue … he wakes me to hear: If we want a disciples tongue, we must
hear God’s message of truth. Hence the importance of reading our Bible, studying our
Catechism, being familiar with the Liturgy, the lives of saints, etc.
I offered my back to those who struck me: God’s Suffering Servant speaks through
Isaiah accepting insults and spittle. The Jewish people see themselves collectively as the
suffering servant, but to Christians, the identity of this mysterious hero has been
revealed: Jesus of Nazareth.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Ps 21
Response : My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
1 All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him if this is his friend.’ Response
2 Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet.
I can count every one of my bones. Response
3 They divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me! Response
4 I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel’s sons.’ Response
* They tear holes in my hands and my feet: King David wrote this line, but he was
speaking figuratively, however, this is the psalm which first line our Lord quoted from
the cross when he said “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34; Mt
27:46; Ps 21 or 22). Interestingly, the same Psalm ends by praising God, just like the
Passion of our Lord ended in the Resurrection.
SECOND READING: Philippians 2:6-11
His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to
assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he
was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high
and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens,
on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that
every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
*The basis for Christian humility: St. Paul tells us that He whose state was divine
humbled himself to the point of death. How much more then, we sinners should be
willing to serve God and neighbour and give our lives for the faith.
He did not cling to his equality with God: This is how Christ did reparation for the sin of
Adam who, in the garden, wanted to be like God (cf. Gen 3:5).
All beings … bend the knee at the name of Jesus: Our Lord, who is true God and true
man, will receive the honor that his divinity deserves, whether we like it or not, hence
we read: “in heaven, on earth and the underworld.” No one can escape this ultimate act
Gospel Acclamation Phil 2: 8-9
Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory!
Christ was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.
But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all names.
Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory!
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
Luke: 23:1-49 (Shorter form)
The elders of the people and the chief priests and scribes rose and they brought Jesus
They began their accusation by saying, ‘We found this man inciting our people to revolt,
opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king’. Pilate put
to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’ he replied.
Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no case against this man.’ But
they persisted, ‘He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judaea; it has come
all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.’ When Pilate heard this, he
asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction he
passed him over to Herod who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a
long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by
him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile
the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then
Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he
put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had
been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.
Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. ‘You
brought this man before me’ he said ‘as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the
matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the
charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since is he has sent him back to us.
As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, so I shall have him
flogged and then let him go.’ But as one man they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us
Barabbas!’ (This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for
Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back,
‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ And for the third time he spoke to them, ‘Why? What harm
has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have
him punished and then let him go’ But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices,
demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.
Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they
asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to
them to deal with as they pleased.
As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was
coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus.
Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented
for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for
me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come
when people will say, “Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never
borne, the breasts that have never suckled!” Then they will begin to say to the
mountains, “Fall on us!”; to the hills, “Cover us”. For if men use the green wood like this,
what will happen when it is dry?’ Now with him they were also leading out two other
criminals to be executed.
When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two
criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them;
they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.
The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved
others,’ they said ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The
soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said, ‘If you
are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the
King of the Jews.’
One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save
yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of
God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved
it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said
‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied
‘today you will be with me in paradise.’
It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the
whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle;
and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit
my spirit’ With these words he breathed his last.
When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said, ‘This
was a great and good man.’ And when all the people who had gathered for the
spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.
All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him
from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.
*Opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar: The elders and the Chief priests lied, for
as we know, our Lord never refused payment of the tribute to Caesar, for He said: “Pay
Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and God what belongs to God.” (Mk 12:17)
Are you the king of the Jews? The theme of kingship lingers around quite consistently
throughout our Lord’s encounter with the Romans. Consider the crown of thorns (Jn
19:2) or the sign which Pilate ordered put on the cross “Jesus of Nazareth King of the
Jews” (Jn 19:19).
Herod questioned him without reply: What a frightful thought that God himself could
have nothing to say to someone, just as bad as hearing him say “It would have been
better for that man if he had not been born.” (Mt 26:24).
I have found no case against him … so I shall have him punished: Pilate acted unjustly
by punishing someone he found innocent. His job was to uphold the law, but instead, he
chose to please the crowds … we see a lot of this in today’s democracies.
Crucify him! Crucify him! This could very well be the same crowd which a few days
earlier were saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Lk 19:38),
now under the influence of the chief priests and scribes, thus showing how easily we too
are influenced by our surroundings.
Barabbas: This Aramaic name, Bar (son) – abba (father), means “son of the father.”
Pilate released a man imprisoned for rioting and murder: It is interesting to see that, by
rejecting Jesus the Son of the Father, evil is released into the world, and men become
sons of the father of lies: Satan (Jn 8:44).
Green wood … what will happen when it is dry? Our Lord was implying here that, as
evil as these acts perpetrated against him might have seemed to the onlookers, humans
would do even worse things. Looking at the world today it is not difficult to understand what He meant (abortion, terrorism, human trafficking, drug cartels, unjust wars, greed,
Two criminals, one on the right, the other on the left: These criminals remind us of the
final judgment foretold by our Lord: “Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come,
you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you … Then he will
say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire” (Mt 25:34-