A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy



Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Year A – March 20, 2005


“The Passion of Christ … The Passion of the World”



Mt 21:1-11 // Is 50:4-7 // Phil 2:6-11 // Mt 26:14-27:66





I was intently studying the Passion Narrative according to Matthew as part of my work on the Lectio Divina for Palm Sunday that would be put online in the Internet when an urgent call from a cousin in the Bay Area came. With sadness she informed me that a relative in the Philippines, the son of a low-income, hardworking family of farmers and laborers, had an accident. While riding a motorcycle, a car hit him. As he lay on the road, the driver of the car backed up to finish him. My dear relative was a victim of a terrible crime, called in Pilipino, “inatrasan”. It is derived from the word, “atras”, which means “to back up”. The crime of “inatrasan” results from a sinister logic and diabolic reasoning that it is easier and more economical to settle the damages for a dead victim in a vehicular accident, rather than an injured one. The perverted driver makes sure that the victim is dead by backing up over the victim’s body, knowing that the settlement for funeral expenses is cheaper and less burdensome than the hospitalization of an injured person. Since the Filipino poor do not have the means to pursue their case in court, the families of the victims usually resign themselves to such violence and injustice. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my relative did not die when the crazy driver ran him over. Some Good Samaritans brought him to the Philippine General Hospital where medical doctors tried to revive him. The victim’s bones were shattered and the fragments have seriously damaged his vital organs. My relative now lies agonizing in a crowded charity ward of a government hospital, waiting for Sister Death to end his torment and bring his soul to God’s eternal rest. In the past I have listened to such stories of “inatrasan” with horror. My revulsion for this crime, however, has reached a nauseating degree now that it involves my own kinsman. The face of violence and injustice has become too real. I realize more than ever that the passion and suffering of the helpless and innocent poor in our society today are of such vicious intensity and need to be redressed.


We believe in faith that the passion of the poor and innocent in the world is the passion of Christ. The passion of Christ continues in the passion of the poor and innocent in today’s world. The words of Christ that capture most intensely the agony of his passion and that of humanity through the ages are the words of lament he uttered on the cross: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).  Jesus’ cry of dereliction and intense suffering comes from the first words of Psalm 22. It is a cry of distress but not of despair, since this anguished expression of lament is directed to God as an urgent form of prayer. Jesus’ cry of lament is a most intense prayer of abandonment. Psalm 22, from which Jesus’ cry was derived, is not only a prayer of lament, but also an expression of joyful confidence in the final victory wrought by a saving God. Indeed, the words of this remarkable Psalm express most appropriately Jesus’ feeling of surrender to the divine saving will and his complete trust in the Father.


Michael Guinan comments: “In addition to showing how Jesus dies according to the scriptures, Psalm 22 is also an eloquent presentation of the suffering of an innocent one who suffers precisely because of his faithfulness to God’s will, and of someone who is ultimately vindicated by God … We should understand Jesus’ cry from the cross exactly as it stands. He makes his own the prayer of the psalmist, an innocent man who is suffering because of his fidelity to God’s will in his life … These are not words of despair but an expression of faith … The point is not that we can enter into Jesus’ cry but that Jesus has entered into ours. For us, as human beings, death is dark and scary and real. Even though we believe and trust in God, death can cause anxiety and anguish. Jesus does not bring us deliverance from death but deliverance through death … Through the death of Jesus, the meaning of death has been, as it were, changed from the inside. Instead of representing the ultimate separation, it is now the path to greater union. The risen Christ is present now in our midst and gathers a congregation of faith around him to recount the praises of what God has done and to share in a thanksgiving (eucharistic) meal. At the end of Psalm 22, as in the Gospels, the circle of praise should go out to embrace the whole world. It is a vision of inclusiveness that breaks down all the barriers that we, as humans, are too eager to set up. The death of Christ points us forward to the day when God’s kingdom will be all in all. This year, once again, we will stand near the cross and hear Jesus’ cry anew. We know what he is saying. Do we understand its meaning and the challenges it represents?”


The mystery of the Lord’s passion enfolds the passion of the world and the sufferings of all mankind. Our celebration of Christ’s passion is a font of salvation for a hurting world that cries out to God for justice and healing. From the height of the Cross, where Jesus cried out his prayer of lament and abandonment to the Father, the paschal process of glorification through his passion and death was accomplished. Indeed, the passion of Christ brought redemption to the passion of the world. Through his intense passion and sacrificial death, we experience the depths of God’s love. Aelred Rosser remarks: “Jesus is the face of God. In his self-sacrificing love, we catch a dramatic and convincing glimpse of how God loves us. Even centuries later, and until time disappears into eternity, we will try to comprehend a love of such intensity. We may even find it impossible to believe. But there it is, and it is the foundation of our faith.”


The celebrating faith community focuses a contemplative look on Christ’s passion and his entire saving mystery during Holy Week. The liturgical feast of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is a fitting introduction to this holy meditation in view of life transformation. Harold Buetow concludes: “Today, with the beginning of Holy Week, we begin to focus intently on the heart of the mystery of salvation. It is the mystery of dying and rising, the mystery of humiliation and exaltation, the mystery of suffering and glorification, the mystery of death in order to live eternally, the mystery of defeat which is crowned with victory. It is a story of fickleness of the crowd that we hear shout “Hosanna” today and “Crucify him” on Good Friday. It is a story in which agony and ecstasy are combined. It is a story full of contradictions: to call today “Passion Sunday”, for example, emphasizes suffering and death, while the words “Palm Sunday” emphasize glory and victory …  Jesus’ passion is a paradox. It is the story of a suffering servant who is at the same time a royal figure – a story of both servanthood and glory … Each of us stands alone before Christ … Each of us must declare where we stand by our attitudes and actions. The best test of that is whether we are faithful to Christian principles: principles of justice, of peace, of married life, of human existence. Jesus did not suffer and die to exempt others from suffering and dying, but to redeem us and to show us how to suffer and die.”





A.     How does the prayer of anguish uttered by Jesus on the Cross affect us personally: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46)?


B.     Why is the passion of Christ the passion of the world? Why is the passion of the world the passion of Christ?


C.     How do we live out the passion of Christ and of the world in our body?




(Adapted from St. Ephrem’s Prayer to Christ)


Leader: I come to adore at your feet, Lord!

I give you thanks, God of goodness.

God of holiness, I invoke you as I kneel before your presence.

You suffered death on the cross for me, unworthy sinner.


Assembly: Glory to you, friend of mankind!

Glory to you, merciful one!

Glory to you, O patient one!

Glory to you who forgive sins!

Glory to you who came for our saving!

Glory to you who became man in the womb of a virgin!

Glory to you who was bound!

Glory to you who was flogged!

Glory to you who was mocked!

Glory to you buried in the tomb and raised to life!

Glory to you who preached the Gospel to humankind;

and they believed in you!

Glory to you ascended into heaven!

Glory to you who sit at the right hand of the Father!

With him you will return in majesty in the midst of angels,

to judge those who disregarded your passion.





            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.


“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mt 27:46)





A.     ACTION PLAN: Pray that we may truly participate in the redemptive passion of Christ and the passion of the world. Participate in Operation Rice Bowl, the Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten program. Give some of your time to visit the website: www.catholicrelief.org to learn more about the work that the Catholic Relief Services is doing on our behalf around the world. The works of mercy in the Holy Week 2005 are aimed at helping those who work to fight hunger and poverty in U.S.A. Pray that our actions for justice will bring peace and security to our communities. Give the money you saved by fasting and eating simply to Operation Rice Bowl on behalf of the poor in U.S.A. and the world.


B.     ACTION PLAN: That we may participate more meaningfully in the passion of Christ and the passion of the world, and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 17): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.








Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM






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Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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