With the Church throughout the world, we solemnly celebrate Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord and begin the week that changed the world: Holy Week. Today, we read the Lord’s Passion from Saint Luke (22:14—23:56). On Good Friday, we will read
the Passion from Saint John (18:1—19:42).
Before the Passion of Christ, as the apostles thought about Jesus Christ being in Heaven with the Father and the Holy Spirit, there was a discussion about a place of honor (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45). Jesus had told the mother of James and John that being on His right and on His left when He came into His Kingdom was not His to grant. That place of honor was for those for whom it was prepared. Saint Luke’s account of the Passion introduces us to two of those for whom it was prepared: two sinful criminals (Luke 22:1-23:56). These men were being crucified right next to Jesus as He died on the Cross – in this encounter, we realize that while Jesus Christ has saved us by His Passion, Death and Resurrection, it is up to us to respond to that salvation wrought for us by Christ. Do we reject or embrace the grace of the Cross of Christ? Do we live in that grace (God’s help), conscious of being instruments of His mercy and love? Jesus Christ requires from His disciples the response of our freedom to His grace, that we freely choose the good and seek His mercy and love – the Church regularly reminds us that God, in His love for us, never gets tired of being merciful; rather, it is we who get tired of asking for and seeking His mercy, which we all need.
Both sinners, from their crosses, saw the same thing. Both had the freedom to choose the good (certainly, God wants us to use our freedom for the good and not for evil). One sinner, however, complained and reviled Jesus, just like those who crucified Him. The other, the repentant criminal, was moved when he heard Jesus Christ forgive His persecutors from the Cross – the repentant sinner desired that forgiveness, for he wanted to die with the same hope and certainty with which he saw Jesus living through His suffering and death. The repentant man dared to utter his desire to live! He saw the love of Jesus and begged for His love and mercy. And the repentant man’s destiny is certain, as Jesus tells him: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The non-repentant criminal’s destiny is known only to God. Today, on Palm Sunday, in a most poignant way, the Church puts us before the Cross of Jesus Christ. Which side is your freedom on? Let us pray: “Loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, help us to freely choose the good, to live in Your grace each day, proclaiming Your love and mercy in our words and deeds.”
May you and your families have a blessed Holy Week and joyous Easter,