March 24, 2010

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

By Brian Pizzalato *

Gospel at the Procession with Palms – Lk 19:28-40

First ReadingIs50:4-7

Responsorial PsalmPs 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

Second ReadingPhil 2:6-11

Gospel ReadingLk 22:14-23:56

Focusing on today’s Gospel readings, an important aspect of the events is that they take place within the context of Passover. There would have been thousands and thousands of pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for this feast. Jesus, too, was entering Jerusalem.

The fact that it was five days before Passover is also significant. In the first century there was a sacrificial flock raised outside of Jerusalem so when pilgrims arrived, they could purchase a lamb for sacrifice. In Exodus 12, where the institution of the Passover is recounted, the people were to take a one year old male lamb, and on the tenth day of the month begin to inspect the lamb for blemishes until the fourteenth day of the month, which was the day of Passover. In the first century, the sacrificial flock was brought in to Jerusalem on the tenth day of that month.

It is not a coincidence that Jesus comes into Jerusalem on the tenth day and undergoes inspection by Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate during the subsequent days. John the Baptist had already pointed out that Jesus is, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn 1:29). It is also no coincidence that while being inspected by Pilate he is declared to be without fault (cf. Jn 18:38; 19:4, 6).

Interestingly, scholars have noticed a conspicuous absence from the retelling of the Last Supper, which was a Passover meal, namely there is no mention of a lamb. On the contrary, there is in fact mention of a lamb. Jesus is the lamb. There doesn’t need to be any other lamb.

Also, just as the account of the institution of the Passover in the book of Exodus makes abundantly clear, those celebrating the Passover must eat the lamb in order to be saved. Jesus, through his words of consecration, gives the apostles the true lamb that must be eaten, his very own body, blood, soul and divinity. He does this so they might be saved and attain eternal life (cf. Jn 6:53-56).

The sacrifice of the Lamb begins in the upper room and continues all the way to Calvary. John, who was at the foot of the cross, makes sure that we do not miss the fact that Jesus is the new and eternal Lamb of God. He wants us to know that a hyssop branch was used to raise wine to Jesus’ lips. Hyssop was used in the first Passover to put the blood of the lamb on the door posts and lintels of the Isrealites homes (cf. Ex 12:22). He also wants us to know that Jesus did not have his bones broken. This fulfills what is written in Exodus 12:46, "not a bone of him shall be broken" (Jn 19:36).

As we begin the celebration of Holy Week, let us keep in mind the fact that the same people who cried out "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" also cried out "Crucify him!" (Mk 11:9; 15:13). The same people who greeted him upon his triumphal entry also chose the notorious Barabbas to be released. Fascinatingly the name Barabbas means "son of the father." Of course we know that Jesus is the true Son of the Father. However, each and every moment of every day we can turn against him through our sins, which are in effect crying out "crucify him!"

Let us pray to the Lord that we be freed from the slavery to the sins we commit so that we might live in true freedom as sons and daughters of God the Father, in union with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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