Sunday 24th March

Passion (Palm) Sunday

Procession: Mk 11:1-10

Mass: Is 50:4-7 Ps 21 Ph 2:6-11 Mk 14:1-15:47

At the beginning and at the end of this week the liturgy offers us two accounts of the Passion, and they could not be more contrasted. Many people believe they are so familiar with the Passion story that they may not notice how very different the two accounts are this year, unless they are helped. Mark is a very bleak and sombre account – Jesus is abandoned, torn by grief and ridiculed by everyone. John’s account is very different as we will hear – Jesus is very much in control, aware of his purpose and dies with his mother and the beloved disciple with him. Just one example will highlight the difference. In Mark at the arrest Jesus is lying on the ground distraught with grief, in John it is the arresting party that crash to the ground as Jesus addresses them with his magisterial “I am he.”  Many in any community may identify with a rejected and grief struck Jesus, feeling abandoned and alone, the reality of Christ’s solidarity with humanity in all its frailty is at the heart of Mark’s account. But all Christians can hear John’s account and recognise that this is an account of the great triumph of Christ over the world and over sin and death.

Many will, no doubt, for pastoral reasons, hear the shorter version of this long Passion account of Mark in today’s liturgy. However the longer version does offer a solemn context which does give the hearer a further opportunity for reflection. The touching story of the anointing of Jesus by the woman – not used in the Passion account in the year of Matthew in the liturgy and found in a different setting elsewhere in John – with its reference to Jesus’ burial is a fitting prelude to the drama that unfolds. The account of the Last Supper firmly tied into the Passion emphasises the essential identity of Christ in his twofold great act of self-giving. That act is recorded in the liturgy solemnly in this way only once in the year, but that same act is enacted every time the Eucharist is celebrated.