Scripture: Lectionary # 38. Matt.21:1-11 (Palm Sunday reading) Isaiah
50:4-7. Psalm 22:8-9.17-188.8.131.52-24 and the Passion Narrative of
Matthew Year A : Matthew 26:14-27:1-66
We enter more intensely into the mystery of Jesus during the beginning of
Holy Week which starts with Palm Sunday or the Passion of Our Lord.
Matthew has been our guide through most of the year. Only John’s Gospel is
reserved every year for Good Friday when his Passion Narrative is read at
the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified or at the Liturgical worship of Good Friday.
We enter into all of the events of this week by beginning with Matthew’s
view of them.
By careful and reflective reading his Passion Narrative we prepare
ourselves for the deeper following of Jesus on his way to the Cross and to
his death and burial.
Matthew has followed Mark very closely in his passion account and all we
have remembered our learned from Mark helps us to appreciate the nuances
and emphases of Matthew’s narrative. The theology of Matthew is different
and his knowledge of the prophetic literature of the Old Testament is
easily seen in his whole Gospel and now in his Passion Narrative. We will
be able to follow two disciples in his version, namely, Judas who betrayed
him and hands him over to the authorities and Peter who denies him three
times. Both feel guilty, but it is Peter who does not lose hope and
repents of his denials. The guilt of Judas remains and his death is suicide
in this Gospel. We pray for him that the mercy of God be shown. We may
identify with Peter in our own forms of repentance for the particular sins
that seem to be haunting us throughout life; but we do not give up hope.
Usually we see that Matthew emphases the fulfillment of Old Testament
passages both in what happens to Jesus during his suffering and death. His
narrative has the themes taken from passages that are similar to what Jesus
undergoes. These are not proof texts but they are part of the revelatory
message that Matthew shares with us in his Passion Narrative. The details
of Jesus’ suffering and death are described within the framework of the
inspiration he received from Mark as well as from the Old Testament.
Matthew, of course, also add his own passages that are not found in the
other canonical gospels and they come after the death of Jesus and describe
what happened in the surrounding villages near Jerusalem. We are privy to
his thoughts about what happened at this last stage of Jesus’ being here on
Psalm 22 is important for understanding how Matthew sees the agonizing
prayer of Jesus and his only words from the Cross in his narrative. We can
connect the Psalm to what has already happened in the Garden of Olives
where Jesus prayed with three disciples–again only Peter is mentioned by
name. Fr. Raymond Brown who dedicated over ten years of research and study
in writing his book called “The Death of the Messiah” tells us: “Matthew,
following Mark, does not hesitate to show Jesus in the utter agonfy of
feeling forsaken as he faces a terrible death.” We return to the prayer of
Jesus where he asks the Father that this cup be taken from him, but not
according to his will but that of the Father’s will.
We therefore enter into the Sacred Passion Mysteries of Jesus through the
Gosple of Matthew as we begin this Holy Week. This is the most important
week of the sacred season we are in and we should not be discouraged if we
have not prayed well or done much in the past five weeks. There is this
momentous week ahead of us and we can intensify our efforts at being united
with Jesus and our asking for his forgiveness and for the mercy of God upon
all humankind. “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, for by your
Holy Cross and Resurrection you have redeemed the world.” Amen.