Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Cycle C (2)

With Palm Sunday we begin Holy Week by remembering the Lord’s Passion. The word “Passion,” like the word “love,” is a used and abused term in our day. When we speak of Passion in the case of what Our Lord underwent there’s room for multiple understandings of passion. He shows us passion in all the facets we should live it.

Our Lord put up no struggle and went as a lamb to the slaughter (cf. Isaiah 53:7), the Suffering Servant in today’s First Reading. Passion means suffering. Our Lord suffered greatly for us. In his Passion we see Isaiah’s parable of the Suffering Servant fulfilled. Passion meant having something done to you, and not necessarily something pleasant.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that a passion for others is what drove Our Lord to empty himself by assuming human nature and undergoing the Passion. It was not a passion for honors; he already had them. It was not a passion for gain; as God he already had everything and needed nothing. It was not a passion to excel; he was the Son of God in eternity before he was born of Mary. It was a passion for us and for his Father.

Passion means emotion; in Luke’s account of the Last Supper Our Lord expresses how ardently he desired to be with his disciples before suffering. Passions can be good or bad; he was passionate about his cause. We can only imagine the emotions he was experiencing knowing one of his most trusted friends would betray him. The fear he experienced in Gethsemane of what he was going to undergo. The betrayal and abandonment by his disciples he experienced when things became dangerous, and the torture and ridicule he underwent.

Most importantly, Passion means love. People are encouraged today to be passionate about what they do, and to change what they’re doing if they’re not. We’re expected to love what we do, and we consider people blessed who love what they do. However, the mystery of Christ’s Passion shows us that it is not so much loving what we’re doing as loving those for whom we’re doing it.

You may not love the cross, but you take up your cross daily for those you love. Jesus loves us through the Cross and undergoes the Passion to teach us what passion truly is. Holy Week has begun. In imitation of Christ in these days, contemplate not what you love or don’t love, but whom you are loving through what you do. As we follow Our Lord, step by step, blow by blow, to Calvary, ask him to show you for whom he is suffering: you.

Passion is not just about feeling good or feeling strongly about something. This week we’ll remember the most Passionate moments of Our Lord’s life, and those moments should spur us to a similar Passion. Live this week with the emotion, love, and willingness to sacrifice for others that Our Lord has taught us.

Readings: Isaiah 50:4–7; Psalm 22:8–9, 17–20, 23–24; Philippians 2:6–11; Luke 22:14–23:56. See also Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Cycle C and Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Cycle B).