Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Palm Sunday 2019

April 10, 2019

As we anticipate Palm Sunday, we offer a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM for your prayer. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection April 14 2019. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing. Photos: Holy Family Convent Archives


Luke 22:14-23:56

When the hour came, he [Jesus] took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you… Click here for entire text.

…It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.  Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.”  When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.  Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council,  had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God.  He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried.  It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin.  The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it,  they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.


Luke presents a consistent image of Jesus. The qualities that Jesus has exhibited throughout his life are the same qualities with which Jesus moves toward his death. In the second verse of the text, Jesus tells those who have gathered for this last meal together that he has eagerly desired to eat this meal with them. But this is no ideal image of the final banquet. In the course of the meal those gathered argue about who is the greatest, and Peter’s denial is predicted. From the beginning, Luke portrays Jesus as one who accepts the human imperfections and weaknesses of even his closest followers. On the Mount of Olives, Luke portrays Jesus as one who briefly wrestles with what lies before him, but quickly accepts the will of his Father. Jesus’ closest disciples are unable to endure in faith, and they betray him. Their behavior indicates that they have not internalized Jesus’ preaching and, as predicted, Peter denies his relationship with Jesus.

The one who will judge heaven and earth is led before the high priest, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod. Jesus does not challenge their authority. They bring charges against him that include being a revolutionary, forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar, claiming to be king, and claiming to be the Christ and the Son of God. In the process of being questioned about these charges, he is also ridiculed, mocked, beaten, and flogged three different times. The crowds that greeted him and praised God as he entered Jerusalem now turn to anger and condemnation. Throughout, Jesus conducts himself with a sense of dignity and control. As he is being led to his crucifixion, Jesus ministers to women of Jerusalem and to one of the men being crucified with him.

When Jesus finally hands over his spirit to his Father, the centurion who witnessed what has happened declares, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” (Luke 23:47) Throughout his narrative, Luke reminds his audience of Jesus’ innocence. Three times Pilate states that he does not find Jesus guilty of the charges. “Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find this man not guilty.’ … Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, ‘you brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him.’… Pilate addressed them a third time, ‘what evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime…’ (Luke 23:4, 13-15, 22) One of those crucified with Jesus says to his companion, “we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” (Luke 23:41) Jesus’ prayer to His Father, that those who are crucifying Him be forgiven, is also a testament of Jesus’ innocence. (Luke 23:34) These reminders throughout the passion lead the reader to feel the truth of the centurion’s statement as Jesus gives up his life and darkness comes over the land. “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” (Luke 23:47b)

The modern reader may be repulsed at the notion that Jesus is accepting the will of his Father. However, in the culture of the day, when Jesus lived and when the gospels were being written, an essential role of a Father was to discipline his son so that he would be able to deal with the hard life ahead as protector and provider of the family in a harsh and cruel environment and society. The discipline a father inflicted on his sons was both physical and social. The gospels reflect the value of the culture in which they were written. In that culture, Jesus endures the harshest discipline imaginable and remains faithful to his Father, to his disciples, to his tradition, and to his mission. He is a faithful son of God.


1. When you think of your experience of being parented…
2. What were some of the most difficult periods in your life? How do they affect you today?
3. Luke presents Jesus as an innocent victim. The disciples, religious and civil authorities, and the crowd all stand by and watch the innocent Jesus suffer tragically and be put to death. In Luke’s description, envision yourself actually being there among the crowd that is watching these events unfold from a distance. Where do you find yourself? What are you doing? Who do you speak with? What is going on within you as you watch these events?
4. What happens within you when you hear Jesus say, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”?
5. What happens within you when you hear Peter repeatedly deny Jesus? “Woman, I do not know him.” “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.”
6. Finally, what happens within you as you hear Jesus say, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit?”
7. Can you take some time to talk with God openly and honestly about your experience of praying with this gospel?

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