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Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday)

Year B, March 29, 2015

Year C, March 20, 2016

Year A, April 16, 2017

Lectionary index # 38

Twenty-second introductions to the readings, for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

Best practice: let the presider say them from the chair. Let the lector turn toward the presider and listen.
Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.

Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), March 29, 2015
Before the first reading:

The middle part of the book of the prophet Isaiah contains four poems that we now call the songs of the suffering servant. Here the prophet meditates on his sufferings and the price of fidelity to God. The church turns to these poems at this time because Jesus apparently did so at the time of his passion.
Between psalm and second reading:

Saint Paul here adapts an ancient church hymn. It sings of Jesus' pre-existence, his incarnation, suffering, and exaltation.
[Don't do an introduction to the passion.]

Head's up! You probably have to read part of the Passion, too.

Blessed are they in liturgically advanced parishes where the roles for the reading of the Passion have been pre-assigned and rehearsed. But in the average parish, the lector is going to get his/her Passion assignment at the last minute. Be prepared better than the average lector. Read the Passion now.

Here are words you'll find in the Passion narrative (in the NAB translation common in U.S. Catholic congregations) that you don't use in everyday conversation. If you're at all unsure of the pronunciation of any word, decide now how you're going to say it Sunday.

The Web resource Net Ministries' Biblical Words Pronunciation Guide can help with many of these. On this author's computer, their .wav files for each word are more usable than the default files. Your mileage may vary.

Liturgical year A
(2017, 2020)
Year B (2015, 2018)Year C (2016, 2019)
Prophesy (the verb, not pronounced like "prophecy" the noun)

Prophesy! (the verb, not pronounced like "prophecy" the noun)

First reading, Isaiah 50:4-7 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. They're about a mysterious figure, who sometimes speaks in the first person, and whom God sometimes addresses. Sometimes the Servant is described as a prophet, sometimes as one whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. In the original author's mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus' life.

Today's is the third Servant Song. On Good Friday we proclaim the fourth, Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The others are Isaiah 42:1-9 and Isaiah 49:1-6.

Proclaiming It: Read the passage to the assembly slowly, meditatively, in as "personal" a tone as you can muster. Read it as if you're the Servant, talking to yourself, trying to remain convinced that the hardship required by fidelity is worth it. Pause before the last sentence, "The Lord God is my help ..." Then proclaim the sentence with firm resolution.

Second Reading, Philippians 2:6-11 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Literary Background: In the original Greek, this passage has a rhythm that suggests it may be a hymn which Saint Paul is quoting. If so, it may represent a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is and of how his mission saves us from sin and death. It's something Paul received from those who had been converted to Christ even earlier than he.

(Religious movements have always expressed themselves in song first, before they get around to having their doctrinal debates, heresies, apologists, councils, books, universities, inquisitions, etc. So early hymns offer precious insight into the original genius of the movement. Ideas with a musical expression get down deep into our memories, and our souls, in a way that merely verbal formulas cannot. That's why we remember the words of songs, even nursery songs from forty, sixty, eighty years ago, better than we remember other sentences we've read and heard more recently and more often.)

Christians reading this passage today are joined with the first people who ever pondered the meaning of Jesus' life and mission. We're singing their song, reciting their creed, at the time of year we're remembering the most important things Our Lord did.

The Theological Background: This passage sums up the most important things about Jesus, heedless of the less relevant details. Note the structure of Jesus' life:

The Lector's Proclamation: The early martyrs staked their lives on this kernel of gospel truth. So it demands a solemn proclamation, slow and, if possible, rhythmic. Make it rise to a crescendo at the end, as you summon every tongue, every tongue in heaven and on earth, to proclaim that

Jesus Christ is Lord!

Gospel (Passion)

Mark 14:1–15:47, for Year B (2015)

Here are links to the Passion narratives in the New American Bible web pages, not in lectionary format, at the site of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Passion Sunday, year A Matthew 26:14-27:66

Passion Sunday, year B Mark 14:1-15:47

Passion Sunday, year C Luke 22:14-23:56

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Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group. All essays have the title "Lent 6."

Year C. (Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, and Luke 22:14-23:56.)

Year A. (Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 22:14-23:56).

Year B. (Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Mark 15:1-39).

All of Father Roger Karban's columns below cover the first and second readings; the gospel passages vary by year.
Year AYear BYear C

















Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.

The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes

Archived weekly column of Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137)

The Center for Liturgy of Saint Louis University provides several essays on the readings, plus other helps in preparing for this Sunday's worship.

(Caveat lector. As of January 29, 2015, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

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Last modified: January 29, 2015