Bishop Richard J. Malone asked Catholics to fully embrace and think about the story and message of the Passion during the annual Palm Sunday Mass, which began the celebration of Holy Week, at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo.
During his homily, Bishop Malone recalls the story of Palm Sunday and the Passion, where cheering crowds before Jesus entering Jerusalem may have been the same people who jeered Him at His crucifixion.
"We cheer Christ, or we jeer Him, even if it's just a quiet jeering of our indifference to Him," the bishop said. "We are created in God's image, but burdened with sin. We call ourselves Christians, but too often live as if He had never come. We fancy ourselves as followers, but so often choose our will above His, or forget about Him entirely. Cheering crowd, jeering crowd; Exaltation, condemnation. Do we allow the Palm Sunday paradox to disturb us, because it should. Or do we observe in a detached fashion, keeping as an emotional and spiritual distance between us and this Lord, who died to save us?"
Palm Sunday signifies Jesus traveling to Jerusalem, as the people of the Bethphage laid cloaks and tree branches on the road before Him on the way to the city. The moment signified Christ as a man worthy of admiration and respect as he entered Jerusalem. Today, the Catholic Church begins the Palm Sunday Mass with a blessing of palms, which are then given to the people of the congregation.
"Why do you want that palm branch," Bishop Malone asked. "What will it mean to you? Today and this whole week ahead is about the human drama of sin and salvation, death and life, darkness and light, slavery and freedom."
During the Gospel, the congregation read the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke, with Bishop Malone speaking the part of Christ. As the story details the persecution and betrayal of Christ following the Last Supper, authorities questioned Him about his identity as the Son of God and King of the Jews.
"If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond," Christ is to have said. "But from this time on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God."
As the Passion came to the moment of the crucifixion and the last breath of Jesus, Christ said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." As Bishop Malone repeated the line, the congregation knelt for a moment of silent prayer.