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PALM SUNDAY (B) March 25, 2018

Processional Gospel Mark 11: 1-10

Isaiah 50: 4-7 Philippians 2: 6-11 Mark 14:1- 15:47

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:








Before we turn to the readings, a moment’s reflection on our liturgical role. It is always good for the preacher to be involved in liturgical planning, especially for this most special week. As we look at the readings we note that Mark’s Passion narrative is long; but I wouldn’t opt for the shorter version given in the lectionary. His gospel is usually noted for its brevity and so the sheer size seems to indicate that Mark wants to put a lot of emphasis on the passion. He must consider it important; why else would he depart from his usual quick and brief narrative? It has become customary to have three readers proclaim the passion. As we plan the liturgies for this week and especially the proclamation of the passion narratives, it is important to make sure the readers are well chosen and rehearsed for their roles. The missalettes are not helpful here. The gospel is meant to be heard in liturgical celebrations. With missalettes, the people have their heads buried in the book; there’s also the dreadful sound of everyone turning pages at the same time! Hardly conducive to a reflective listening to the scriptures, especially the solemn passion. Maybe the assembly could sing an acclamation at key moments in the story and do without the distraction of the missalettes. Again, the importance of prepared lectors.

Suppose we were to focus our preaching on the Procession Gospel, Mark 11: 1-10? This opening reading about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is celebratory, filled with biblical imagery of long-held hopes now fulfilled. There is lots of symbolism pointing to the Jewish, royal, messianic expectations. For example, Jesus uses a traditional prerogative of kings when he requisitions a colt for his entrance to the city of David (Zech. 9:9). His disciples are instructed to say, "The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once." This request is enough to satisfy the bystander’s question, "What are you doing...? At this stage of the week, Jesus is in complete charge of events. He exhibits knowledge of events to come and he shows his royal authority.

The people spreading their cloaks and branches on the road are doing what people did for entering kings (2 Kings 9:13). "Hosanna" originally meant "save us"; and later became a shout of praise. So there is a dual significance to the crowd’s shout. We now know there are two reasons to proclaim Jesus, for he is both our savior and our sovereign. The people were anticipating the arrival of David’s kingdom; they see Jesus linked to the glorious moment when the David-like messiah would come.

We hear this highly charged and emotional reading at the very opening of today’s liturgy. Later, in the passion narrative, we will hear the crowds shouting to Pilate for Jesus’ death – "Crucify him!" How many preachings have we heard, or preached, about the fickle crowd; one moment pro-Jesus, the next, anti-Jesus? Why take that usual slant on the passage? Consider weighing in on the side of the crowd. I notice that this event, with all its excitement, takes place outside the city, "near the city" (11:1). Later, Mark will tell us that Jesus enters the city alone (11:11). So, the excitement is by those outside the city. Jesus goes into Jerusalem and there he meets opposition and death.

It seems to be the outsiders who are the ones excited about Jesus. Think of their life-long desperation. Are they the gospel "highway and by-way" people – those who never get special places at table, invitations to upper-crust banquets, or places of honor in temple and synagogue? Jesus’ mission has been to them. They have already experienced, or heard about how welcome their lot is with him. Finally, someone from God to tell them they are not forgotten, indeed, they are loved, by God! Jesus, the one with authority, has recognized them, healed their afflictions and forgiven their sins. They know too, that Jesus is a Galilean, an outsider, one of their own, raised up by God and, as Zechariah had promised, come to Jerusalem riding on a colt.

We can look back to the first Sunday of Lent (February 18, Mark 1:12-15), when Jesus started proclaiming his message, "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel." Now we are at the end of the same gospel, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The sudden reversal that will lead to his suffering and death is about to take place. What happened to the bright promise of his beginnings? And, is this what the "Time of fulfillment" looks like? This total collapse? During the intervening episodes, Jesus’ public ministry, we have learned more about the identity of Jesus, the nature of his reign and what it means to be his disciples. (After the Easter season, we will return to hearing Mark’s gospel on Sunday.) "Time of fulfillment," has taken flesh in Jesus. He is the reign, the kingdom of God. He fulfills ancient promises, but not as his contemporaries expected.

In Jesus’ lifetime he has shown his authority over sickness, evil spirits and his opponents. He was also in control as he prepared to enter Jerusalem. Now he will use his power and authority; but it will not be in the way the world does. Rather, his power will be in service for others, he will lay down his life for our benefit. We will see in his way of service a new kind of authority over sin and evil, a triumph that will come, not by force, but by self-sacrifice in the interest of the other. His authority will not be forced on others; we will be free to choose his way to life through death. While we might ordinarily exert ourselves through power and military might, he will do so in self-emptying humility. Paul makes it clear that Jesus was willing to give all, hold back nothing on our behalf. No sacrifice was too great in order for Christ to show us God’s love for us. The church in Philippi was suffering both internal strife and outer persecution (1: 28-29). There were also those Jewish Christians who wanted all converts to keep the old observance. Paul places a reminder before this Christian community. Christ gave up all for them, from his equality with God, to his suffering and death: That’s the big sacrifice the community needs to focus on – and not on its differences and theological squabbles.

Jesus’ rejection, suffering and death fulfill what he has been telling his disciples. This should come as no surprise to Mark’s audience. Jesus’ own suffering is a central focus in the story and must have been a consolation to Mark’s community and to us contemporary Christians, for whom faith and allegiance to Jesus come with a cost.

When the passion narrative begins we can hear that a change has taken place in the gospel. Jesus, the one with authority and power, now becomes the one who suffers. He is on the receiving end of much activity. He is: conspired against, denied, betrayed, arrested, tried, convicted, tortured, crucified and finally buried. In his suffering, Jesus identifies with those who have undergone similar injustices and with all those who suffer. One of the names we give this day is "Passion Sunday." The word passion, has roots in words meaning "suffering" and "being acted upon." There are many people who must suffer, or have something done to them; they have no choice. We suffer old age, sickness, physical debilitation. We also suffer from the pressures of economic and social systems. We cannot always change these circumstances and so, we identify with Jesus, receiving strength from his own endurance under his passion.

Passion, in English, also suggests strong feelings. In this sense Jesus was an initiator, one who felt strongly about what he was to do and went about doing it. He was a passionate lover of God and humanity and this passion energized and forged his determination to continue on the path God gave him to follow for us; to preach God’s love for the outsider . No opposition could prevent this passionate savior from completing his task for us, even if it meant his death.

One response we can make this week of our Savior’s execution, is to address the issue of the death penalty in our preaching. Our church’s stand against the death penalty provides ample material for this preaching as we hear the gospel’s description of Jesus’ execution today and on Good Friday. Over these years I have been posting the names of people on North Carolina’s death row. This may provide an opportunity for the preacher to suggest writing to inmates on death row, either the names that have appeared in these reflections, or those at a death row closer to you. If you need information, your diocesan peace and justice office would be one source and, of course, the internet has ample web pages dedicated to the topic. One such web page is provided by our North Carolina ecumenical group, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty."

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:


A CRUCIFIED CHRIST IN HOLY WEEK: ESSAYS ON THE FOUR GOSPEL PASSION NARRATIVES, by Raymond E. Brown. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1989. Paper, 72 pages.

An eminent biblical scholar reflects on the four Passion narratives. His strong pastoral interests come through these very readable essays. Good for preachers. Also good for those who want to do some meditative reading during Holy Week.

MARK, by Wilfrid Harrington, O.P. Wilmington: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1979. Paper, 252 pages.

This is a fine study of Mark’s Gospel and makes good reading during this liturgical year when Mark is being read on Sundays.


"The Gospels never tell us quite how the sufferings of Jesus reverse completely his fortunes and ours, only that they do. The Philippians hymn provides an answer. Jesus was not spurred by selfishness or conceit in anything he did. In humility he counted everyone better than himself in the sense that they were worth dying for. He knew that God would make it right somehow. That is what he always taught. And he lived by what he taught, up to the end. A homily on hosannas sounding in the ears of Jesus–this Jew who trusted God completely–on the brink of his dissolution might be the most powerful parable out of life that could be shared this day."



‘The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"’

Mark 14:14

Hospitality is an important observance in the Bible. Strangers (sojourners) were received into one’s home as an honored guest to be fed, sheltered, and protected. This was not just an oriental custom or good manners but a sacred duty. The Israelites are reminded that they themselves were once strangers in the land of Egypt and we see hospitality woven in the details of the life of Jesus and the early church as a natural expression of love.

Each year in Wake County, 4,000 individuals experience homelessness, including 2,700 children in Wake County schools who do not have a place to call home.

Family Promise of Wake County began in 1994 as Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network (WIHN), a 501(c)(3) providing church-based emergency shelter and meals to Wake County families experiencing temporary homelessness. Since then, services have been expanded to include life-skills training, case management, a day center and transitional housing. Family Promise's mission is to transform the lives of families experiencing temporary homelessness by helping them find support services and safe, affordable, permanent housing.

Family Promise is one of only two emergency shelters in Wake County to allow families to stay together, regardless of the ages and genders of the children and parents, sparing parents the difficult choice between keeping their families together and finding a safe place for their children to sleep.

Each year, more than 50 Wake County congregations reflecting a broad range of religious identities offer their buildings and volunteer power to host up to 10 families each week through the Emergency Shelter program. Every week, two host congregations (with the help of their supporting partner congregations) provide up to five families each a safe place to sleep, meals, transportation and a sense of community. Annually, the Emergency Shelter program engages more than 2,000 volunteers.

The Family Promise Ministry here at Cathedral provide meals and hospitality on a quarterly basis for homeless families being housed at Edenton St. United Methodist Church and First Baptist (Salisbury) Church. This wonderful opportunity to express love needs your talents. Please contact:

To give hospitality to the poor is to give hospitality to Jesus.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC


PALM SUNDAY (B) March 25, 2018

Processional Gospel Mark 11: 1-10

Isaiah 50: 4-7 Philippians 2: 6-11 Mark 14:1- 15:47

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Those preceding Jesus as well as those following kept crying out,

"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."


Humans fight to gain power over others. Disciples are not exempt from these ambitions; but Jesus knew that God’s rule would come by his patient suffering and death. How different is that! The crowd and we look for displays of power. But Jesus offers us the cross.

So we ask ourselves:

  • God’s power appears as weakness to the world?
  • What could that mean?


This is an announcement I received from Lyle May, a friend and inmate on North Carolina’s Death row.

The "Life Lines Collective" is a group of creative writers on North Carolina’s death row who have found a unique way to share their experiences through an online journal at: Convinced that all of us are more than the worst thing we’ve done, "Life Lines" attempts to open a clearing for new kinds of solidarity: To build up a world that does not yet exist. To learn more about these amazing audio essays, poems and spoken-word pieces go to: - Http://


"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Jeffrey M. Kandies #0221506 (On death row since 4/20/94)
  • Vincent M. Wooten #0453231 (4/29/94)
  • John R. Elliott #0120038 (5/4/94)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:


"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan Drive Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:


1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at

3. Our webpage: - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.

Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736


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