"Watch and pray"
April 17th, 2011 (see other dates)
Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
Discussion Questions for Reading 1This servant of God must have been a person of prayer: "Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear." How are you a person of prayer? When are you called to "speak to the weary a word that will rouse them"? Would your friends describe you as an encouraging person, or one that is critical much of the time? (When is criticism helpful? When is it not?) As this Holy Week begins, how will you open your ear to God? How will you share his message with others?
Reading 1 Isaiah 50:4-7
Reading 1 ReflectionFor Christians, all of today's readings give us ways of looking at Jesus Christ as the Suffering Servant. The Suffering Servant in Isaiah has qualities that later generations would see in Jesus. He is the one whose ear is always open to receive God's word. He is the one who does not rebel or turn back when his enemies persecute him. Jesus is the one who says, "The Lord God is my help. . . I shall not be put to shame."
Discussion Questions for Reading 2Sometimes we take the attitude that certain people or certain things are "beneath us."
Picking up our own litter is beneath us. Throwing away our own trays in fast food places is beneath us. Cleaning up after ourselves at home is beneath us. Obeying speed laws or wearing seat belts is beneath us. Saying hello and being welcoming to certain people is beneath us. Being kind and considerate to others with whom we share the planet (including plants and animals in our environment) is beneath us. Some of us don?t want to bother with all that. We think we're above it all. But Jesus shows us a different attitude. Jesus cared about things like this. How do we take on his attitude and imitate him?
Reading 2 Philippians 2:6-11
Reading 2 ReflectionPaul's noble description of Jesus Christ is really a hymn. It describes Jesus as the one who willingly gave up everything to fulfill God's plan for our salvation. Jesus did not come among us expecting to live grandly, as a king or "Numero Uno," although that is exactly what he was. Even though he was God, he came among us as the lowest of all, to show us that God's love does not depend on riches or honor. Paul tells us that this must be our attitude, too. Our love must be like God's love.
Discussion Questions for GospelJesus offered his entire life and his entire self to the Father, including his suffering and death. He did this voluntarily. Even though he was God, he chose "the lowest place" out of love. We, like Jesus, suffer because we are human. People still suffer, here in our own country and around the world. Can you name some of the ways and some of the reasons why people suffer today? What does Jesus want us to do about human suffering? (Think about the parable of the Good Samaritan.) Think of one way your and your group could help lessen human suffering in some way. Then do so, in the name of Jesus.
Gospel ReflectionThis gospel is a reading of the passion (or suffering) of Christ. On this Sunday we are reading it "according to Matthew." We see Jesus betrayed by two of his friends, Judas and Peter, and by the crowd. We see him mocked and beaten by the soldiers who laughingly "honor" him as King of the Jews.
Wounded, crowned with thorns, and dying a little more each step of the way, Jesus carries his cross to Calvary. His suffering is so great that he wonders if even God has left him to die alone. Still Jesus willingly gives up his spirit. With the centurion we pray: "Clearly, this was the Son of God!"
Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades
A Palm Sunday ProcessionYou may want to give your group the opportunity to have a Palm Sunday procession. Using green oak tag or construction paper, cut a large leaf out for each child. Or, use real branches (perhaps snips from evergreens or spring branches). Tell the children that this is the day that the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus into their city and sang, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
Listen to or sing favorite songs or hymns as the children process around the room. Stop the procession at the prayer table. Invite the children to share a sign of peace with one another. Then pray these or similar words: "Lord Jesus, we welcome you into our hearts today. Help us to welcome one another and share peace with one another as we walk with you this week. We ask this in your name, Lord Jesus. Amen."
Our Holy Week PrayerPoint out to the children that in this Sunday's gospel we hear all about Jesus' passion and death. Today begins a special week of prayer within the Church. Explain to the children that during this week we remember all that Jesus did for us, especially dying on the cross to save us.
Distribute the reproducible master. Have the children color parts of the path each day during holy week as they pray the prayer. Encourage the children to display this in their home and to pray it with their families.
Proclaiming Faith Activities
Making a Memory CrossWhat lines from each of today's readings draw you closer to Jesus in his passion? Draw a cross on a separate piece of paper, with open space in the four arms. You may make it a simple cross or a more elaborate one, like ones you might see in church. Choose four lines from the readings and write them on the cross you drew. Hang your cross and pray these lines during Holy Week in memory of Jesus.
Would it be possible for you to do something during Holy Week to help someone who feels forgotten by God?
The Choices We MakeThe Passion According to Matthew is a very dramatic reading. In some parishes, the priests and people take various parts. As part of the parish "crowd," it is hard to join in with "Crucify him!" But that is what some people did at the time of Jesus' passion. Look at the list of people below. Each one or group had a part in the passion of Jesus. Each person made a choice. Some helped Jesus. Some made his suffering worse. What would you have done? Read the gospel again, and explain why you think the people on this list made good choices, or suggest better choices they could have made. You may want to join in groups and have each group consider a few people.
chief priests and elders
the crowd standing before Pilate
the person who scourged Jesus
the Roman soldiers who stripped off his clothes and wrapped him in a cloak
the soldiers who fixed a crown of thorns on his head
the soldiers who stuck a reed in his right hand
the soldiers who mocked and spat at him
Simon of Cyrene
the soldier who gave him a drink of wine with gall
the soldiers who divided his clothes among them
the people who went by and insulted him on the cross
the insurgents who hung near him and taunted him
the man who gave Jesus a sponge soaked with wine
the centurion who said, "Clearly this was the Son of God!"
When are you tempted to go along with the crowd rather than make your own decision?
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