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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Hello, I’m Franciscan Father Greg Friedman, with the "Sunday Soundbite" for Passion or Palm Sunday.

Some years ago, I saw a great exhibit of the paintings of Monet. What a difference seeing dozens of works by one artist, as opposed to an isolated painting on a museum wall.

Hearing the Sunday Gospel is similar to viewing a single painting. We miss the context of the whole Gospel. This Sunday, as we hear the complete account of the passion and death of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel we need to address that problem.

Matthew’s audience was composed of both Gentiles and Jews who were now Christians. References to the Old Testament find parallels in his passion account, the story of Jesus as the Suffering Servant. His audience knew the larger context: how Jesus fulfills the promises God made to the Chosen People.

Unfortunately, Matthew’s writing has—in later centuries—been used as an excuse for anti-Semitism, for blaming all the Jews of the time, or even later generations, for the death of Christ. Matthew’s language often doesn’t help, as we hear the crowds asking that Jesus’ "blood be upon us and our children."

This antagonistic tone may partly come from hostility between Matthew’s own community (living 40 or 50 years after the time of Christ), and the Jewish community of the time which did not accept Jesus.

Christians of later centuries misunderstood the human circumstances surrounding the Gospel’s origin, and misinterpretation fueled anti-Semitism.

Scripture scholar Father Raymond Brown stresses that the fact that some of the Jews were influential in the death of Jesus certainly does not justify blaming all of the Jews of Jesus’ time; much less those of later generations.

Pope John Paul the Second has urged an end to the hatred and misunderstanding between Christians and Jews. We can help to foster a reconciling attitude by a careful and prayerful reading of the Gospels.