Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
April 09, 2017
Some years ago, I saw an exhibit of paintings by Monet. Seeing a lifetime of work by that artist, rather than viewing one isolated painting, helped me appreciate the larger context of Monet’s artistry.
And this Sunday, context is important at Mass as we hear Matthew’s account of the passion of Jesus. Matthew wrote for both Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity, and drew on the Old Testament for his story of Jesus the Suffering Servant. His audience would understand the larger context: Jesus fulfills the promises God made to the chosen people.
Unfortunately, some Christians in later centuries used Matthew’s words as a reason to charge all the Jews of Christ’s time, or even Jews of later generations, with his death. Matthew’s language often doesn’t help: for example when the crowds ask that Jesus’ “blood be upon us and our children.” This antagonistic tone may reflect a real hostility between Matthew’s community–living 40 or 50 years after Christ–and the Jewish community of the time which did not accept Jesus.
But there’s no excuse for anti-Semitism. Pope John Paul has urged an end to the hatred and misunderstanding between Christians and Jews. You and I can help foster such reconciliation by a careful and prayerful reading of the passion narratives.