09 April 2006

Who is this?

The Procession
Palm Sunday 2006: John 12.12-16
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation

Jesus rides his donkey into the Jerusalem crowds. Most cheer. Most wave their palm branches. Most call his name. But some, shaken by the adulation and the apparent fulfillment of ancient prophecy in their own day, ask anxiously, “Who is this?”

He is the one prepared for burial by the woman at Bethany. He is the one sold by his disciple and friend, bought for the price of a murdered slave—thirty pieces of silver. His is the blood of the new covenant, the new wine shed for the forgiveness of our sins. He is the one betrayed, arrested, falsely accused, interrogated by Pilate, and, finally, sentenced to death by the same crowd that cheered him earlier. Whipped, mocked, spat upon, and stripped naked, he is the One nailed to the cross, pierced by a spear, the one who died so that we might live.

Who is this? We know already what the Roman soldier shouted aloud: “Truly, this is the Son of God!”

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At the Mass
Palm Sunday 2006: Is 50.4-7; Phil 2.6-11; Mark 14.1-15.47
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation

Though we welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with singing and waving palm branches, we will spend this week celebrating his betrayal and execution. What a truly perverse thing to celebrate! If we are tempted to move too quickly from our Lenten self-examination and denial to the joy and exultation of Easter, we have this holy week to contemplate the most difficult of Jesus’ teachings: the nature of his vicarious suffering.

Take these rather dark questions with you into Holy Week, pray with them, wrestle with them, and come back on Easter Sunday to hear again the answers our Teacher gave us through His death and resurrection:

How am I like the woman of Bethany? How do I honor his sacrifice? How do I show respect for his suffering for me?

How am I like Peter and Judas? In what ways do I deny Jesus under the pressure of ridicule from friends, family, colleagues? How do I betray him for worldly approval?

How am I like the High Priest and the Sanhedrin? In what ways do I envy Jesus and seek to discredit him? How do I seek false testimony against the Church’s ancient witness about who Jesus truly is?

How am I like the crowd that frees Barabbas?
In what ways do I “hand Jesus over” to popular opinion? To the masters of my culture? To the mainstream media? To the rulers of this world?

How am I like the Roman soldiers?
In what ways do I just “do my job” in the face of injustice, oppression, and falsehood?

How am I like Christ? In what ways do I suffer for others? How is it that the way I deal with pain and death can be healing for others? Am I ready to die so that my worst enemy might live?

Finally, How am I like the centurion? Can I show up here on Easter Sunday, and answer the question “who is this?” with the awesome confidence of the centurion:
“Truly, this is the Son of God!”


  1. I think your homily's message is very appropiate -- especially given the timing of Nat'l Geographic's expose on the "Gospel of Judas." I am naturally inclined to think this was not, in fact, written by Judas -- but perhaps by a Gnostic or something... but I was wondering if you have read anything that would more specifically counter these allegations (that Jesus asked Judas to turn him in) other than my own "Catholic" bias that it could not be so! So, given this new artifact, do you think the question "Who is Jesus?" is even more appropriate?

  2. Sister,

    Don't waste a second of your life thinking about the "gospel" of Judas. It's been around for centuries and just now being brought to the public's attention in order to capitalize on the popularity of that other fake, gnostic bestseller.

    This "gospel" was condemned as false as early as the second century...in other words, pretty much right after it was invented. Check out the link below for a nice, concise dismissial by the Jesuit Christologist, Fr. Gerald O'Collins:


    Fr. Philip, OP

  3. Sister,

    Check out this link:


    Fr. Philip, OP

  4. I will check it out, sounds interesting, thank you very much.

    Have a blessed easter!