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Lectio Divina: Palm Sunday (Year A)

One of the aspects of lectio divina that I like is the chance to spend some time with God on a short bit of Scripture. God can speak to us through only one word or maybe just a short phrase. This gets harder to do when you have really long Gospel passages. So for this week’s lectio divina exercise, I chose to read, reflect, and write on the Gospel passage that is used at the beginning of Palm Sunday Mass rather than the passion account. Depending on the option your parish uses for Mass this Sunday you may or may not hear this Gospel passage. Regardless, it is always worthwhile to contemplate Scripture.

The Gospel passage for this post is the Gospel for the Procession with Palms, Matthew 21:1-11. It is available at the USCCB website (at the top this time, no scrolling!) as well as in whatever missal or other publication you might have. Be sure to have it in front of you as you follow along through the rest of this post. For a brief review of the lectio divina steps, I recommend this brief explanation from the Archabbey of St. Meinrad.


  • Beast of burden
  • The whole city was shaken

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

It must have been an amazing site to see this large procession entering the city gates. According to Matthew’s account there were large crowds both preceding and following Jesus. His entrance was so grand it was like a king entering and it literally shook the city. People inside the city were asking who this was. I imagine it like when someone important shows up somewhere and everyone but you knows who this person is and it’s like everyone around you is talking about him or her and pointing and so on. You immediately wonder who this person is and start asking those around you. This is how I picture the people asking in this passage. A king was entering the city, there was lots of fanfare, and yet they didn’t know who he was.

I love how Matthew tells us that the “whole city was shaken.” That imagery really sticks with me. Jesus’ entrance is noticed by everyone, and it is done intentionally. That is the most amazing part to me. Just last week in the story of Lazarus his disciples were concerned about going to Bethany, a mere two miles from Jerusalem, for fear that those who wanted Jesus arrested would notice that he was so close to the city. It kind of surprises me that that the disciples didn’t try to encourage Jesus to enter the city quietly so as not to be noticed. Maybe the disciples did try to convince Jesus of another plan, but this Gospel writer doesn’t mention it. As I reflect on that more it seems that what Matthew is trying to convey here is that the disciples have fully put their trust in Jesus. Despite the dangers they know are ahead, they don’t balk at this plan, they don’t protest or question Jesus (as we see in many other passages throughout the Gospels), they just trust.

Therefore the question that I am left to ponder is, do I trust in Jesus this much? Do I fully trust in him even when things look bleak? Do I trust in his plans for me even if they are not my plans? Do I trust those plans fully and go forward with confidence in him, or do I question and pout and resist and only follow him grudgingly? I think I could probably ask myself these questions on a daily basis. I hope God is telling me to trust in him in all things and I hope and pray that I will.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

When I think about the idea of fully trusting in God I am reminded of my interior struggles as I was finding my way back home to the Catholic Church. I eventually accepted all the Church’s teachings but there were some that despite my inability to fully understand, I eventually had to put my trust in Jesus and his Church. It was really hard in some cases, but I made a decision to trust and I moved forward with confidence, no longer kicking and screaming about it. One example of this was the Church’s stance on all forms of contraception. Related to this was this whole idea of Natural Family Planning that I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around (I was also single at the time so it was still mostly theoretical in my life). It was a few years later before I fully understood all this, but in the intermittent years I simply trusted. 

Dear God, thank you for sending your Son to teach us, to challenge us, and to die for us. As we move into this coming Holy Week I pray that my faith in Jesus Christ will grow and continue to be nurtured. I pray that I will always have the kind of faith that will lead me to fully and completely trust in You even when I don’t fully understand your plans for me. Thank you, Jesus, for giving your life for me. Amen.


Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.


What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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I am Barabbas

I remember the day as if it was yesterday and yet it was many, many years ago.  I stood with the rest of the congregation for the reading of the Gospel on Palm Sunday.  This had always been one of my favorite times of the year… receiving our palms, being able to be interactive with the Gospel as the lay people said their parts, and knowing that Easter, our most sacred day of the year, was only a week away.   As we began the Gospel reading I listened and read along with everyone else.  I was ready to speak my part when Pilate would ask us who we wished to be released… “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.”  I said the words loud and clear with all those around me.

Pilate again addresses us and tells us he can find no fault in this man Jesus.  Again he asks what we want done with Him… “Crucify him! Crucify him!”  Everyone around me shouted but the words caught in my throat.  I couldn’t utter them at all.  I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  They threatened to spill over and I fought to keep them from doing so.  My mind raced and I suddenly had a vision.  I was up front, standing next to Jesus, facing the crowd.  I wasn’t just a person in the crowd wanting to have Barabbas released and Jesus crucified, it was so much more than that.  What I had come to understand in that split second was that I was Barabbas and that the crowd was shouting for Christ to be crucified in my place.  I knew that while I deserved to be crucified, Jesus did not.  I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer.  They quietly slipped down my cheeks and dropped to the ground.  It was because of my sins that someone so perfect, so loving, so kind would be tortured and killed.  I hung my head in shame.   I don’t think I heard another word of the Gospel that morning.  I prayed instead that God would forgive me of all my sins that insured His son’s place on the cross.  I prayed in thanksgiving that Christ loved me so much that He would take my place.  I prayed that God would help me deserve this second chance.

We hear all the time that Christ died for our sins but how often do we truly contemplate what this really means?  When we read through the Gospel this coming Sunday I challenge you to put yourself not just in the crowd but up in front of the crowd.  Become Barabbas.  Stand next to Christ as a liar, a cheat, a thief, a murderer, and let the crowd choose you over someone who has no sin.  When you do this Christ’s offering becomes something so much more.  It becomes real.  Christ chose to stand in our place.  He suffered tremendously for us.  He died for us.  He knew our sins, our shortcomings, and our failures and yet He still stood before the crowd and let them choose to release us instead of Him.

Our lives were changed in a way we could never understand on that fateful day.  We were given a second chance at life… a chance to live our lives in a way that personifies Christ’s life and teachings.  We are called to a holiness that encompasses all that we say and do.  With this second chance we are asked to lay down our life of sin and pick up our cross as Jesus did.  We will suffer and we will die but we will be forever changed and will rise with Christ as He did that glorious Easter Sunday.

The question remains- will you stand as Barabbas, sinful and proud or will you take your place beside Christ on the cross, acknowledging your sinfulness and begging as the criminal did “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”?