THE cast

Mar 29, 2021


The Palm Sunday reading of the Passion takes around fifteen minutes. I was fortunate yesterday to be at Mass where three good readers had been chosen, but even then I got distracted and had to keep refocussing on the account recalling the week that in yesterday’s FFF reflection I had called THE week.

As I reflected yesterday: “I call this week THE week since these few days highlight every human experience and emotion, not simply as important past events but as the reason that our lives touch every other human life and our qualification for relationship with Jesus Christ who is God-with-us. The ups and downs of Holy Week are a microcosm of human experience, passion and desire.

The reading of the Passion at Mass is a bit of a marathon requiring stamina of body, mind and soul. During yesterday’s reading I was restless and spent time noticing the inspiring people of all ages who filled the church. They all seemed devout and much more focussed than I.

The priest had invited those who needed to sit for the long gospel to do so, and when the older people around me remained standing my ego wouldn’t let me sit. So the endurance became not only the length of the reading but a physical test of my ability to stand still, and to listen attentively.

As the narrator began, I remembered what I had written yesterday morning and decided that I should at least try to live what I write becoming aware of every moment when an experience or an emotion was evident both in Jesus and in me.

So my fifteen minutes was full and rich, truly a microcosm of human experience, passion and desire.

And I couldn’t have done it without the cast. There are dozens of characters in the account of the Passion of Jesus. There are goodies and baddies, rich and poor, close friends and curious bystanders, as well as others who who would have been wondering what all the commotion was about over that long weekend long ago.

Following yesterday’s “THE Week” lead I am going to call these characters THE cast.

And to provide even more action and complexity to the drama some of the goodies (disciples) become the baddies (denier and betrayer), some bystanders become star performers (Simon who helps to carry Jesus’ cross and Veronica who quenches Jesus’ thirst), and some previously unheard of acquaintances have the last word (Joseph of Aramathea provides a tomb).

As I stood restlessly with five minutes to go the thought entered my head, which of these am I? Which of these characters in the Passion of Jesus best represents me?

Well that thought opened a can of confusion for me.

I might be like Martha, Mary and Lazarus who remained inconspicuous enough to not feature in the account.

I would like to think that at least I could be like the respectable Joseph (of Aramathea) turning up when the danger was past to at least carry out the corporal work of mercy and giving Jesus dignified burial.

But then I know that at times I’m capable of the fickle love of Peter, loving fully and passionately, then (when I think I can get away with it) claiming boldly ‘I do not know him.’

Pope Francis on Palm Sunday last year:

“Why did all this take place?  Once again, it was done for our sake, to serve us.  So that when we have our back to the wall, when we find ourselves at a dead end, with no light and no way of escape, when it seems that God himself is not responding, we should remember that we are not alone.  Jesus experienced total abandonment in a situation he had never before experienced in order to be one with us in everything.  He did it for me, for you, to say to us: “Do not be afraid, you are not alone.  I experienced all your desolation in order to be ever close to you”.  That is the extent to which Jesus served us: he descended into the abyss of our most bitter sufferings, culminating in betrayal and abandonment.  Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: “Courage, open your heart to my love.  You will feel the consolation of God who sustains you”.

Pope Francis. Palm Sunday 2020

An Invitation:

  • What do you recall of the Passion of Jesus? Is there a part, a moment, an encounter in the account that speaks to you about your own life and the invitation Jesus might be offering you to experience his closeness to you?
  • You might like to hear again the Passion according to the Gospel of Mark. Listen at this link as you sit, exercise, walk or drive as a way of entering more fully into the experience of your Holy Week.


  1. Thank you Father John for that wonderful video of Palm Sunday’s gospel. Those images were so meaningful and inspiring. It certainly helped me at Mass during the gospel which didn’t seem as long as usual.
    I thought it would have been awesome for everyone in church to watch it.
    Your reflections are so inspiring . Thank you.

  2. The Reading of the Passion is such an important time to pause and be reminded of the reason for our faith. As a proclaimer it’s a privilege to be invited to narrate the ‘long’ gospel. It’s hard not to get choked up in the re-telling but what sustains me are the reactions of the people. Many are moved to tears, some are physically hunched over in confused pondering. The small ones follow the tragedy anticipating a happy ending. As we leave the powerful story unfinished there is that rare moment of silence and stillness letting it all sink in. A homily seems unnecessary.

  3. Yes John, that video of Marks Passion was really helpful. We played it at Mass

    Somewhere (my parents?) I was told to hold my palm during the Passion – it does help concentrate…

    And then to put it up behind a Crucifix in my room… (where I hope it does not only gather dust! Mmmm)

    • Thanks Father, I confess to a restlessness today.
      Maybe it’s the Holy Spirit stirring within me. It’s not comfortable facing the events of Holy Week and acknowledging that my sin caused His pain.

  4. Father John your words “the cast” bring everything alive and your descrof those present at the Passion makes the scripture soo meaningful. Thankyou again for your ability to create wo derful images.

  5. Father John I find your raw honesty and genuineness so uplighting and helpful. It helps me to not be so hard on myself when I struggle to keep my mind from wandering during the passion reading, or when I find myself inwardly wishing it would be over already so I could sit down! Focusing on the cast and the human emotions helps it to come alive, and helps me to connect on a soul level, and to begin to find the level of connection that I yearn for.


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