Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Cycle B

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.


Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Cycle B

Sunday, March 25, 2018


This Sunday’s Readings


Gospel at the Procession with Palms
Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the crowds shout, “Hosanna!”

First Reading
Isaiah 50:4-7
The Lord’s servant will stand firm, even when persecuted.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 22:8-9,17-18,19-20,23-24
A cry for help to the Lord in the face of evildoers

Second Reading
Philippians 2:6-11
Christ was obedient even to death, but God has exalted him.

Gospel Reading
Mark 14:1—15:47 (shorter form: Mark 15:1-39)
Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified. The centurion who witnessed his death declared, “This man was the Son of God.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

This Sunday, called Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of Holy Week. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday are called the Triduum—three days that are the highlight of the Church year. There are two Gospels proclaimed at today’s Mass. The first Gospel, proclaimed before the procession with palms, tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Riding on a borrowed colt, Jesus was hailed by the crowds as they blessed God and shouted “Hosanna!” This event is reported in each of the four Gospels.

At the Liturgy of the Word on Palm Sunday, the events of Jesus’ passion are proclaimed in their entirety. In Lectionary Cycle B, we read the passion of Jesus as found in the Gospel of Mark. We will hear these events proclaimed again when we celebrate the Triduum later in the week. On Good Friday, we will read the passion of Jesus from the Gospel of John.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ passion and death are presented as the consequence of the tension between the Jewish authorities and Jesus that had been building throughout his public ministry. This tension reached its breaking point when Jesus drove the merchants and moneychangers from the Temple. After this event, the chief priests and scribes began seeking a way to put Jesus to death, and yet, this is only the surface explanation for his death.

When Jesus was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin—the council of Jewish priests, scribes, and elders—he was charged with blasphemy, citing his threat to the Temple. When he was brought before Pilate, however, the religious authorities presented his crime as a political one, charging that Jesus claimed to be king of the Jews. In continuity with a theme of Mark’s Gospel, the messianic claim of Jesus is widely misunderstood.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples are rarely models of faith and do little to invoke confidence in their capacity to continue his ministry after his death. They fare no better in Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ passion and death. At the Last Supper, the disciples insisted that none among them would betray Jesus. When Jesus predicted that their faith would be shaken in the events ahead, Peter and the other disciples protested vehemently. Yet in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus returned three times to find them sleeping. Jesus prayed in agony over his impending fate while his disciples slumbered through the night. Just as Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus, and the disciples were absent during Jesus’ passion and death. Only the women who had been followers of Jesus in Galilee are said to have been present at the Crucifixion, but they remained at a distance.

Throughout this Gospel, Mark challenges the reader to consider the claim with which the Gospel begins: Jesus is the Son of God. When we read Mark’s account of the passion, we begin to comprehend the deeper theological statement being made about Jesus’ death. In Mark’s telling of the passion narrative, Jesus understood his death to have been preordained, and he accepted this death in obedience to God’s will. Jewish Scripture is quoted only once, but there are several references to the fulfillment of the Scriptures. Jesus understood his anointing in Bethany as an anticipation of his burial, and he announced that this story would be told together with the Gospel throughout the world. Jesus predicted his betrayal by Judas as well as Peter’s denial. At his arrest, Jesus acknowledged that the preordained time had arrived. Jesus was both confident and silent before his accusers. After he was sentenced to death, Jesus did not speak again until his final cry from the cross. The bystanders misunderstood and believed that he was calling for Elijah. The Roman centurion, however, affirmed what Mark has presented throughout this Gospel: Jesus is the Son of God. Nowhere was this revealed more fully than in his death on the cross.

During Holy Week, we prayerfully remember the events of Jesus’ passion and death. As we meditate on the cross, we ask again and anew what it means to make the statement of faith that Jesus, in his obedient suffering and dying, revealed himself to us as God’s Son.


Gospel Reading
Mark 14:1—15:47 (shorter form: Mark 15:1-39)
Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified. The centurion who witnessed his death declared, “This man was the Son of God.”


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt, the crowds cheered him as their king. But the people did not understand the type of king that Jesus was to be. When Jesus died on the cross, the soldier who watched him die acknowledged that he was the Son of God.

Materials Needed

  • Pictures of items that children treasure, such as a bicycle, a baseball card, a basketball, a doll

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children to name things that that they treasure and would be reluctant to share. Show them the pictures to help them. Then ask them if a celebrity or an important person came to them and asked to borrow the treasured item, they would allow that particular person to borrow it.

  2. Say: It’s not easy to share things that are valuable to us. But if someone famous asked us, we might feel honored to lend it to him or her. Jesus sent his disciples to borrow something in today's Gospel. Let's listen carefully to learn what this was.

  3. Read aloud the Gospel at the procession with palms, Mark 11:1-10.

  4. Ask: What did Jesus send his disciples to get for him? (a colt) Animals were valuable possessions, and the people watching the disciples asked them why they were taking the colt. When the disciples said it was for Jesus, the people allowed them to borrow it because they thought Jesus was going to be their new king. What did the people shout as Jesus rode the colt? (The people shouted “Hosanna.”) Hosanna means “save us.” The crowds wanted Jesus to save them from the harsh rules of their leader. But Jesus’ kingdom was not what they thought; Jesus came to save people for the Kingdom of Heaven.

  5. Say: This week is called Holy Week. At the end of this week, we will remember Jesus’ Last Supper, his death on the cross, and his Resurrection. When Jesus died on the cross, they put a sign above him that said “King of the Jews.” Most of the people misunderstood who Jesus was, but the soldier who watched him die said that Jesus was the Son of God. Because Jesus is the Son of God, he can forgive our sins.

  6. Conclude in pray together, thanking God for the forgiveness we experience thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Allow some quiet time, inviting the children to think about ways in which they need forgiveness in their lives. Pray together the Act of Contrition or sing “Jesus, Jesus.”


Gospel Reading
Mark 14:1—15:47 (shorter form: Mark 15:1-39)
Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified. The centurion who witnessed his death declared, “This man was the Son of God.”


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

When Jesus died on the cross, he felt abandoned and alone, and he cried out to God. In his death, Jesus identified with all those who feel alone and abandoned in our world. As a Church and as individual Christians, we look for ways to reach out to all those who feel alone, to share with them God’s love and care.

Materials Needed

  • None

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say: This week we celebrate Holy Week, which is the most important week in the Church year because it is when we remember Jesus’ death on the cross for our salvation. On Palm Sunday, we hear two Gospel readings. The first Gospel tells us how Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by the crowds. The crowds shouted praises to God because they thought Jesus was coming to save them.

  2. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud this Gospel, Mark 11:1-10

  3. Say: In the second Gospel reading for this Sunday, which is also called Passion Sunday, we hear the details about several events: Jesus’ Last Supper, his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas’s betrayal, the arrest of Jesus, Peter’s denial of Jesus, and how Jesus was accused and sentenced to death. This year we read the passion from Mark’s Gospel. Let’s prayerfully listen to a portion of this Gospel.

  4. Invite a volunteer to read aloud Mark 15:33-41.

  5. Say: When we hear this Gospel, we discover that Jesus was alone when he died on the cross. Before he died, Jesus cried out to God, asking why God had abandoned him. Jesus felt completely abandoned and alone as he died on the cross. But the Gospel also tells us that some were looking on from the distance—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, Salome, and many other women.

  6. Say: In dying alone on the cross, Jesus identifies himself with all those who are forgotten and alone in our world. Jesus wants us to bring his good news to those who feel alone. The women who looked on from a distance had ministered to Jesus as he traveled throughout Galilee. They felt helpless in the face of Jesus’ Crucifixion, but they were there.

  7. Say: God appeared to be absent when Jesus died on the cross, but we know that he wasn’t. By raising Jesus from the dead, God was saying to all of those who are forgotten and alone in the world that he cares for them.

  8. Conclude by praying for those who feel alone and abandoned. Ask God to help our Church to reach out to all people, comforting them with the assurance of his care and love. Pray together the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis or sing the hymn “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”


Gospel Reading
Mark 14:1—15:47 (shorter form: Mark 15:1-39)
Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified. The centurion who witnessed his death declared, “This man was the Son of God.”


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

After witnessing Jesus’ death on the cross, the Roman centurion recognizes Jesus as the Son of God. We strive to be people of faith who can recognize Jesus, the Son of God, who loves us and is with us always.

Materials Needed

  • None

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Challenge the group to see how quickly they can identify the person in the room whom you will describe. Then, beginning with general characteristics and progressively becoming more specific, offer descriptive clues, one at a time, until the group recognizes the person you are describing. Count how many clues were needed and talk about how each one led the group to recognize the person. Congratulate the group on their success.

  2. Say: There are two Gospel readings on this Sunday, which is called Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. The contrasting scenes described in these two Gospels help us to recognize who Jesus is and his great love for us. The first Gospel reading describes how the crowds welcomed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, honoring him as they would a king. The second Gospel reading is the Passion from Mark’s Gospel, which describes the events that led to Jesus’ death on the cross. As we prayerfully listen to the shorter form of this Gospel reading, ask God to help you understand what these events reveal to us about Jesus.

  3. Prayerfully read aloud the Passion of Jesus as recorded in Mark’s Gospel, pausing after each passage as indicated to allow the group time to reflect silently. Playing quiet, instrumental music might help to set this apart as a time for quiet prayer. Read Mark 15:1–5 (pause); 6–15 (pause); 16–21 (pause); 22–32 (pause); and 33–39 (pause).

  4. Continue this prayerful time as you say: When Jesus died on the cross, a sign was placed above him that said, “King of the Jews.” Most of the people misunderstood who Jesus was, but the centurion who watched him die said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” In his death on the cross, Jesus’ true identity was revealed. As Christians, we pray that we will be able to recognize Jesus as the Son of God and remain mindful that he loves us and is with us always.

  5. Conclude this time of prayer by praying together the Lord’s Prayer or singing an appropriate hymn, such as “What Wondrous Love Is This” or “Were You There?”


Gospel Reading
Mark 14:1—15:47 (shorter form: Mark 15:1-39)
Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified. The centurion who witnessed his death declared, “This man was the Son of God.”


Family Connection

Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week. During this week, we prepare ourselves for Easter by prayerfully reflecting on the events of Jesus’ passion and death. During this week, your family might display a crucifix in a prominent place as reminder of the salvation that Christ won for us. This can also serve as the focal point for family prayer during Holy Week.

Because of the length and complexity of the passion narrative, it is difficult for children to remain attentive when it is proclaimed in its entirety. Families can make it a tradition to read a portion of this Sunday’s Gospel each day of Holy Week, providing ample opportunity for children to ask questions and respond to the events described there. In this way, the entire week can become a “way of the cross.”

Each day during Holy Week, the family can gather in a prayerful space with a crucifix as its focal point. The passion as found in Mark’s Gospel might be read as follows throughout the week:

Sunday: Mark 11:1-10 (Gospel at the Procession with Palms)
Monday: Mark 14:1-11
Tuesday: Mark 14:12-26
Wednesday: Mark 14:27-52
Thursday: Mark 14:53-72
Friday: Mark 15:1-41
Saturday: Mark 15:42-47

After reading from the Gospel each night, the family might reflect on the reading together. Conclude your prayer time together by praying the Lord’s Prayer or by singing an appropriate hymn such as “Jesus, Jesus,” “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” or “What Wondrous Love is This.”