In my experience, liturgists advise priests that on Palm Sunday and Good Friday when the Passion of the Lord is read as a part of the Liturgy, it is neither the proper time nor place for a lengthy homily. I’ve been advised by people I trust that the Passion is itself a homily, and that very few additional words from me are required during these very lengthy liturgies.
But if I could give a homily on a day when the Passion of the Lord is read in church, I would choose to talk about the gospel of the First Sunday of Lent and how the passion narrative brings the account of the temptations of the Lord to a conclusion. In Luke’s version, Luke 4:13 ends – after Jesus doesn’t give in to the three very severe and intense temptations of Satan with these words: “He [Satan] departed from him [Jesus] for a time.” In Greek, the word “time” used by Luke is not the ordinary word for plain, old “time”; it is, instead, a word that means “a special time” or “a golden opportunity” or “a moment of crisis”.
And that “time,” that “golden opportunity” for Satan, that “moment of crisis” for Jesus, I believe, is when Jesus is dying on the cross. In Luke’s passion narrative, passersby and Roman soldiers taunt Jesus, saying, “Let him save himself if he is the Chosen One, the Christ of God.” These words are Satan’s ultimate temptation of the Lord. If Jesus, goaded on by these words, had decided to give in to prove that he was indeed the long-awaited Messiah, the true Son of God, he would not have accomplished his mission. So, rather than prove who he is, Jesus carried out his mission to die for the redemption of sinners.
—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.