Matthew 21:1-14 (Procession)
Isaiah 50:4-7
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66


In 2001 I was present at the Good Friday 3pm Commemoration of the Passion in my parish, St Paul Apostle, Endeavour Hills, VIC., Australia. I was profoundly affected by the Passion Play which was the form that the homily took that day. A small band of people represented the main characters in the passion story as told by St John. In turn we heard who the actor represented, then mostly the wrong they and others like them had done, and how sorry they were for it. These are the kinds of testimonies that I remember, but based here on the gospel according to Matthew, the gospel for Palm Sunday.

  1. My name is Sheldon, and I am one of a group of austere religious men known as ‘the Pharisees’. We devote our energies to doing good and studying God’s Law. But we have believed too much in how right we are. After us will come too many persons and movements like us, and who also deserve the label ‘Pharisees’ – Paul before his conversion; the Crusades; the Inquisition; torturers of suspects like Julian Assange.
  2. I am Caiaphas, the High Priest of the day. I am preoccupied with religious orthodoxy (correctness in believing), and how easily people get led astray by false messiahs. But I am not on my own. The Church of Jesus will often burn alleged heretics at the stake (Joan of Arc, for instance), imagining it was doing a service to God.
  3. I am Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor. At a time of great unrest, I have been over-zealous in the preservation of law and order. I knew that Jesus was innocent, but was afraid of trouble and unrest if I did not give the religious leaders what they wanted. I was also afraid of losing my job if I got reported to the Emperor. I realize now that I am one of many people who know what is right, but do not always have the courage to do it. We act against our consciences.
  4. I am Judas, and I betrayed my Leader, the good and great Jesus, the Son of God. For helping to kill Jesus, I ended up hanging myself. I simply could not live with killing a completely good and innocent man. But I note that plenty of others are not bothered by that. Think of executioners, abortionists, terrorists, and death squads. Think of those repeatedly firing missiles into hospitals, orphanages, and apartment blocks, in towns and cities of Ukraine. At times others of us betray our ideals, if not our friends.
  5. I am Peter, and I will be remembered forever as weak and cowardly Peter, for denying any connection at all with Jesus, who had made me the leader of his community. But I came to weep bitter tears over my denials. But let me dare to ask: How many tears have you shed over your denials of Jesus?
  6. I am Longinus, a Roman soldier, and one of a big bunch of soldiers involved from beginning to end in the death of Jesus. Like the Nazi leaders who will come after us, we plead that we were simply carrying out orders from higher-ups. We and they deny personal responsibility. But I honestly admit now that this is a complete cop-out.
  7. I am Nicky, and I am Barney, and we are two stand-outs in a big unruly crowd that day. We simply did not know what was happening and what it all meant. But we have learnt that it is too easy to take cover in the crowd, too easy to protest, ‘Everybody’s doing it, aren’t they?’
  8. I am Mary Magdalen, close friend of Jesus, and with me in sorrow but from a safe distance are Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the apostles James and John, who have fled for their lives. We have stayed with Jesus from the start of his ordeal, and will stay with him to the very end. We will inspire the compassionate friends of crucified and suffering people in every century who need presence, love and support, not coldness and indifference and neglect.
  9. I am Jesus, the Saviour of all. It was out of love that I suffered and died for you, and for every other human being on the face of the earth. My Passion has shown that doing good is the only way to overcome evil. Now risen and alive, I will help you become an instrument of truth and justice, and of peace and love, to others in your orbit, and beyond.

(With some inspiration from Flor McCarthy SDB, in his writings)


Brian Gleeson is a Passionist priest, and a member of the Passionist community in Endeavour Hills, Melbourne.