Palm Sunday: Who Are You in the Passion Story?

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, and during Mass today there are actually two readings from the Gospel. The first takes place at the beginning of Mass before the Procession. This Gospel tells of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and we join the crowd in singing ‘Hosanna!’ Then during the Liturgy of the Word we hear the account of Jesus’ Passion and Death, and we join the crowd in yelling, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

It is a quick change from shouts of joy and triumph to shouts of hate and derision. But that is what Jesus encountered 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem – and what He still experiences today. The Jewish people of Jesus’ time expected their Messiah to free them from the oppression of the Romans. But it turns out that Jesus wasn’t the kind of king they expected. Is this your story too? Do you find yourself being just as fickle when you don’t get what you expect from God?

Father Paul Gawlowski stopped by The Inner Life® to discuss the Passion narrative and to explore the questions: Who are you in the story? Where would you be if you had been there 2,000 years ago? Who do you identify with the most?

Fr. Gawlowski noted that someone we should all aspire to be is Simon of Cyrene. Just as he followed Jesus and carried His cross, we are asked to carry Our Lord’s cross today, wherever we are.

“As you read this passage and look at all the characters, Simon is being offered to us as the ideal disciple,” Fr. Gawlowski said. “Simon of Cyrene is the Simon who does what Simon Peter should have done. And that is to pick up the cross and follow Jesus.”

Who are you in the story? Who do you most identify with? And what insight does that give you into your own relationship with Jesus? Several listeners called-in to share the person they most identify with from the Passion narrative.

Margaret from Connecticut said, “The individual I identify with is the thief on the cross who asks Jesus to remember him. I was thinking about it and I’m a sinner. And when my cross gets heavy, my suffering is deep I want to turn to Christ and not the other way. In the worst times, I hope and pray that I turn to Him and no one else.”

Carmen from New Jersey shared that she relates to the weeping women whom Jesus told, “Weep not for Me, but for your children.” She said, “I identify with the women in the crowd who were mothers. I have two daughters, one in the faith and one away from the faith. I identify with all those women’s cries and the response that Jesus gave to them. It’s hard in this era, anytime you see your kids going away from the faith. And the only thing you have as a mother to do is cry out to Christ and pray every single day for them to come back to the faith.”

The story of Christ’s Passion is really a story of today. We like to think that if we had been there we would have stayed close to Jesus through it all. But if you take a look at your life, you may recall times in which you were like those in the crowd who did nothing for fear of rocking the boat. That was the case for a listener named Julio.

“I identify with one of the soldiers who was there while Jesus was being crucified,” Julio said. “I know that he didn’t want to be part of that situation but he continued doing it because it was his duty and it was his job. I identify with that sometimes when there are situations that go on at work and you really want to say something, but it’s your job and you just go on with the crowd.”

As you reflect on the Palm Sunday Gospel today, think about where you would have been in the story. Who you are in the story of salvation that is playing out right now? How can you be a Simon of Cyrene and help someone carry their cross today? How can you turn to Christ in repentance and hope like the good thief? Who is the Lord calling you to be during this Holy Week?

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.