Jesus Christ leads us to
year on Palm or Passion Sunday, 28 March , also the 25th World
Youth Day for the youth of the Diocese of Rome, the Holy Father presided
at a solemn celebration in St Peter's Square. He blessed the palm and
olive branches and at the end of the procession celebrated Holy Mass.
Taking part were young people from Rome and from other dioceses. The
theme for this Youth Day was: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit
eternal life?" (Mk 10:17). The following is a translation of the Pope's
Homily, which was given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Dear Young People,
The Gospel of the blessing of the palms that we have heard gathered
here in St Peter's Square, begins with the sentence: "[Jesus] went on
ahead, going up to Jerusalem" (Lk 19:28). At the very beginning of
today's Liturgy, the Church anticipates her response to the Gospel
saying: "Let us follow the Lord". This clearly expresses the theme of
Palm Sunday. It is the sequela. Being Christian means
considering the way of Jesus Christ as the right way for being human
as that way which leads to our destination, to a completely fulfilled
and authentic humanity.
In a special way I would like to repeat to all young people on this
25th World Youth Day that being Christian is a path or, better, a
pilgrimage; it is to travel with Jesus Christ, to journey in the
direction he has pointed out and is pointing out to us.
But what direction is this? How do we find it? Our Gospel passage
offers two clues in this regard. In the first place it says that it is
an ascent. This has first of all a very concrete meaning. Jericho, where
the last part of Jesus' pilgrimage began, is 250 metres below sea-level,
is located at 740 to 780 metres above sea level: a climb of almost 1,000
metres. But this external route is above all an image of the internal
movement of existence that occurs in the following of Christ: it is an
ascent to the true heights of being human.
Man can choose an easy path and avoid every effort. He can also sink
to the low and the vulgar. He can flounder in the swamps of falsehood
and dishonesty. Jesus walks before us and towards the heights. He leads
us to what is great, pure. He leads us to that healthy air of the
heights: to life in accordance with the truth; to courage that does not
let itself be intimidated by the gossip of prevalent opinions; to
patience that bears with and sustains the other. He guides people to be
open towards the suffering, to those who are neglected. He leads us to
stand loyally by the other, even when the situation becomes difficult.
He leads us to the readiness to give help; to the goodness that does not
let itself be disarmed, even by ingratitude. He leads us to love
he leads us to God.
Jesus "went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem". If we interpret these
words of the Gospel in the context of the way Jesus took in all its
a journey which, precisely, continues to the end of time
in the destination, "Jerusalem", we can discover various levels
Of course, first of all, it must be understood that this simply means
the place, "Jerusalem": it is the city in which God's Temple stood,
whose uniqueness must allude to the oneness of God himself. This place,
therefore, proclaims two things: on the one hand it says that there is
only one God in all the world, who exceeds by far all our places and
times; he is that God to which the entire creation belongs. He is the
God whom all men and women seek in their own depths, and of whom, in a
certain way, they all have some knowledge. But this God gave himself a
Name. He made himself known to us, he initiated a history with human
beings; he chose a man
as the starting point of this history. The infinite God is at the same
time the close God. He, who cannot be confined to any building,
nevertheless wants to dwell among us, to be totally with us.
If Jesus, with the pilgrim Israel, goes up to Jerusalem, he goes
there to celebrate with Israel the Passover: the memorial of Israel's
— a memorial which, at the same time, is always a hope of
definitive freedom, which God will give. And Jesus approaches this feast
in the awareness that he himself is the Lamb in which will be
accomplished what the Book of Exodus says in this regard: a lamb without
blemish, a male, who at sunset, before the eyes of the children of
Israel, is sacrificed "as an ordinance for ever" (cf. Ex 12:5-6, 14).
And lastly, Jesus knows that his way goes further: the Cross will not
be his end. He knows that his journey will rend the veil between this
world and God's world; that he will ascend to the throne of God and
reconcile God and man in his Body He knows that his Risen Body will be
the new sacrifice and the new Temple; that around him, from the hosts of
Angels and Saints the new Jerusalem will be formed, that is in Heaven
and yet also on the earth, because by his Passion he was to open the
frontier between Heaven and earth.
His way leads beyond the summit of the Mountain of the Temple to the
heights of God himself: this is the great ascent to which he calls us
all. He always remains with us on earth and he has always already
arrived with God. He guides us on earth and beyond the earth.
Thus, the dimensions of our sequela become visible in the
ascent of Jesus
the goal to which he wants to lead us: to the heights of God, to
communion with God, to being-with-God. This is the true destination and
communion with him is the way to it. Communion with Christ is being on
the way, a permanent ascent toward the true heights of our call.
Journeying on together with Jesus is at the same time also a journeying
on in the "we" of those who want to follow him. It introduces us into
Since the way to true life, to being people in conformity with the
model of the Son of God Jesus Christ, surpasses our own strength, this
journey always means being carried. We find ourselves, so to speak,
roped to Jesus Christ
together with him on the ascent towards God's heights. He pulls and
supports us. It is part of following Christ that we allow ourselves to
be roped together; that we acknowledge we cannot do it alone.
This act of humility, entering into the "we" of the Church is part of
it; holding tight to the rope, the responsibility of communion
not breaking the rope through stubbornness or self-importance. Humbly
believing, with the Church, like being a roped-party on the ascent
towards God, is an essential condition for the following of Christ. This
being roped together also entails not behaving as masters of the Word of
God, not running after a mistaken idea of emancipation. The humility of
"being with" is essential for the ascent. The fact that in the
Sacraments we always let the Lord once again take us by the hand is also
part of it; that we let ourselves be purified and strengthened by him;
that we accept the discipline of the ascent, even when we are weary.
Lastly, we must say again: the Cross is
also part of the ascent towards the heights of Jesus Christ, of the
ascent to the heights of God. Just as in the affairs of this world it is
impossible to achieve great results without self-sacrifice and hard
work; just as joy in a great discovery of knowledge or in a true
operational skill is linked to discipline, indeed, to the effort of
learning, so the way toward life itself, to, the realization of one's
own humanity, is linked to communion with the One who ascended to God's
heights through the Cross. In the final analysis, the Cross is an
expression of what love means: only those who lose themselves find
Let us sum up: the following of Christ
requires, as a first step, a reawakening of the desire to be authentic
human beings and thus the reawakening of oneself for God. It then
requires us to join the climbing party, in the communion of the Church.
In the "we" of the Church we enter into
communion with the "you" of Jesus Christ and thus reach the path to God.
We are also asked to listen to the Word of Jesus Christ and to live it:
in faith, hope and love. Thus we are on the way toward the definitive
Jerusalem and, from this moment, in a certain way, we already find
ourselves there, in the communion of all God's Saints.
Our pilgrimage following Christ is not
therefore bound for an earthly city, but for the new City of God that
develops in the midst of this world. Yet the pilgrimage to the earthly
Jerusalem can also be useful to us Christians for that more important
journey. I myself linked three meanings to my pilgrimage in the Holy
Land last year. First of all I thought that what St John says at the
beginning of his First Letter can happen to us on such an occasion: that
what we have heard, we can in a certain manner see and touch with our
hands (cf. 1 Jn 1:1).
Faith in Jesus Christ is not a legendary
invention. It is based on a true story. This history we can, so to
speak, contemplate and touch. It is moving to find oneself in Nazareth
in the place where the Angel appeared to Mary and intimated to her the
duty to become the Mother of the Redeemer.
It is moving to be in Bethlehem on the
spot where the Word, made flesh, came to dwell among us; to walk on the
holy ground in which God chose to become a man and a child. It is moving
to climb the steps to Calvary, to the place where Jesus died for us on
the Cross. And lastly, to stand before the empty sepulchre; to pray
where his holy body rested and where, on the third day, the Resurrection
occurred. Following the exterior ways taken by Jesus must help us walk
more joyfully and with new certainty on the interior way that he pointed
out to us, that is he himself.
When we go to the Holy Land as pilgrims
we also go, however
and this is the second aspect
as messengers of peace, with the prayer for peace; with the strong
invitation to all to do our utmost in that place, which includes in its
name the word "peace", to make it truly become a place of peace. Thus
this pilgrimage is at the same time
as a third aspect
an encouragement to Christians to stay in their country of origin and to
work hard in it for peace.
Let us return once again to the Palm
Sunday Liturgy. In the prayer with which the palms are blessed, we pray
that in communion with Christ we may bear fruit with good works.
Subsequent to an erroneous
interpretation of St Paul, the opinion that good works are not part of
being Christian or in any case are insignificant for the human being's
salvation has emerged time and again in the course of history and also
today. But if Paul says that works cannot justify man, with this he did
not oppose the importance of right action and, if he speaks of the end
of the Law, he does not say that the Ten Commandments are obsolete and
There is no need now to reflect on the full breadth of
the issue that concerned the Apostle. What is important is to point out
that with the term "Law" he does not mean the Ten Commandments but
rather the complex way of life Israel had adopted to protect itself
against the temptations of paganism. Now, however, Christ has brought
God to the pagans. This form of distinction was not imposed upon them.
They were given as the Law Christ alone. However, this means love of God
and of neighbour and of everything that this entails.
The Commandments, interpreted in a new
and deeper way starting from Christ, are part of this love, those
Commandments are none other than the fundamental rules of true love:
first of all, and as a fundamental principle, the worship of God, the
primacy of God, which the first three Commandments express. They say:
"without God nothing succeeds correctly. Who this God is and how he is
we know from the person of Jesus Christ. Next come the holiness of the
family (4th Commandment), the holiness of life (5th Commandment), the
order of marriage (6th Commandment), the social order (7th Commandment),
and lastly the inviolability of the truth (8th Commandment).
Today all this is of the greatest
timeliness and precisely also in St Paul's meaning
if we read all his Letters. "Bear fruit with good works": at the
beginning of Holy Week let us pray the Lord to grant us this fruit in
ever greater abundance.
At the end of the Gospel for the
blessing of the palms, we hear the acclamation with which the pilgrims
greet Jesus at the Gates of Jerusalem. It takes up the words of Psalm
118 (117), which priests originally proclaimed to pilgrims from the Holy
City but which, in the meantime had become an expression of messianic
hope: "Blessed is he who enters in the Name of the Lord" (Ps
118:26; cf. Lk 19:38).
Pilgrims see in Jesus the One who is to
come in the Name of the Lord. In deed, according to St Luke's Gospel they
insert one more word: "Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the
Lord". And they continue with an acclamation that recalls the message of
the Angels at Christmas, but change it in a manner that prompts
The Angels spoke of the glory of God in
the highest and of peace on earth among men with whom he was pleased.
The pilgrims at the entrance to the Holy City say: "Peace on earth and
glory be to God in the highest!". They know only too well that there is
no peace on earth. And they know that the place of peace is Heaven
they know that it is an essential part of Heaven to be a haven of peace.
This acclamation is therefore an
expression of profound suffering and, at the same time, a prayer of
hope; may the One who comes in the Name of the Lord bring to the earth
what there is in Heaven. May his kingship become the kingship of God,
the presence of Heaven on earth. The Church, before the Eucharistic
consecration, sings the words of the Psalm with which Jesus was greeted
before his entry into the Holy City: She greets Jesus as the King who,
coming from God, comes among us in the Name of God. Today too, this
joyous greeting is always a supplication and hope.
Let us pray the Lord that he bring to us
Heaven, the glory of God and peace among men. Let us understand this
greeting in the spirit of the request in the Our Father: "Thy will be
done on earth as it is in Heaven". We know that Heaven is Heaven, a
place of glory and peace because the will of God totally prevails there.
And we know that the earth will not be Heaven as long as God's will is
not done on it.
Let us therefore greet Jesus who comes
down from Heaven and pray him to help us to recognize and to do God's
will. May God's kingship enter the world and thus be filled with the
splendour of peace. Amen.