World Youth Day - Background

 

11TH WORLD YOUTH DAY - CLOSING MASS  
John Paul II

Homily of the Palm Sunday liturgy of 31 March 1996

1. "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Entrance antiphon).

Palm Sunday, when the Church recalls Christ's triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, is a solemn gateway as it were leading to Holy Week. Looking at this day from the standpoint of liturgical spirituality, we can consider it as somehow present in every Eucharistic celebration. Just as in its time it was the threshold of the events of Christ's paschal week, so it continues as the threshold of the Eucharistic mystery. Indeed, the very threshold of the liturgy. The moment we cross this threshold, we approach the centre of the Mysterium fide.

This Mysterium is "always and everywhere" celebrated and accomplished by Christ himself, through the service of the priest, minister of the Eucharist. Christ himself, the Eternal High Priest, arrives in Jerusalem to complete his one sacrifice, the sacrifice of the New Covenant: first as a sacrament at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday; then as a redeeming reality on Calvary.

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

This Week is filled with the sufferings of Christ

2. His coming is a revelation, a radical, total revelation of God's holiness. "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth". "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory...".

Precisely this Week which humanly speaking is filled to the brim with suffering, humiliation, despoliation, in a word, with the kenosis of God this Week contains the revelation of God's holiness, the culmination of world history. "Holy, Holy, Holy.... Hosanna in the highest".

From the depth of Christ's redemptive humiliation, man is given the gift of strength to reach the summit of his own being and destiny. On this day and in this Week, rightly called "Holy", the "Hosanna in the highest" achieves its full meaning.

3. For 11 years World Youth Day has been celebrated on Palm Sunday. In a certain sense it could be said that "youth day" began to be such from the beginning, from the day we are commemorating today, when the young people of Jerusalem went out to meet Christ as he entered the city, meek and humble, riding on an ass, according to the prophecy of Zechariah (cf. Zec 9:9). They went to greet him and to welcome him with the words of the psalm: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord..." (Ps 117 [118]:26).

Christ does not forget. He remembers everything that happened then. And young people remember too. Christ is faithful. And young people also know how to be faithful to whoever puts trust in them.

This is why young people return, year after year, to this meeting which arose from their irrepressible enthusiasm for Jesus and the Gospel. Thus began a pilgrimage which passes through the Dioceses of the whole world and, every two years, comes together in a great international meeting, building bridges of brotherhood and hope between continents, peoples and cultures. It is a journey always in motion, like life. Like youth.

This year the halfway point, so to speak, between the unforgettable stop in Manila and that planned for Paris in August 1997 the young people's" journey once again pauses in the local Churches, a journey also enriched by the experience of the European pilgrimage to the Holy House of Loreto.

The Cross is the word of eternal life

4. Dear young people present today in St Peter's Square, to you my special greeting! I extend a warm welcome to all who have come from afar, particularly to the Filipino young people, who will shortly hand over the World Youth Day Cross to their French friends.

To embrace the Cross on this day, to pass it from hand to hand, is a very eloquent gesture. It is like saying: Lord, we do not want to stay with you only at the time of the "Hosannas", but with your help we want to accompany you on the way of the Cross as did Mary, your mother and ours, and the Apostle John. Yes, O Lord, because "You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68), and we have believed that precisely your Cross is the word of life, of eternal life!

Dear friends, you know well that the Lord does not mislead us with deceptive mirages of happiness, but says: "If any man wishes to come after me, let him ... take up his cross and follow me" (Mk 8:34). This language is harsh but sincere, and it contains the basic truth for life: only love fulfils man and there is no love without sacrifice. Young people, go and take this word of life on the highways of the world which is heading towards the third millennium. The Cross of Christ is the world's hope.

In the liturgy of Palm Sunday, young people have a leading role, like the "children of Jerusalem", who "welcomed Christ the King. They carried olive branches and loudly praised the Lord: 'Hosanna in the highest' (Procession antiphon).

...They welcomed the Lord.

Young people of Rome and the world! Christ is calling you: welcome him!

 

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