Homily of the Palm Sunday liturgy, 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
This Week is filled with the sufferings
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
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
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 :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
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!