Homily of the Palm Sunday Liturgy, 5 April
1998. Youth Day pilgrimage Cross passed to young people of Rome.
1. "Blessed is the King who comes in the
name of the Lord!" (Lk 19:38).
Palm Sunday enables us to relive Jesus' entry
into Jerusalem shortly before Passover. The Gospel passage presents 'him to us
entering the city surrounded by a festive crowd. We can say that, on that day,
Israel's expectations of the Messiah reached their peak. They were expectations
fostered by the words of the ancient prophets and confirmed by Jesus of Nazareth
through his teaching and, especially, through the signs he performed.
When the Pharisees asked him to silence the
crowd, Jesus replied: "If these were silent, the very stones would cry
out" (Lk 19:40). He was particularly referring to the walls of the
temple in Jerusalem, built for the Messiah's coming and very carefully rebuilt
after being destroyed at the time of the deportation to Babylon. Israel had a
conscious and vivid memory of the destruction and rebuilding of the temple, and
Jesus referred to this awareness when he said: "Destroy this temple, and
in three days I will raise it up" (Jn 2:19). As the ancient
temple of Jerusalem was destroyed and rebuilt, so the new and perfect temple of
Jesus' body was to die on the Cross and rise again on the third day (cf. ibid.,
2. However, as he enters Jerusalem, Jesus knows
that the rejoicing by some in the crowd is leading him into the heart of the "mysterium"
of salvation. He is aware that he is going to his death and will not receive
a royal crown, but one of thorns.
The readings for today's celebration are marked
by the Messiah's suffering and culminate in the Evangelist Luke's description of
it in the Passion account.
This unspeakable mystery of pain and love is
presented by the prophet Isaiah, considered in a way as the evangelist of the
Old Testament, as well as by the responsorial psalm and the refrain sung a few
moments ago: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?". St
Paul takes it up again in the Letter to the Philippians, which is the
inspiration for the antiphon that will accompany us during the "Triduum
Sacrum": "Christ became obedient for us unto death, even death on a
cross" (cf. 2:8). At the Easter Vigil we will add: "Therefore
God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every
name" (Phil 2:9).
Every day during the Eucharistic celebration the
Church recalls the Lord's Passion, Death and Resurrection—the faithful say
after the consecration: "Christ has
died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again".
3. For over 10 years Palm Sunday has become an
eagerly awaited gathering for the celebration of World Youth Day. The fact that
the Church pays special attention to young people on this particular day is in
itself very significant. This is not only because 2,000 years ago young people—pueri
Hebraeorum—festively accompanied Christ during his triumphal entry into
Jerusalem, but especially because, after 20 centuries of Christian history,
young people, led by their perceptiveness and a correct insight, are discovering
in the liturgy of Palm Sunday a message uniquely addressed to the them.
Dear young people, today the message of the Cross
is offered to you again. You, who will be the adults of the third millennium,
are entrusted with this Cross which in a few minutes will be passed from a group
of French youths to young people representing Rome and Italy. From Rome to
Buenos Aires; from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Compostela; from Santiago de
Compostela to Częstochowa, from Jasna Góra to Denver; from Denver to
Manila; from Manila to Paris, this Cross has been on pilgrimage with young
people from one country to another, from one continent to another. Your choice,
young Christians, is clear: to discover in the Cross of Christ the meaning of
your life and the source of your missionary enthusiasm.
Starting today, this Cross will go on pilgrimage
in the Dioceses of Italy until the World Youth Day of the Year 2000, which will
be celebrated here in Rome during the Great Jubilee. Then, with the arrival of
the new millennium, it will continue its travels around the world, thus showing
that the Cross journeys with young people and young people journey with the
4. How can we not give thanks to Christ for the
exceptional way that young believers have joined forces? At this time I would
like to thank all those who have guided young people in this providential
activity and have contributed to the great pilgrimage of the Cross along the
paths of the world. I am especially thinking, with affection and gratitude, of
Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who died recently. He was present at and presided over
many celebrations of World Youth Day. May the Lord shower upon him the heavenly
rewards promised to good and faithful servants!
In a few minutes, as the Cross is being
symbolically passed from Paris to Rome, allow the Bishop of this city to exclaim
with the liturgy: Ave Crux, spes unica! We had you, O holy Cross! You
bring us the One who 20 centuries ago was acclaimed in Jerusalem by other young
people and by the crowd: "Blessed is
he who comes in the name of the Lord".
We all join in this song, repeating: Blessed is
he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Yes! Blessed are you, O Christ, who also comes to
us today with your message of love and life. And blessed is your holy Cross,
from which flows the salvation of the world yesterday, today and forever.
Ave Crux! Praised
be Jesus Christ.