Homily of the Palm Sunday Liturgy, 27 March 1994
1. "The stones will cry out..." (Lk
You young people know that stones cry out. They
are mute yet they have their own particular eloquence, their own cry. Anyone who
stands face to face with mountain peaks, in the Alps or in the Himalayas, for
example, realizes this. The eloquence, the cry, of these imposing masses of
rock is breathtaking and throws man to his knees; it forces him to
withdraw into himself and turn to his invisible Creator. These mute stones
speak. You young people know this better than others because you explore their
mysterious eloquence, going on excursions in the high mountains, forcing
yourselves to make the effort and by so doing to test your youthful energy.
You know it, and this is why Christ says of you:
"If they keep silent, the stones will cry out! ..." (Lk 19:40). He
said this at the moment of his messianic entrance into Jerusalem, while some
Pharisees tried to induce him to silence the young people who were shouting:
"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mk 11:9).
Christ replied: "If they keep silent, the stones will cry out …".
Jesus is challenging you with these words, dearly beloved, and you have
accepted the challenge, a challenge that has been renewed for 10 years now,
every Palm Sunday, when you young people gather in St Peter's Square to repeat:
"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!".
Our 1984 meeting in this square led to
the idea of World Youth Day. Today this idea has been realized for
the tenth time. This year you, American friends, have also come here from
Denver, bringing the pilgrim cross to hand it over to your peers from the
Philippines where, God willing, the world youth meeting is to take place
next January: Manila 1995.
Young people raise their voice in witness to
"The stones will cry out…".
Stone contains great energy. The forces of
nature that burst through the earth's crust forming chains of lofty
mountains are expressed in it. Stone can be a threatening force. However, as
well as the mountainous rocks in which the mystery of creation is expressed,
there are also stones that serve man for his works of genius. It is
enough to think of all the temples in the world, of the Gothic cathedrals, the
works of the Renaissance, like this Basilica of St Peter's, or of certain holy
buildings in the Far East.
Today however, I ask you to pause spiritually
close to a specific temple: the temple of the God of the Covenant in
Jerusalem. Only a humble fragment of it remains, known as the "Wailing
Wall", because near its stones the children of Israel meet, recalling the
grandeur of the former sanctuary where God made his dwelling and which was the
object of all Israel's pride. It was razed to the ground in A.D. 70. This is why
today the Wailing Wall is so eloquent. Eloquent for the children of Israel;
eloquent for us too, because we know that God really made his dwelling in this
temple, and the empty space of the Holy of Holies preserved within it the
tablets of the Ten Commandments entrusted to Moses by the Lord on Mount Sinai.
This most holy place was separated from the rest of the temple by a veil, torn
down the middle at the moment when Christ died: a disturbing sign that the God
of the Covenant was present among his people.
Thus we go up to Jerusalem where
the Son of Man will be given up to death and crucified, so as to rise on the
third day. Today's feast, Palm Sunday, reminds us vividly of Jesus' entrance
into Jerusalem when the sons and daughters of Israel proclaimed God's glory,
greeting the One " who comes in the name of the Lord": "Hosanna
to the Son of David!".
3. "If they keep silent, the stones will cry
In fact they are not silent! We
are amazed at how young people raise their voices. They do not let the mere
stones speak; they do not allow the temples of the living God to become cold
museum pieces. They speak with loud voices. They speak in different places on
the earth, and their voices must be heard. In this way it happens that because
of their witness, the young disciples of Jesus are a surprise to many.
Christ wants to involve you in his mission
This happened precisely last year in Denver,
Colorado, where on the occasion of such a large gathering of youth from all
over the world, youthful excesses were predicted and even cases of violence and
abuse, all of which would have been a counter-witness. It was expected that this
would happen and adequate precautions were taken. For you, dear friends, it was
a challenge. And you accepted it and responded by your witness. A living witness
in which you broke down the stereotypes according to which people
expected to see and judge you. You showed who you truly are and what you desire.
And your voices echoed in that American metropolis at the foot of the Rocky
Mountains in such a way that you forced both the mountain peaks and the gigantic
modern buildings to be amazed at hearing and seeing you as you really are.
4. For this reason, dearly beloved, do not be
surprised, if after the experiences of Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela,
Jasna Góra and Denver, I wish to speak to you with the message Christ left the
Apostles in his paschal mystery. Here we are entering Holy Week. We will
go to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room of Holy Thursday; we will climb to Golgotha;
we will pause at the sepulchre in the silence of the Easter Vigil; then we will
return to the Upper Room to meet the risen Christ, who will repeat to us what he
told the Apostles who rejoiced at his presence: "As the Father has sent
me, so I send you" (Jn 20:21).
"And the disciples rejoiced when they saw
the Lord" (Jn 20:20), wrote John the Evangelist. You too will rejoice to
see him among you alive and triumphant over death, which could not triumph over
him. You too will rejoice to hear the words he addresses to you. You will
rejoice because he trusts you, he has such trust in you that he tells you
through your Pastors: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you". You are
waiting to be sent, to be entrusted with his Gospel, to be entrusted
with the world's salvation. Your young hearts are waiting precisely for these
words of the Redeemer.
Man must be aware of being sent. This
is what I told Rome's young people last Thursday. Without this awareness human
life becomes dreary and gathers dust. Being sent means having a task to
fulfil, a demanding commitment. Being sent means opening the way to a
great good, awaited by all. Being sent means serving
a supreme cause.
You young people are waiting precisely for this!
Christ wishes to meet you and involve you in the great mission entrusted to him
by the Father. It is a mission that endures in the world, always alive and
contemporary, still unfulfilled, always to be fulfilled until the very last day.
"Come with me to save the world—it
is already the 20th century", sang the young people in Poland, in the
very difficult times of the struggle for the Truth and the Life that is Christ
and for the Way he has indicated (cf. Jn 14:6). Today, as this 20th century is
drawing to a close, we must think of the future, of the 21st century, the third
millennium. This future belongs to you. Tomorrow belongs to you. You are the men
and women of tomorrow. And Christ is "the same yesterday, today and
forever" (Heb 13:8). Tell all your peers that he is waiting for them and
that only he has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68). Tell all your peers.