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Monday, April 7, 2014

0342: Reflections on Palm Sunday
by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0342: Reflections on Palm Sunday 
by 
Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 



On seven occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on Palm Sunday, on 9 April 2006, 1 April 2007, 16 March 2008, 5 April 2009, 28 March 2010, 17 April 2011, and 1 April 2012. Here are the texts of seven brief reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and seven homilies delivered on these occasions.


CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, XXI World Youth Day, Sunday, 9 April 2006

Brothers and sisters,

In a short while a delegation of German youth will consign the World Youth Day Cross to their Australian peers. It is the Cross that beloved John Paul II entrusted to youth in 1984 so that they would bring this sign of Christ’s love for humanity into the world.

I greet Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, and Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, who wished to be present during this very significant moment. The passing on of the Cross after every World Youth Day gathering has become a “tradition” in the true sense of the word traditio, a highly symbolic consignment to be lived with great faith, making the effort to fulfill a journey of conversion following in the footsteps of Jesus.

This faith is taught to us by Mary Most Holy, who was the first “to believe” and who carried her own cross together with her Son, experiencing with him the joy of the Resurrection.

This is why the Youth Day Cross is accompanied by an icon of the Virgin, an image of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, venerated in the Basilica of St Mary Major, the most ancient Basilica of the West dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

The Cross and the Marian Icon of the World Youth Days, after having made stops in some countries of Africa to manifest Christ’s closeness and that of his Mother to the people of that Continent, tried by great suffering, will be welcomed in different regions of Oceania beginning this February. It will travel through the Dioceses of Australia and will finally reach Sydney in July 2008.

It is a spiritual pilgrimage that involves the entire Christian community, especially young people.


CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Peter’s Square, XXI World Youth Day, Sunday, 9 April 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For 20 years, thanks to Pope John Paul II, Palm Sunday has become in a special way a day for youth - the day on which all young people across the world go to meet Christ, eager to accompany him to their cities and their countries, so that he may be among us and establish his peace in the world. However, if we want to encounter Jesus and then to walk with him on his path, we must ask:  on what path does he want to lead us? What do we expect of him? What does he expect of us?

To understand what happens on Palm Sunday and to know what this means, not only for that hour but for all time, one detail has proved to be important; it also became the key to understanding the event for his disciples too, when they looked back after Easter with new eyes at those tumultuous days.

Jesus entered the Holy City riding on a donkey, that is, the animal of the simple, common country people, and moreover, it was an ass that did not belong to him but one he had asked to borrow for the occasion.

He did not arrive in an ostentatious royal carriage or on horseback like the great figures of the world, but on a borrowed donkey. John tells us that at first the disciples did not understand his action. Only after Easter did they realize that Jesus, by so acting, was fulfilling what the prophets had foretold:  that his action derived from God’s Word and was bringing it to fulfilment.

It should be remembered, John said, that in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah we read:  “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on the colt of an ass” (Jn 12: 15; see Zec 9: 9). To understand the significance of the prophecy and, consequently, of Jesus’ behavior, we must listen to the whole of Zechariah’s text, which continues thus:  “He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth” (see 9: 10).

With that, the Prophet says three things about the future king. In the first place he says that he will be a king of the poor, a poor man among the poor and for the poor. In this case poverty is meant in the sense of the anawim of Israel, of those believing and trusting souls that we meet around Jesus - in the perspective of the first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount.

A person can be materially poor yet his heart can be full of greed for wealth and for the power that derives from it. The very fact that he lives with envy and covetousness shows that, in his heart, he is one of the rich. He wants to reverse the division of goods so that he himself can take over the situation that was previously theirs.

The poverty that Jesus means - that the prophets mean - presupposes above all inner freedom from the greed for possession and the mania for power. This is a greater reality than merely a different distribution of possessions, which would still be in the material domain and thereby make hearts even harder. It is first and foremost a matter of purification of heart, through which one recognizes possession as responsibility, as a duty towards others, placing oneself under God’s gaze and letting oneself be guided by Christ, who from being rich became poor for our sake (see II Cor 8: 9).

Inner freedom is the prerequisite for overcoming the corruption and greed that devastate the world today. This freedom can only be found if God becomes our richness; it can only be found in the patience of daily sacrifices, in which, as it were, true freedom develops. It is the King who points out to us the way to this goal:  Jesus, whom we acclaim on Palm Sunday, whom we ask to take us with him on his way.

The second thing the prophet shows us is that this king will be a king of peace:  he will cause chariots of war and war horses to vanish, he will break bows and proclaim peace.

This is brought about in Jesus through the sign of the Cross. The Cross is the broken bow, in a certain way, God’s new, true rainbow which connects the heavens and the earth and bridges the abysses between the continents. The new weapon that Jesus places in our hands is the Cross - a sign of reconciliation, of forgiveness, a sign of love that is stronger than death.

Every time we make the Sign of the Cross we should remember not to confront injustice with other injustice or violence with other violence:  let us remember that we can only overcome evil with good and never by paying evil back with evil.

The third affirmation of the prophet is the preannouncement of universality. Zechariah says that the kingdom of the king of peace extends “from sea to sea... to the ends of the earth”. The ancient promise of the earth, made to Abraham and to the Fathers, is replaced here by a new vision:  the domain of the Messianic King is no longer a specific country that would later necessarily be separated from other countries and hence, inevitably, would take a stance against them. His country is the earth, the whole world.

He creates unity in the multiplicity of cultures, overcoming every boundary. By perceptively penetrating the clouds of history that separated the Prophet from Jesus, we see in this prophecy, emerging from the distant horizon of prophecy, the network of Eucharistic communities that embraces the earth, the whole world - a network of communities that constitutes Jesus’ “Kingdom of peace”, which extends from sea to sea, to the ends of the earth.

He comes in all cultures and all parts of the world, everywhere, in wretched huts and in poor rural areas as well as in the splendor of cathedrals. He is the same everywhere, the One, and thus all those gathered with him in prayer and communion are also united in one body. Christ rules by making himself our Bread and giving himself to us. It is in this way that he builds his Kingdom.

This connection becomes quite clear in the other words from the Old Testament which characterize and explain the Palm Sunday liturgy and its special atmosphere. The crowds acclaim Jesus:  “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mk 11: 9; Ps 118[117]: 25ff.).

These words are part of the rite of the Feast of Tabernacles, during which the faithful move in a circle around the altar, holding in their hands branches of palm, myrtle and willow.

Now, their palms in their hands, the people raise this cry before Jesus, in whom they see the One who comes in the name of the Lord. The phrase:  “He who comes in the name of the Lord”, in fact, had long before become the designation of the Messiah.

In Jesus, they recognize the One who truly comes in the name of the Lord and brings God’s presence among them. In the Church, this cry of hope of Israel, this acclamation of Jesus during his entry into Jerusalem, has with good reason become the acclamation of the One who comes in the Eucharist to meet us in a new way. We greet with the cry of “Hosanna!” the One who brought God’s glory to the earth in flesh and blood.

We greet the One who came yet always remains, the One who is to come. We greet the One who, in the Eucharist, always comes to us again in the name of the Lord, thus joining the ends of the earth in God’s peace.

This experience of universality is an essential part of the Eucharist. Since the Lord comes, we emerge from our exclusive forms of particularism and enter into the great community of all who are celebrating this holy sacrament. We enter his Kingdom of peace and in him, in a certain way, we greet all our brothers and sisters to whom he comes, to become truly a kingdom of peace in the midst of this lacerated world.

All three characteristics announced by the Prophet - poverty, peace, universality - are summed up in the sign of the Cross. Therefore, with good reason, the Cross has become the centre of the World Youth Days.

There was a time - and it has not yet been completely surmounted - in which Christianity was rejected precisely because of the Cross. The Cross speaks of sacrifice, it was said, the Cross is the sign of the denial of life. Instead, we want life in its entirety, without restrictions and without sacrifices. We want to live, all we want is to live. Let us not allow ourselves to be limited by precepts and prohibitions; we want richness and fullness - this is what was said and is still being said.

All this sounds convincing and seductive; it is the language of the serpent that says to us:  “Do not be afraid! Quietly eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden!”

Palm Sunday, however, tells us that the great “Yes” is precisely the Cross, that the Cross itself is the true tree of life. We do not find life by possessing it, but by giving it. Love is a gift of oneself, and for this reason it is the way of true life symbolized by the Cross.

Today, the Cross that was recently the focus of the World Youth Day in Cologne is being consigned to a special delegation so that it may begin the journey to Sydney, where in 2008 the youth of the world are planning to meet again around Christ to build with him the Kingdom of peace.

From Cologne to Sydney - a journey across continents and cultures, a journey through a world torn and tormented by violence! Symbolically, it is like the journey the prophet pointed out from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth. It is the journey of the One who, in the sign of the Cross, gives us peace and makes us become messengers of reconciliation and of his peace.

I thank the young people who will now carry this Cross, in which we can as it were touch the mystery of Jesus on the highways of the world. Let us pray that at the same time, it will touch us and open our hearts, so that by following his Cross we will become messengers of his love and his peace. Amen.


22nd WORLD YOUTH DAY

GREETINGS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
AT THE END OF PALM SUNDAY MASS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1st April 2007

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here this Palm Sunday, when we acclaim Jesus, model of humility, our Messiah and King. In a special way I greet all the young people gathered in Rome and around the world to celebrate World Youth Day. May the great events of Holy Week, in which we see love unfold in its most radical form, inspire you to be courageous “witnesses of charity” for your friends, your communities and our world. Upon each of you present and your families, I invoke God’s Blessings of peace and wisdom.


CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Peter’s Square, 22nd World Youth Day, Sunday, 1st April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Palm Sunday procession we join with the crowd of disciples who in festive joy accompany the Lord during his entry into Jerusalem. Like them, we praise the Lord with a loud voice for all the miracles we have seen. Yes, we too have seen and still see today the wonders of Christ:  how he brings men and women to renounce the comforts of their lives and devote themselves totally to the service of the suffering; how he gives men and women the courage to oppose violence and deceit, to make room for truth in the world; how, in secret, he persuades men and women to do good to others, to bring about reconciliation where there had been hatred and to create peace where enmity had reigned.

The procession is first and foremost a joyful witness that we bear to Jesus Christ, in whom the Face of God became visible to us and thanks to whom the Heart of God is open to us. In Luke’s Gospel, the account of the beginning of the procession in the vicinity of Jerusalem is in part modeled literally on the rite of coronation with which, according to the First Book of Kings, Solomon was invested as heir to David’s kingship (see I Kgs 1: 33-35).

Thus, the procession of the Palms is also a procession of Christ the King:  we profess the Kingship of Jesus Christ, we recognize Jesus as the Son of David, the true Solomon, the King of peace and justice. Recognizing him as King means accepting him as the One who shows us the way, in whom we trust and whom we follow. It means accepting his Word day after day as a valid criterion for our life. It means seeing in him the authority to which we submit. We submit to him because his authority is the authority of the truth.

The procession of the Palms - as it was at that time for the disciples - is primarily an expression of joy because we are able to recognize Jesus, because he allows us to be his friends and because he has given us the key to life. This joy, however, which is at the beginning, is also an expression of our “yes” to Jesus and our willingness to go with him wherever he takes us. The exhortation with which our Liturgy today begins, therefore, correctly interprets the procession as a symbolic representation of what we call the “following of Christ”:  “Let us ask for the grace to follow him”, we said. The expression “following of Christ” is a description of the whole of Christian existence. In what does it consist? What does “to follow Christ” actually mean?

At the outset, with the first disciples, its meaning was very simple and immediate:  it meant that to go with Jesus these people decided to give up their profession, their affairs, their whole life. It meant undertaking a new profession:  discipleship. The fundamental content of this profession was accompanying the Teacher and total entrustment to his guidance. The “following” was therefore something external, but at the same time very internal. The exterior aspect was walking behind Jesus on his journeys through Palestine; the interior aspect was the new existential orientation whose reference points were no longer in events, in work as a source of income or in the personal will, but consisted in total abandonment to the will of Another. Being at his disposal, henceforth, became the raison d’être of life. In certain Gospel scenes we can recognize quite clearly that this means the renouncement of one’s possessions and detachment from oneself.

But with this it is also clear what “following” means for us and what its true essence is for us:  it is an interior change of life. It requires me no longer to be withdrawn into myself, considering my own fulfilment the main reason for my life. It requires me to give myself freely to Another - for truth, for love, for God who, in Jesus Christ, goes before me and shows me the way. It is a question of the fundamental decision no longer to consider usefulness and gain, my career and success as the ultimate goals of my life, but instead to recognize truth and love as authentic criteria. It is a question of choosing between living only for myself or giving myself - for what is greater. And let us understand properly that truth and love are not abstract values; in Jesus Christ they have become a person. By following him, I enter into the service of truth and love. By losing myself I find myself.

Let us return to the liturgy and the procession of the Palms. In it the Liturgy has provided as the hymn Psalm 24[23]. In Israel this was also a processional hymn used in the ascent to the hill of the temple. The Psalm interprets the interior ascent, of which the exterior ascent is an image, and explains to us once again what it means to ascend with Christ. “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?” the Psalm asks and specifies two essential conditions. Those who ascend it and truly desire to reach the heights, to arrive at the true summit, must be people who question themselves about God. They must be people who scan their surroundings seeking God, seeking his Face.

Dear young friends, how important precisely this is today:  not merely to let oneself be taken here and there in life; not to be satisfied with what everyone else thinks and says and does. To probe God and to seek God. Not letting the question about God dissolve in our souls; desiring what is greater, desiring to know him - his Face...

The other very concrete condition for the ascent is this:  He “who has clean hands and a pure heart” can stand in the holy place. Clean hands are hands that are not used for acts of violence. They are hands that are not soiled with corruption, with bribery. A pure heart - when is the heart pure? A heart is pure when it does not pretend and is not stained with lies and hypocrisy:  a heart that remains transparent like spring water because it is alien to duplicity. A heart is pure when it does not estrange itself with the drunkenness of pleasure, a heart in which love is true and is not only a momentary passion. Clean hands and a pure heart:  if we walk with Jesus, we ascend and find the purification that truly brings us to that height to which man is destined:  friendship with God himself.

Psalm 24[23], which speaks of the ascent, ends with an entrance liturgy in front of the temple gate:  “Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of glory may come in.” In the old liturgy for Palm Sunday, the priest, arriving in front of the church, would knock loudly with the shaft of the processional cross on the door that was still closed; thereupon, it would be opened. This was a beautiful image of the mystery of Jesus Christ himself who, with the wood of his Cross, with the power of his love that is given, knocked from the side of the world at God’s door; on the side of a world that was not able to find access to God. With his Cross, Jesus opened God’s door, the door between God and men. Now it is open. But the Lord also knocks with his Cross from the other side:  he knocks at the door of the world, at the doors of our hearts, so many of which are so frequently closed to God. And he says to us something like this:  if the proof that God gives you of his existence in creation does not succeed in opening you to him, if the words of Scripture and the Church’s message leave you indifferent, then look at me - the God who let himself suffer for you, who personally suffers with you - and open yourself to me, your Lord and your God.

It is this appeal that we allow to penetrate our hearts at this moment. May the Lord help us to open the door of our hearts, the door of the world, so that he, the living God, may arrive in his Son in our time, and reach our life. Amen.


23rd WORLD YOUTH DAY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Palm Sunday, 16 March 2008

At the end of this solemn Celebration in which we have meditated on Christ’s Passion, I wish to recall the late Archbishop of Mossul for Chaldeans, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who tragically passed away a few days ago. His beautiful witness of fidelity to Christ, to the Church and to his people, who he did not want to abandon notwithstanding numerous threats, urges me to raise a strong and heart-rending cry:  stop the murders, stop the violence, stop the hate in Iraq! And at the same time I raise an appeal to the Iraqi People, who for five years now are marked with the sign of war that has provoked the disruption of its civil and social life:  beloved Iraqi People, lift up your head and be yourself, in the first place, builders of your national life! May there be reconciliation, forgiveness, justice and respect for civil coexistence among tribes, ethnic and religious groups, the jointly responsible way to peace in the Name of God!

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here this Palm Sunday, when we acclaim Jesus, model of humility, our Messiah and King. In a special way I greet all the young people gathered in Rome. I am looking forward to seeing many of you, together with thousands of others from across the globe, at World Youth Day in Sydney. Today, I wish to recognize the preparatory work being undertaken by the Australian Bishops’ Conference together with Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, and the organizing staff. Similarly, I wish to acknowledge the spirit of generous cooperation shown by the Federal and the New South Wales Governments, as well as the residents and business people of Sydney.

Let us all pray for our young people, that World Youth Day will be a time of deep and lasting spiritual renewal. May the great events of Holy Week, in which we see love unfold in its most radical form, inspire you all to be courageous ‘witnesses of charity’ to your friends, your communities and our world. Upon each of you present and your families, I invoke God’s blessings of peace and wisdom.

We now address the Virgin Mary in prayer, so that she help us to live Holy Week in spiritual union with Christ the Lord.


CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Peter’s Square, 23rd World Youth Day, Sunday, 16 March 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Year after year the Gospel passage for Palm Sunday recounts Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Together with his disciples and an increasing multitude of pilgrims he went up from the plain of Galilee to the Holy City. The Evangelists have handed down to us three proclamations of Jesus concerning his Passion, like steps on his ascent, thereby mentioning at the same time the inner ascent that he was making on this pilgrimage. Jesus was going toward the temple - toward the place where God, as Deuteronomy says, had chosen to “make his name dwell” (see 12: 11; 14: 23). God who created heaven and earth gave himself a name, made himself invocable; indeed, he made himself almost tangible to human beings. No place can contain him, yet for this very reason he gave himself a place and a name so that he, the true God, might be personally venerated as God in our midst. We know from the account of the 12-year-old Jesus that he loved the temple as his Father’s house, as his paternal home. He now visits this temple once again but his journey extends beyond it: the final destination of his climb is the Cross. It is the ascent described in the Letter to the Hebrews as the ascent towards the tent not pitched by human hands but by the Lord, which leads to God’s presence. The final climb to the sight of God passes through the Cross. It is the ascent toward “love to the end” (see Jn 13: 1), which is God’s true mountain, the definitive place of contact between God and man.

During his entry into Jerusalem, the people paid homage to Jesus as the Son of David with the words of the pilgrims of Psalm 118[117]: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21: 9). He then arrived at the temple. There, however, in the place that should have been taken up by the encounter between God and man, he found livestock merchants and money-changers who occupied this place of prayer with their commerce. Certainly, the animals on sale were destined to be burned as sacrifices in the temple, and since in the temple it was impossible to use coins that bore the likeness of the Roman emperors, who were in opposition to the true God, they had to be exchanged for coins that did not show the idolatrous image. All this, however, could have taken place elsewhere: the place where this was now occurring should have been, in accordance with its destined purpose, the atrium of pagans. Indeed, the God of Israel was precisely the one God of all peoples. And although pagans did not enter, so to speak, into the Revelation, they could however, in the atrium of faith, join in the prayer to the one God. The God of Israel, the God of all people, had always been awaiting their prayers too, their seeking, their invocations. Instead, commerce was prevailing - dealings legalized by the competent authority which, in its turn, profited from the merchants’ earnings. The merchants acted correctly, complying with the law in force, but the law itself was corrupt. “Covetousness... is idolatry”, the Letter to the Colossians says (3: 5). This was the idolatry Jesus came up against in the face of which he cites Isaiah: “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Mt 21: 13; see Is 56: 7), and Jeremiah: “But you make it a den of robbers” (Mt 21: 13; see Jer 7: 11). Against the wrongly interpreted order, Jesus with his prophetic gesture defends the true order which is found in the Law and the Prophets.

Today, all this must give us, as Christians, food for thought. Is our faith sufficiently pure and open so that starting from it “pagans”, the people today who are seeking and who have their questions, can intuit the light of the one God, associate themselves in the atriums of faith with our prayers and, with their questions, perhaps also become worshippers? Does the awareness that greed is idolatry enter our heart too and the praxis of our life? Do we not perhaps in various ways let idols enter even the world of our faith? Are we disposed to let ourselves be ceaselessly purified by the Lord, letting him expel from us and the Church all that is contrary to him?

In the temple’s purification, however, it was a matter of more than fighting abuses. A new time in history was foretold. What Jesus had announced to the Samaritan woman concerning her question about true worship is now beginning: “The hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him” (Jn 4: 23). The time when animals were sacrificed to God was over. Animal sacrifices were only a substitute, a nostalgic gesture for the true way to worship God. The Letter to the Hebrews on the life and work of Jesus uses a sentence from Psalm 40[39]: “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me” (Heb 10: 5). Christ’s body, Christ himself, enters to take the place of bloody sacrifices and food offerings. Only “love to the end”, only love for human beings given totally to God is true worship, true sacrifice. Worshipping in spirit and truth means adoring in communion with the One who is Truth; adoring in communion with his Body, in which the Holy Spirit reunites us.

The Evangelists tell us that in Jesus’ trial false witnesses were produced who asserted that Jesus had said: “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days” (Mt 26: 61). In front of Christ hanging on the Cross some people, taunting him, referred to these same words: “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!” (Mt 27: 40). The correct version of these words as Jesus spoke them has been passed on to us by John in his account of the purification of the temple. In response to the request for a sign by which Jesus could justify himself for such an action, the Lord replied: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2: 18ff.). John adds that, thinking back to this event of the Resurrection, the disciples realized that Jesus had been referring to the Temple of his Body (see 2: 21ff.). It is not Jesus who destroys the temple; it is left to destruction by the attitude of those who transformed it from being a place for the encounter of all peoples with God into a “den of robbers”, a haven for their dealings. But as always, beginning with Adam’s fall, human failure becomes the opportunity for us to be even more committed to love of God. The time of the temple built of stone, the time of animal sacrifices, is now passed: the fact that the Lord now expels the merchants does not only prevent an abuse but points to God’s new way of acting. The new Temple is formed: Jesus Christ himself, in whom God’s love descends upon human beings. He, by his life, is the new and living Temple. He who passed through the Cross and was raised is the living space of spirit and life in which the correct form of worship is made. Thus, the purification of the temple, as the culmination of Jesus’ solemn entry into Jerusalem, is at the same time the sign of the impending ruin of the edifice and the promise of the new Temple; a promise of the kingdom of reconciliation and love which, in communion with Christ, is established beyond any boundary.

St Matthew, whose Gospel we are hearing this year, mentions at the end of the account of Palm Sunday, after the purification of the temple, two further, small events that once again have a prophetic character and once again make clear to us Jesus’ true will. Immediately after Jesus’ words on the house of prayer for all the people, the Evangelist continues: “And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them”. In addition, Matthew tells us that children cried out in the temple the acclamation of the pilgrims at the city gates: “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Mt 21: 14ff.). Jesus counters the animal trade and fiscal affairs with his healing goodness. This is the temple’s true purification. He does not come as a destroyer; he does not come with the revolutionary’s sword. He comes with the gift of healing. He dedicates himself to those who, because of their ailments, were driven to the end of their life and to the margins of society.

Jesus shows God as the One who loves and his power as the power of love. Thus, he tells us what will always be part of the correct worship of God: healing, serving and the goodness that cures.

And then there are children who pay homage to Jesus as the Son of David and acclaim him the Hosanna. Jesus had said to his disciples that to enter the Kingdom of God it was essential to become once again like children. He himself, who embraces the whole world, made himself little in order to come to our aid, to draw us to God. In order to recognize God, we must give up the pride that dazzles us, that wants to drive us away from God as though God were our rival. To encounter God it is necessary to be able to see with the heart. We must learn to see with a child’s heart, with a youthful heart not hampered by prejudices or blinded by interests. Thus, it is in the lowly who have such free and open hearts and recognize Jesus, that the Church sees her own image, the image of believers of all ages.

Dear friends, let us join at this moment the procession of the young people of that time - a procession that winds through the whole of history. Together with young people across the world let us go forth to meet Jesus. Let us allow ourselves to be guided toward God by him, to learn from God himself the right way to be human beings. Let us thank God with him because with Jesus, Son of David, he has given us a space of peace and reconciliation that embraces the world with the Holy Eucharist. Let us pray to him that we too may become, with him and starting from him, messengers of his peace, adorers in spirit and truth, so that his Kingdom may increase in us and around us. Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Palm Sunday, 5 April 2009

Yesterday, 4 April, was the Fourth Day for Mine Awareness established by the United Nations. Ten years after the Convention banning these weapons came into force and after the recent opening of the protocol for the signing of the Convention prohibiting cluster bombs, I wish to encourage the countries who have not yet done so to sign without delay these important instruments of international humanitarian law, to which the Holy See has always given its support. I likewise express my encouragement of any measure intended to guarantee the necessary assistance to the victims of these devastating weapons.

I also wish to remember, with great sorrow, our African brothers and sisters who died in the Mediterranean Sea a few days ago while attempting to reach Europe. We cannot resign ourselves to these tragedies, which have unfortunately been occurring for some time! The dimensions of this phenomenon render ever more urgent the need for coordinated strategies between the European Union and the African States, as well as for the adoption of appropriate humanitarian measures so as to prevent these migrants from turning to unscrupulous traffickers. As I pray for the victims that the Lord may welcome them into his peace, I would like to point out that this problem, recently aggravated by the global crisis, will only find a solution when the African peoples, with the aid of the international community, can free themselves from poverty and war.

I now address a special greeting to the 150 delegates Bishops, priests and lay people who have participated in the past few days in the international meeting on World Youth Day, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Thus the preparatory journey has begun towards the next world meeting of youth in August 2011 in Madrid and for which I have already indicated the theme: “Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (see Col 2: 7). Complying with tradition, the young Australians will soon be handing over to the young Spaniards the World Youth Day Cross, the “pilgrim cross” that brings Christ’s message of love to the world’s youth. This “passing on of witness” acquires a highly symbolic value, with which we express immense gratitude to God for the gifts received at the great meeting in Sydney and for those he will deign to grant us during the event in Madrid. The Cross, accompanied by the Icon of Our Lady, will depart tomorrow for the capital of Spain and will be there in time for the great procession on Good Friday. It will then set out on a long pilgrimage through the Spanish Dioceses which will return it to Madrid in the summer of 2011. May this Cross and this Icon of Mary be for everyone a sign of the invincible love of Christ and of his and our Mother!

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here this Palm Sunday, when we recall the humble entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, our King and Messiah. With vivid memories of my visit to Sydney for World Youth Day, I greet Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, and Bishops Anthony Fisher and Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishops of Sydney, who are here together with a large group of young Australians to consign to their counterparts from Madrid the World Youth Day Cross and Icon of Our Lady. May the great events of Holy Week strengthen your faith and inspire you to be humble witnesses of charity. Upon each of you present and your families, I invoke God’s blessings of peace and wisdom.

Lastly, I greet with affection the young Italian pilgrims, and in particular the youth groups. I hope that you will all prepare yourselves for the coming Easter at the school of the Apostle Paul, fully accepting Christ’s grace. And let us now accompany the consignment of the Cross with our prayers. The Cross is handed over. And let us now pray confidently to the Virgin Mary that she may always watch over the progress of young people and help us all to live Holy Week fully.


CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Peter’s Square, 24th World Youth Day, Sunday, 5 April 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young People,

Together with a growing multitude of pilgrims, Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover. In the final stage of the journey, near Jericho, he had healed blind Bartimaeus, who called upon him as Son of David, pleading for mercy. Now – having received his sight – he had gratefully joined the group of pilgrims. At the gates of Jerusalem, when Jesus sat upon a donkey, an animal symbolizing the Davidic kingship, there spontaneously arose among the pilgrims the joyful conviction: It is He, the Son of David! Accordingly, they greet Jesus with the messianic acclamation: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, and they add: “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9f.). We do not know exactly what the enthusiastic pilgrims imagined the coming kingdom of David would be like. But what about us, have we truly understood the message of Jesus, the Son of David? Have we grasped what is meant by the Kingdom of which He speaks during his interrogation with Pilate? Do we understand what it means to say that this Kingdom is not of this world? Or would we actually prefer that it were of this world?

In Saint John’s Gospel, after the account of the entry into Jerusalem, there follows a series of sayings in which Jesus explains the essential content of this new kind of Kingdom. On a first reading of these texts, we can distinguish three different images of the Kingdom in which the same mystery is reflected in a number of different ways. John recounts, first of all, that during the feast there were some Greeks among the pilgrims who “wanted to adore God” (see 12:20). Let us note the fact that the true intention of these pilgrims was to adore God. This corresponds perfectly to what Jesus says on the occasion of the cleansing of the Temple: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mk 11:17). The true purpose of the pilgrimage must be that of encountering God; adoring him, and thus rightly ordering the fundamental relationship of our life. The Greeks are searching for God, their lives are a journey towards God. Now, through the two Greek-speaking Apostles, Philip and Andrew, they convey this request to the Lord: “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). These are stirring words. Dear friends, we have gathered here for the same reason: we wish to see Jesus. With this end in view, thousands of young people traveled to Sydney last year. No doubt they will have had many different expectations in making this pilgrimage. But the essential objective was this: we wish to see Jesus.

Concerning this request, what did Jesus say and do at the time? It does not emerge clearly from the Gospel whether any meeting took place between those Greeks and Jesus. Jesus takes a much longer view. The essence of his response to those people’s request is this: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). In other words: what matters here is not a brief conversation with one or two people who then return home. I will come, like a grain of wheat that has died and is risen, in a manner that is totally new and beyond the limits of the moment, to encounter the world of the Greeks. Through the resurrection, Jesus surpasses the limits of space and time. As the Risen One, he is journeying towards the vast horizon of the world and of history. Yes indeed, as the Risen One he goes to the Greeks and speaks with them, he shows himself to them in such a way that they who are far away become near, and it is in their language, in their culture, that his word is carried forward in a new way and understood in a new way – his Kingdom comes. Thus we can recognize two essential characteristics of this Kingdom. The first is that it comes by way of the cross. Since Jesus gives himself completely, then as the Risen One he can belong to all and become present to all. In the holy Eucharist, we receive the fruit of the grain of wheat that died, the multiplication of the loaves that continues to the end of the world and throughout all time. The second characteristic is this: his Kingdom is universal. The ancient hope of Israel is fulfilled: this Davidic kingship no longer has boundaries. It extends “from sea to sea” – as the prophet Zechariah says (9:10) – in other words, it embraces the whole world. Yet this is possible only because it is not a kingship of political power, but is based solely on the free adherence of love – a love which, for its part, is a response to the love of Jesus Christ who gave himself for all. I think that above all we must learn these two things over and over again – universality and catholicity. This means that no-one can propose himself, his culture, his generation and his world as an absolute. It means that we all have to accept one another, renouncing something of ourselves. Universality includes the mystery of the cross – going beyond ourselves, obeying the communal word of Jesus Christ in the communal Church. Universality is always a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of something that is ours. Universality and the cross go together. Only thus is peace created.

The saying about the grain of wheat that dies is still located within Jesus’ response to the Greeks, in fact it is his response. Then, however, he goes on to formulate once again the fundamental law of human existence: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25). In other words, the one who wants to have his life for himself, living only for himself, keeping everything to himself and exploiting all its possibilities – is actually the one who loses his life. Life becomes boring and empty. Only by self-abandonment, only by the disinterested gift of the “I” in favor of the “you”, only in the “yes” to the greater life, the life of God, does our life also become broad and great. Thus this fundamental principle established by the Lord is ultimately identical to the principle of love. Love, in fact, means letting go of oneself, giving oneself, not wanting to possess oneself, but becoming free from oneself: not retiring into oneself – (what will become of me?) – but looking ahead, towards the other – towards God and towards the men that he sends to me. And once again, this principle of love, which defines man’s path, is identical to the mystery of the cross, to the mystery of death and resurrection that we encounter in Christ. Dear friends, perhaps it is relatively easy to accept this as the fundamental great vision of life. In practice, however, it is not a question of simply recognizing a principle, but of living according to the truth that it contains, the truth of the cross and resurrection. Hence, once again, a single great decision is not enough. It is certainly important, it is essential to dare to take the great fundamental decision once, to dare to utter the great “yes” that the Lord asks of us at a certain moment of our lives. But the great “yes” of the decisive moment in our life – the “yes” to the truth that the Lord puts before us – must then be won afresh every day in the situations of daily life when we have to abandon our “I” over and over again, placing ourselves at the Lord’s disposal when deep down we would prefer to cling to our “I”. An upright life always involves sacrifice, renunciation. To hold out the promise of a life without this constant re-giving of self, is to mislead. There is no such thing as a successful life without sacrifice. If I cast a glance back over my whole life, I have to say that it was precisely the moments when I said “yes” to renunciation that were the great and important moments of my life.

At the end of the passage, Saint John uses a modified form of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Olives in his redaction of our Lord’s “Palm Sunday” sayings. First comes the statement: “my soul is troubled” (12:27). Here we see Jesus’ fear, amply illustrated by the other three evangelists – his fear before the power of death, before the whole abyss of evil that he sees and into which he must descend. The Lord suffers our fears together with us, he accompanies us through the final anguish into the light. Then, in John’s narrative, Jesus makes two petitions. The first, expressed only conditionally, is this: “What shall I say – Father, save me from this hour?” (12:27). As a human being, even Jesus feels impelled to ask that he be spared the terror of the passion. We too can pray in this way. We too can grumble before the Lord, like Job, we can present him with all the pleas that arise within us when we are faced with the injustice of the world and the difficulty of our own “I”. When we come before him, we must not take refuge in pious phrases, in a world of make-believe. Praying always also means struggling with God, and like Jacob, we can say to him: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me!” (Gen 32:26). But then comes Jesus’ second petition: “Glorify your name!” (Jn 12:28). In the Synoptics, it is expressed in another way: “Not my will, but yours be done!” (Lk 22:42). In the end, God’s glory, his lordship, his will, is always more important and more true than my thought and my will. And this is the essential point in our prayer and in our life: learning this right order of reality, accepting it intimately; trusting in God and believing that he is doing what is right; that his will is truth and love; that my life becomes good if I learn to adhere to this right order. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are for us the guarantee that we can truly trust God. It is in this way that his Kingdom is realized.

Dear Friends! At the end of this liturgy, the young people of Australia will hand over the World Youth Day Cross to their counterparts from Spain. The Cross is on a journey from one side of the world to the other, from sea to sea. And we are accompanying it. With the Cross, we move forward along its path and thus we find our own path. When we touch the Cross, or rather, when we carry it, we touch the mystery of God, the mystery of Jesus Christ. The mystery that God so loved the world – us – that he gave his only-begotten Son for us (see Jn 3:16). We touch the marvelous mystery of God’s love, the only genuinely redemptive truth. But we also touch the fundamental law, the constitutive norm of our lives, namely the fact that without this “yes” to the Cross, without walking in communion with Christ day by day, life cannot succeed. The more we can make some sacrifice, out of love for the great truth and the great love, out of love for the truth and for God’s love, the greater and richer life becomes. Anyone who wants to keep his life for himself loses it. Anyone who gives his life – day by day in small acts, which form part of the great decision – that person finds it. This is the challenging, but also profoundly beautiful and liberating truth that we wish to enter into, step by step, as the Cross makes its journey across the continents. May the Lord bless this journey. Amen.


25th WORLD YOUTH DAY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Palm Sunday, 28 March 2010

As we come to the end of this celebration we cannot but think of Palm Sunday 25 years ago. It was the year 1985, which the United Nations had proclaimed “International Youth Year”. Venerable and beloved John Paul II took that moment to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to the acclaim of his youthful disciples, founded the annual World Youth Day. Since then, Palm Sunday has acquired this characteristic: every two or three years it takes place with great global meetings, following Jesus in a sort of youth pilgrimage across the whole planet. Twenty-five years ago my beloved Predecessor invited young people to profess their faith in Christ who “takes upon himself the cause of man” (Homily, 31 March 1985, nos. 5, 7; L’Osservatore Romano English edition 9 April 1985, p. 2). Today I renew this call to the new generation, to bear witness with the gentle and luminous power of truth so that the men and women of the third millennium may not lack the most authentic model: Jesus Christ. I entrust this mandate in particular to the 300 delegates of the International Youth Forum, who have come from all over the world, convoked by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.


CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter’s Square, 25th World Youth Day, Sunday, 28 March 2010

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, whereas Jerusalem the destination 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 aspects a journey which, precisely, continues to the end of time in the destination, “Jerusalem”, we can discover various levels indicated. 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 Abraham 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 liberation 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” (see 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 this community. 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 themselves.

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 (see 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 irrelevant. 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[117]: 26; see Lk 19: 38). Pilgrims see in Jesus the One who is to come in the Name of the Lord. Indeed, 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 reflection. 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 splendor of peace. Amen.


26th WORLD YOUTH DAY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Palm Sunday, 17 April 2011

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here in Rome this Palm Sunday, as  the whole Church sings “Hosanna” to the Son of David, commemorating Our Lord’s solemn entry into Jerusalem in the days leading up to his Passion and death. In a special way I greet all the young people present and I look forward to celebrating World Youth Day in Madrid this summer with many thousands of others from around the world.

In Italian the Pope said:

Lastly, I greet with affection the Italian-speaking pilgrims, especially the young people whom I invite to Madrid, for the World Youth Day this coming August.

And now let us turn in prayer to Mary, so that she may help us live Holy Week with intense faith. Mary too exulted in spirit when Jesus made his royal entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecies; but her heart, like that of her Son, was prepared for the Sacrifice. Let us learn from her, the faithful Virgin, to follow the Lord even when his path leads to the Cross.


CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter’s Square, 26th World Youth Day, Sunday, 17 April 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear young people!

It is a moving experience each year on Palm Sunday as we go up the mountain with Jesus, towards the Temple, accompanying him on his ascent. On this day, throughout the world and across the centuries, young people and people of every age acclaim him, crying out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

But what are we really doing when we join this procession as part of the throng which went up with Jesus to Jerusalem and hailed him as King of Israel? Is this anything more than a ritual, a quaint custom? Does it have anything to do with the reality of our life and our world? To answer this, we must first be clear about what Jesus himself wished to do and actually did. After Peter’s confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi, in the northernmost part of the Holy Land, Jesus set out as a pilgrim towards Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. He was journeying towards the Temple in the Holy City, towards that place which for Israel ensured in a particular way God’s closeness to his people. He was making his way towards the common feast of Passover, the memorial of Israel’s liberation from Egypt and the sign of its hope of definitive liberation. He knew that what awaited him was a new Passover and that he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. He knew that in the mysterious gifts of bread and wine he would give himself for ever to his own, and that he would open to them the door to a new path of liberation, to fellowship with the living God. He was making his way to the heights of the Cross, to the moment of self-giving love. The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being.

Our procession today is meant, then, to be an image of something deeper, to reflect the fact that, together with Jesus, we are setting out on pilgrimage along the high road that leads to the living God. This is the ascent that matters. This is the journey which Jesus invites us to make. But how can we keep pace with this ascent? Isn’t it beyond our ability? Certainly, it is beyond our own possibilities. From the beginning men and women have been filled – and this is as true today as ever – with a desire to “be like God”, to attain the heights of God by their own powers. All the inventions of the human spirit are ultimately an effort to gain wings so as to rise to the heights of Being and to become independent, completely free, as God is free. Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth. And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful. With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history. Our limitations have also remained: we need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months.

The Fathers of the Church maintained that human beings stand at the point of intersection between two gravitational fields. First, there is the force of gravity which pulls us down – towards selfishness, falsehood and evil; the gravity which diminishes us and distances us from the heights of God. On the other hand there is the gravitational force of God’s love: the fact that we are loved by God and respond in love attracts us upwards. Man finds himself betwixt this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God, which makes us authentic, elevates us and grants us true freedom.

Following the Liturgy of the Word, at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer where the Lord comes into our midst, the Church invites us to lift up our hearts: “Sursum corda!” In the language of the Bible and the thinking of the Fathers, the heart is the centre of man, where understanding, will and feeling, body and soul, all come together. The centre where spirit becomes body and body becomes spirit, where will, feeling and understanding become one in the knowledge and love of God. This is the “heart” which must be lifted up. But to repeat: of ourselves, we are too weak to lift up our hearts to the heights of God. We cannot do it. The very pride of thinking that we are able to do it on our own drags us down and estranges us from God. God himself must draw us up, and this is what Christ began to do on the cross. He descended to the depths of our human existence in order to draw us up to himself, to the living God. He humbled himself, as today’s second reading says. Only in this way could our pride be vanquished: God’s humility is the extreme form of his love, and this humble love draws us upwards.

Psalm 24, which the Church proposes as the “song of ascent” to accompany our procession in today’s liturgy, indicates some concrete elements which are part of our ascent and without which we cannot be lifted upwards: clean hands, a pure heart, the rejection of falsehood, the quest for God’s face. The great achievements of technology are liberating and contribute to the progress of mankind only if they are joined to these attitudes – if our hands become clean and our hearts pure, if we seek truth, if we seek God and let ourselves be touched and challenged by his love. All these means of “ascent” are effective only if we humbly acknowledge that we need to be lifted up; if we abandon the pride of wanting to become God. We need God: he draws us upwards; letting ourselves be upheld by his hands – by faith, in other words – sets us aright and gives us the inner strength that raises us on high. We need the humility of a faith which seeks the face of God and trusts in the truth of his love.

The question of how man can attain the heights, becoming completely himself and completely like God, has always engaged mankind. It was passionately disputed by the Platonic philosophers of the third and fourth centuries. For them, the central issue was finding the means of purification which could free man from the heavy load weighing him down and thus enable him to ascend to the heights of his true being, to the heights of divinity. Saint Augustine, in his search for the right path, long sought guidance from those philosophies. But in the end he had to acknowledge that their answers were insufficient, their methods would not truly lead him to God. To those philosophers he said: recognize that human power and all these purifications are not enough to bring man in truth to the heights of the divine, to his own heights. And he added that he should have despaired of himself and human existence had he not found the One who accomplishes what we of ourselves cannot accomplish; the One who raises us up to the heights of God in spite of our wretchedness: Jesus Christ who from God came down to us and, in his crucified love, takes us by the hand and lifts us on high.

We are on pilgrimage with the Lord to the heights. We are striving for pure hearts and clean hands, we are seeking truth, we are seeking the face of God. Let us show the Lord that we desire to be righteous, and let us ask him: Draw us upwards! Make us pure! Grant that the words which we sang in the processional psalm may also hold true for us; grant that we may be part of the generation which seeks God, “which seeks your face, O God of Jacob” (see Ps 24:6). Amen.


27th WORLD YOUTH DAY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Palm Sunday, 1st April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of this celebration, I would like to cordially greet everyone here: Cardinals, brother Bishops, Priests, men and women religious and all the faithful. I address a special greeting to the organizing committees of World Youth Day in Madrid and of the upcoming one in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the delegates to the International Meeting on World Youth Days, organized by the Pontifical Council for Laity, represented here by the President, Cardinal Ryłko, and Secretary, Bishop Clemens.


CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter’s Square, 27th World Youth Day, Sunday, 1st April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Palm Sunday is the great doorway leading into Holy Week, the week when the Lord Jesus makes his way towards the culmination of his earthly existence.  He goes up to Jerusalem in order to fulfill the Scriptures and to be nailed to the wood of the Cross, the throne from which he will reign for ever, drawing to himself humanity of every age and offering to all the gift of redemption.  We know from the Gospels that Jesus had set out towards Jerusalem in company with the Twelve, and that little by little a growing crowd of pilgrims had joined them.  Saint Mark tells us that as they were leaving Jericho, there was a “great multitude” following Jesus (see 10:46).

On the final stage of the journey, a particular event stands out, one which heightens the sense of expectation of what is about to unfold and focuses attention even more sharply upon Jesus.  Along the way, as they were leaving Jericho, a blind man was sitting begging, Bartimaeus by name.  As soon as he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing, he began to cry out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk 10:47).  People tried to silence him, but to no avail; until Jesus had them call him over and invited him to approach.  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  And the reply: “Master, let me receive my sight” (v. 51).  Jesus said: “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”  Bartimaeus regained his sight and began to follow Jesus along the way (see v. 52).  And so it was that, after this miraculous sign, accompanied by the cry “Son of David”, a tremor of Messianic hope spread through the crowd, causing many of them to ask: this Jesus, going ahead of us towards Jerusalem, could he be the Messiah, the new David?  And as he was about to enter the Holy City, had the moment come when God would finally restore the Davidic kingdom?

The preparations made by Jesus, with the help of his disciples, serve to increase this hope.  As we heard in today’s Gospel (see Mk 11:1-10), Jesus arrives in Jerusalem from Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, that is, the route by which the Messiah was supposed to come.  From there, he sent two disciples ahead of him, telling them to bring him a young donkey that they would find along the way.  They did indeed find the donkey, they untied it and brought it to Jesus.  At this point, the spirits of the disciples and of the other pilgrims were swept up with excitement: they took their coats and placed them on the colt; others spread them out on the street in Jesus’ path as he approached, riding on the donkey.  Then they cut branches from the trees and began to shout phrases from Psalm 118, ancient pilgrim blessings, which in that setting took on the character of messianic proclamation: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!  Hosanna in the highest!” (v. 9-10).  This festive acclamation, reported by all four evangelists, is a cry of blessing, a hymn of exultation: it expresses the unanimous conviction that, in Jesus, God has visited his people and the longed-for Messiah has finally come.  And everyone is there, growing in expectation of the work that Christ will accomplish once he has entered the city.

But what is the content, the inner resonance of this cry of jubilation?  The answer is found throughout the Scripture, which reminds us that the Messiah fulfils the promise of God’s blessing, God’s original promise to Abraham, father of all believers: “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you ... and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Gen 12:2-3).  It is the promise that Israel had always kept alive in prayer, especially the prayer of the Psalms.  Hence he whom the crowd acclaims as the blessed one is also he in whom the whole of humanity will be blessed.  Thus, in the light of Christ, humanity sees itself profoundly united and, as it were, enfolded within the cloak of divine blessing, a blessing that permeates, sustains, redeems and sanctifies all things.

Here we find the first great message that today’s feast brings us: the invitation to adopt a proper outlook upon all humanity, on the peoples who make up the world, on its different cultures and civilizations.  The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing: a wise and loving look, capable of grasping the world’s beauty and having compassion on its fragility.  Shining through this look is God’s own look upon those he loves and upon Creation, the work of his hands.  We read in the Book of Wisdom: “But thou art merciful to all, for thou canst do all things, and thou dost overlook men’s sins, that they may repent.  For thou lovest all things that exist and hast loathing for none of the things which thou hast made ... thou sparest all things, for they are thine, O Lord who lovest the living” (11:23-24, 26).

Let us return to today’s Gospel passage and ask ourselves: what is really happening in the hearts of those who acclaim Christ as King of Israel?  Clearly, they had their own idea of the Messiah, an idea of how the long-awaited King promised by the prophets should act.  Not by chance, a few days later, instead of acclaiming Jesus, the Jerusalem crowd will cry out to Pilate: “Crucify him!” while the disciples, together with others who had seen him and listened to him, will be struck dumb and will disperse.  The majority, in fact, was disappointed by the way Jesus chose to present himself as Messiah and King of Israel.  This is the heart of today’s feast, for us too.  Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us?  What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God?  It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne.  We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude.  So we must ask ourselves: what are our true expectations?  What are our deepest desires, with which we have come here today to celebrate Palm Sunday and to begin our celebration of Holy Week?

Dear young people, present here today, this, in a particular way, is your Day, wherever the Church is present throughout the world.  So I greet you with great affection!  May Palm Sunday be a day of decision for you, the decision to say yes to the Lord and to follow him all the way, the decision to make his Passover, his death and resurrection, the very focus of your Christian lives.  It is the decision that leads to true joy, as I reminded you in this year’s World Youth Day Message – “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4).  So it was for Saint Clare of Assisi when, on Palm Sunday 800 years ago, inspired by the example of Saint Francis and his first companions, she left her father’s house to consecrate herself totally to the Lord.  She was eighteen years old and she had the courage of faith and love to decide for Christ, finding in him true joy and peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, may these days call forth two sentiments in particular: praise, after the example of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with their “Hosanna!”, and thanksgiving, because in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love.  But we must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ who suffered, died and rose for us.  The early Church Fathers saw a symbol of all this in the gesture of the people who followed Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, the gesture of spreading out their coats before the Lord.  Before Christ – the Fathers said – we must spread out our lives, ourselves, in an attitude of gratitude and adoration.  As we conclude, let us listen once again to the words of one of these early Fathers, Saint Andrew, Bishop of Crete: “So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours.  But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ ... so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet ... let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death.  Today let us too give voice with the children to that sacred chant, as we wave the spiritual branches of our soul: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel’” (PG 97, 994).  Amen! 



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