April 18, 2000
volume 11, no. 77

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    Today we bring you the Holy Father's Palm Sunday Homily from this past Palm Sunday where over 100,000 packed St. Peter's Square to hear the Vicar of Christ share, by loudspeakers, with all that this feast is special for young people the world over and reiterated his invitation for youth to come to Rome this Jubilee Year and especially during Holy Week in which the Holy See is expecting over half a million pilgrims. He began the traditional Palm Sunday Mass in the center of the Square and processed into the Basilica, concluding the three-hour services with the Angelus. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency ZE00041720.

Holy Father's Palm Sunday Homily for April 16, 2000 from Saint Peter's Square

    1. "Benedictus, Qui venit in nomine Domini..." "Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Matthew, 21, 9; Cf. Ps 117 (118), 26).

        Through these words, we hear the echo of the enthusiasm with which the inhabitants of Jerusalem received Jesus for the paschal feast. We hear them again, every time we sing the "Sanctus" in the course of the Mass. After having said: "Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria Tua," we add: "Benedictus, Qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis." In the first part of this hymn, taken from the prophet Isaiah (Cf. Is 6,3), the "thrice holy" God is exalted. Continuing with the second, there is the expression of the assembly's joyful acknowledgment of fulfillment of the Messianic promises: "Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."

        We think naturally of the people of the Covenant who, for centuries and generations, lived in expectation of the Messiah. Some believed that the promises were fulfilled in John the Baptist. But, as we know, to the explicit question on his possible Messianic identity, the precursor responded with a clear denial, directing those who questioned him to Jesus.

        There was growing conviction in the people that the Messianic times had arrived, first in the Baptist's testimony, then thanks to the words and signs accomplished by Jesus, especially Lazarus' resurrection, which took place a few days before the entry into Jerusalem, of which today's Gospel speaks. This is why when Jesus arrived in the city riding on a donkey, He was received by the crowd with an explosion of joy: "Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Mt 21,9)

    Key To Understanding Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection

    2. The rites of Palm Sunday reflect the excitement of the people in awaiting the Messiah but, at the same time, they are characterized as a liturgy "of passion" in the fullest sense. These, in fact, open for us the prospect of the already imminent drama, which we just relived in the narration of the evangelist Mark. The other readings also introduce us into the mystery of the Passion and Death of the Lord. The words of the prophet Isaiah, whom some regard virtually as an evangelist of the Old Covenant, show us the image of someone condemned, scourged, and stricken (Cf. Is 50,6). The refrain of the responsorial Psalm, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," makes us contemplate the agony of Jesus on the cross (Cf. Mk 15,34).

        But it is the apostle Paul who, in the second reading, introduces us to a more profound analysis of the paschal mystery: "though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2, 6-8).

        In the austere liturgy of Good Friday we will hear these words again, which continue like this: "Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Ibid., 2, 9-11).

        Abasement and exaltation: here is the key to understanding the paschal mystery; here is the key to penetrate God's wondrous economy, which is accomplished in the paschal events.

    3. Why, as in every year, are so many youths present at this liturgy? Indeed, for several years Palm Sunday has become the annual feast of youth. Starting here, in 1984, the Year of Youth and, in a certain sense, a jubilee year of youth, the pilgrimage of the World Youth Days began. Passing through Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa, Denver, Manila, and Paris, will return to Rome, in the coming month of August, for the World Youth Day of the Holy Year 2000.

        Why, then, do so many youths have an appointment on Palm Sunday here in Rome and in every diocese? Certainly there are many reasons and circumstances that can explain this fact. It seems, however, that the most profound reason that subtends all the others, can be identified in what today's liturgy reveals to us: the mysterious plan of salvation of the Heavenly Father, that is carried out in the humbling and exaltation of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Here is the answer to the questions and the underlying concerns of every man and every woman and, especially, of youth.

        "For us Christ became obedient unto death, and death on a cross. Because of this God has exalted Him." How close these words are to our existence! To the drama of life that you, dear youths, are beginning to experience, as you question the meaning of life, your relation to yourself, to others and to God. To your heart, thirsty for truth and peace, to all your questions and problems, which at times are full of anguish, Christ, the suffering and humiliated Servant, humbled unto death on a cross and exalted in glory to the right hand of the Father, offers Himself as the sole valid answer. Indeed, there is no other answer that is so simple, complete, and convincing.

    4. Dearest youth, thank you for your participation in this solemn liturgy. With His entry into Jerusalem, Christ begins the road of love and sorrow of the Cross. Look at Him with a new impetus of faith. Follow him! He does not promise illusory happiness; on the contrary, so that you will be able to reach true human and spiritual maturity, He invites you to follow His demanding example, making your own His chosen commitments. May Mary, faithful disciple of the Lord, accompany you in this road of conversion and progressive intimacy with her divine Son Who, as the theme of the next World Youth Day remind us, "became flesh and came to dwell among us" (Jn 1,14). Jesus made Himself poor to enrich us with His poverty, He took on our faults, so that we would be redeemed in His blood poured out on the cross. Yes, for us Christ made Himself obedient unto death. Death on a cross. "Glory and praise to You, O Lord Jesus Christ!"


April 18, 2000
volume 10, no. 77

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