Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday celebrated in Rome

At 10:00am this morning (4:00am EDT), the Holy Father, Pope Francis presided over the solemn celebration of Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord.  The celebration took place in Saint Peter's Square.

In the middle of the Square, near the obelisk, the Pope blessed palm and olive branches which were then paraded through the Square toward the front face of Saint Peter's Basilica.  From the altar which was set up in front of the Basilica, the Holy Father then presided over the Eucharistic celebration for Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord.

Youth from Rome and from other dioceses participated in this morning's celebration as part of the annual diocesan observance of the XXXIII World Youth Day which focused on the theme: Fear not Mary, you have found favour with God (Lk 1:30).

At the conclusion of the Eucharistic celebration, before imparting his Apostolic blessing, the conclusions of the Pre-synodal Meeting held this past week in preparation for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops were presented to the Holy Father.  The Synod of Bishops will be held in October of this year and will focus on the theme: Youth, faith and vocational discernment.

Homily of His Holiness, Pope Francis
for Palm-Passion Sunday

Jesus enters Jerusalem. The liturgy invites us to share in the joy and celebration of the people who cry out in praise of their Lord; a joy that will fade and leaves a bitter and sorrowful taste by the end of the account of the Passion. This celebration seems to combine stories of joy and suffering, mistakes and successes, which are part of our daily lives as disciples. It somehow expresses the contradictory feelings that we too, the men and women of today, experience: the capacity for great love … but also for great hatred; the capacity for courageous self-sacrifice, but also the ability to wash our hands at the right moment; the capacity for loyalty, but also for great abandonment and betrayal.

We also see clearly throughout the Gospel account that the joy Jesus awakens is, for some, a source of anger and irritation.

Jesus enters the city surrounded by his people and by a cacophony of singing and shouting. We can imagine that amid the outcry we hear, all at the same time, the voice of the forgiven son, the healed leper, or the bleating of the lost sheep. Then too, the song of the publican and the unclean man; the cry of those living on the edges of the city. And the cry of those men and women who had followed Jesus because they felt his compassion for their pain and misery … That outcry is the song and the spontaneous joy of all those left behind and overlooked, who, having been touched by Jesus, can now shout: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. How could they not praise the one who had restored their dignity and hope? Theirs is the joy of so many forgiven sinners who are able to trust and hope once again. And they cry out. They rejoice. This is joy.

All this joy and praise is a source of unease, scandal and upset for those who consider themselves righteous and faithful to the law and its ritual precepts (cf R. Guardini, El Señor, 383). A joy unbearable for those hardened against pain, suffering and misery. Many of these think to themselves: Such ill-mannered people! A joy intolerable for those who have forgotten the many chances they themselves had been given. How hard it is for the comfortable and the self-righteous to understand the joy and the celebration of God’s mercy! How hard it is for those who trust only in themselves, and look down on others, to share in this joy (cf Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 94).

And so here is where another kind of shouting comes from, the fierce cry of those who shout out: Crucify him! It is not spontaneous but already armed with disparagement, slander and false witness. It is a cry that emerges in moving from the facts to an account of the facts; it comes from this story. It is the voice of those who twist reality and invent stories for their own benefit, without concern for the good name of others. This is a false account. The cry of those who have no problem in seeking ways to gain power and to silence dissonant voices. The cry that comes from spinning facts and painting them such that they disfigure the face of Jesus and turn him into a criminal. It is the voice of those who want to defend their own position, especially by discrediting the defenceless. It is the cry born of the show of self-sufficiency, pride and arrogance, which sees no problem in shouting: Crucify him, crucify him.

And so the celebration of the people ends up being stifled. Hope is demolished, dreams are killed, joy is suppressed; the heart is shielded and charity grows cold. It is cry of save yourself, which would dull our sense of solidarity, dampen our ideals, and blur our vision ... the cry that wants to erase compassion, that suffering with that is compassion, that is the weakness of God.

Faced with such people, the best remedy is to look at Christ’s cross and let ourselves be challenged by his final cry. He died crying out his love for each of us: young and old, saints and sinners, the people of his times and of our own. We have been saved by his cross, and no one can repress the joy of the Gospel; no one, in any situation whatsoever, is far from the Father’s merciful gaze. Looking at the cross means allowing our priorities, choices and actions to be challenged. It means questioning ourselves about our sensitivity to those experiencing difficulty. Brothers and sisters, where is our heart focused? Does Jesus Christ continue to be a source of joy and praise in our heart, or does its priorities and concerns make us ashamed to look at sinners, the least and forgotten?

And you, dear young people, the joy that Jesus awakens in you is a source of anger and even irritation to some, since a joyful young person is hard to manipulate. A joyful young person is hard to manipulate!

But today, a third kind of shouting is possible: And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples'. He replied, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out' (Lk 19: 39-40).

The temptation to silence young people has always existed. The Pharisees themselves rebuke Jesus and ask him to silence them.

There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anaesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. Keep quiet, you! There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.

On this Palm Sunday, as we celebrate World Youth Day, we do well to hear Jesus’ answer to all those Pharisees past and present, even the ones of today: If these were silent, the very stones would cry out (Lk 19:40).

Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you to opt for Sunday’s Hosanna!, so as not to fall into Friday’s Crucify him! ... It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders – so often corrupt – keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?

Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out.
(Original text in Italian, translation by Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

At the conclusion of the Palm-Passion Sunday celebrations, before imparting his Apostolic blessing, the Holy Father, Pope Francis led the recitation of the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims present in Saint Peter's Square.

Greetings of His Holiness, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Before the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted a group of representatives from among the young people who participated this week in the Pre-synodal Meeting.  They asked for a 'selfie' of the group - see photo above.

You see: we cannot conceive of young people today who do not want to take selfies ... and they have done it today too.  They were very good!

Before concluding this celebration, I want to greet all of you, Romans and pilgrims, who have taken part, especially the young people who have come from various parts of the world, also those - about 15,000 of them - who virtually participated this week: I greet all of you!  Thinking wit gratitude about my recent visit to Perù, I affectionately greet the members of the Peruvian community present here in Italy.

Today's World Youth Day, which is being celebrated at the diocesan level, is an important step along the journey toward the Synod of Bishops on youth, faith and discernment which will take place in a few months' time - in October - as well as the journey of preparation for the next International World Youth Day which will take place in Panama in January 2019.  Along this journey, we are accompanied by the example and the intercession of Mary, the young woman from Nazareth who God chose to be the Mother of his Son.  May she walk with us and lead our newest generations along their pilgrimage of faith and fraternity.

Mary helps all of us to live Holy Week well.  We learn from her the practice of interior silence, the glance of the heart, the loving faith that allows us to follow Jesus along the path that leads to the cross, the path that leads to the joyous light of the Resurrection.

Before we recite the Angelus, I truly want to thank Cardinal Baldisseri, Monsignor Fabene and all the members of the Synod Secretariat and all those who have worked with them this week: thank you very much!

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary ...

(Original text in Italian)

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