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Palm Sunday 2009 & the 24th World Youth Day

XXIV WYD Message: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4, 10)

Papa Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass on Palm Sunday
St Peter's Square, 5 April 2009 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"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” (cf 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 travelled 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 favour 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, St 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 (cf Jn 3:16). We touch the marvellous 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."

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
Palm Sunday, 5th April 2009 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"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" (cf. 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 in order 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.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular al Cardenal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Arzobispo de Madrid, y a los numerosos jóvenes venidos a recoger la Cruz para la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud del año dos mil once, en Madrid. Hoy, que hemos acompañado con el júbilo de los ramos a Jesús en su entrada en Jerusalén, invito a todos a llevarlo muy dentro del corazón, para reconocerlo también en el árbol salvador de la cruz y celebrar así con inmenso gozo la gloria de su resurrección. Feliz Domingo. Feliz Semana Santa.

Je suis heureux de vous accueillir, chers jeunes francophones. La Semaine Sainte nous permet de contempler le Christ souffrant. Accompagnons-le, pas à pas, dans son combat qui nous libère de l’esclavage, de la détresse et de la mort, et qui nous conduit à la liberté, à la joie et à la Vie. Soyez autour de vous des signes d’espérance ! Stimulez vos amis afin qu’ils suivent le Christ ! Que le Seigneur vous accompagne tout au long de cette Semaine Sainte !

Einen frohen Gruß richte ich an die deutschsprachigen Pilger. Besonders begrüße ich die vielen jungen Menschen, die zur Übergabe des Weltjugendtagskreuzes gekommen sind. Zu Beginn der Liturgie des heutigen Palmsonntags haben wir, wie einst die Einwohner von Jerusalem, Jesus Christus einen feierlichen Einzug bereitet. Begleiten wir ihn auch auf dem Weg seines Leidens. Am Kreuz zeigt er uns seine grenzenlose Liebe, die alles auf sich nimmt. Dieses Zeichen der Hoffnung führe uns zu einer Erneuerung des Herzens, um wahrhaft Zeugen seiner Güte und seines Heils zu sein. Euch allen wünsche ich eine gesegnete Karwoche!

Queridos jovens de língua portuguesa, alegro-me convosco porque pusestes a vossa esperança no Deus vivo, em Cristo ressuscitado. Se vos alimentardes de Cristo e viverdes imersos n’Ele, não podereis deixar de falar d’Ele, de O dar a conhecer aos vossos amigos. Habitados por Cristo, espalhai esta esperança ao vosso redor. Ide e acendei a esperança. Acompanho-vos a todos com a minha oração e a minha Bênção.

Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do polskiej młodzieży. Podczas gdy wasi rówieśnicy z Australii przekazują krzyż młodym Hiszpanom, modlę się, aby ten znak miłości Chrystusa był drogi młodym ludziom na całym świecie. Niech dla was wszystkich będzie punktem odniesienia w dniach szczęśliwych i w godzinach próby. Bożej miłości was zawierzam i z serca błogosławię.

Pozdravljam maturante iz Škofijske klasične gimnazije v Šentvidu in vse slovenske romarje! Želim vam, da bi doživeto obhajali velikonočne praznike in da bi vedno bolj zoreli tudi v ljubezni in zvestobi do Vstalega Odrešenika. Naj bo z vami moj blagoslov!

Saluto infine con affetto i pellegrini italiani, in modo particolare i gruppi giovanili. Auguro a tutti di prepararsi alla prossima Pasqua alla scuola dell’apostolo Paolo, accogliendo pienamente la grazia di Cristo. Ed ora accompagniamo con la preghiera il passaggio della Croce.

Passaggio della Croce e dell’Icona

Ed ora ci rivolgiamo con fiducia alla Vergine Maria, perché vegli sempre sul cammino dei giovani e ci aiuti tutti a vivere bene la Settimana Santa.

Angelus Domini…"