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 (cf. 1 John 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" (Psalm 118: 26; cf. Luke 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 splendour of peace. Amen.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of Godís encouragements to all of us.
CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF OUR LORD
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter's Square
1. Jesus enters Jerusalem. The crowd of disciples accompanies him in festive mood, their garments are stretched out before him, there is talk of the miracles he has accomplished, and loud praises are heard: ďBlessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!Ē (Luke 19:38).
Crowds, celebrating, praise, blessing, peace: joy fills the air. Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of Godís mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul.
This is Jesus. This is his heart which looks to all of us, to our sicknesses, to our sins. The love of Jesus is great. And thus he enters Jerusalem, with this love, and looks at us. It is a beautiful scene, full of light - the light of the love of Jesus, the love of his heart - of joy, of celebration.
At the beginning of Mass, we too repeated it. We waved our palms, our olive branches. We too welcomed Jesus; we too expressed our joy at accompanying him, at knowing him to be close, present in us and among us as a friend, a brother, and also as a King: that is, a shining beacon for our lives. Jesus is God, but he lowered himself to walk with us. He is our friend, our brother. He illumines our path here. And in this way we have welcomed him today. And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our lifeís journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! And in this moment the enemy, the devil, comes, often disguised as an angel, and slyly speaks his word to us. Do not listen to him! Let us follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let hope be stolen! The hope that Jesus gives us.
2. The second word. Why does Jesus enter Jerusalem? Or better: how does Jesus enter Jerusalem? The crowds acclaim him as King. And he does not deny it, he does not tell them to be silent (cf. Luke 19:39-40). But what kind of a King is Jesus? Let us take a look at him: he is riding on a donkey, he is not accompanied by a court, he is not surrounded by an army as a symbol of power. He is received by humble people, simple folk who have the sense to see something more in Jesus; they have that sense of the faith which says: here is the Saviour. Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honours reserved to earthly kings, to the powerful, to rulers; he enters to be scourged, insulted and abused, as Isaiah foretold in the First Reading (cf. Isaiah 50:6). He enters to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision. He enters to climb Calvary, carrying his burden of wood. And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross. And it is precisely here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross! It reminds me of what Benedict XVI said to the Cardinals: you are princes, but of a king crucified. That is the throne of Jesus. Jesus takes it upon himselfÖ Why the Cross? Because Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including the sin of all of us, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money that you canít take with you and have to leave. When we were small, our grandmother used to say: a shroud has no pocket. Love of power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And Ė as each one of us knows and is aware - our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation. Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of Godís love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for us on the throne of the Cross. Christís Cross embraced with love never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.