Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In an impassioned appeal, on Palm Sunday which also marked World Youth Day, Benedict XVI asked all young people to “search for the Face of God” and to follow Christ with “innocent hands and pure hearts”, hands “that are not sullied by corruption and bribes”, hearts that are not marked by “lies and hypocrisy”. With equal feeling the Pope appealed to the world which has “closed” its doors to God to listen to the crucified Christ’s message that tells each one of us: “If God’s words and the Church’s message leave you indifferent – then look to me, to the God who made himself flesh to suffer for you and with you, - see that I suffer for your love and open yourself to me and God the Father”.
The Palm Sunday rite, which opens Holy Week and the memory of our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection, began from the giant obelisk of St Peter’s square, with the blessing of the palm and olive branches, followed by a procession to the altar, in remembrance of Christ’s solemn entry into the city of Jerusalem. In fact an estimated 40 thousand people took part in the ceremony, for the most part young people from the Rome diocese, gathered to mark the XXII World Youth Day on the theme: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (Jn 13,34). After a long reading of Christ’s passion according to the Gospel of St Luke, which was dramatized and put to music, Benedict XVI held his homily showing how the rites of the ceremony are linked to the lives of the faithful and the entire world.
First of all, the procession of the Palms, is “an expression of joy because we can know Christ, because he allows us to be his friends and gifts us the key to life”. The Pope added “Yes, we have seen and still see the wonders of Christ, how He leads men and women to give up the comfort of their own lives and put themselves completely at the service of those who are suffering, how He gives men and women the courage to oppose violence and lies and make room in the world for truth; how He, in secret, leads men and women to do good for others to seek reconciliation where there was hate, to make peace were there was conflict”. The Pope said that the procession is a profession of “Jesus Christ King”, asking for the “grace to follow Him”.
The Pope then explained “what “following Christ” means in concrete terms”. He said “It means changing our interior existence. It requires us not to close in on ourselves considering our own relationship with the exterior world our principal reason for living. It requires that we gift ourselves to Another – for truth, for love, for God who, in Christ precedes us and shows us the way. It means making the fundamental decisions to no longer consider utility and earnings, career and success as the ultimate aim of my life, but rather to recognise as authentic criteria truth and love. It means deciding between a lives spent living for oneself or a life gifted – for a greater cause. It means taken into serious consideration that truth and love are not abstract values; they became flesh in Christ. By losing myself in Him, I find myself”.
Benedict XVI then commented on one of the hymns sung during the procession of the Palms, psalm 24 , which speaks of “going up the mountain of the Lord”, as an expression of going up towards God, in an “interior” and “exterior” sense. The Pope highlighted the “two essential conditions” to in becoming a disciple of Christ, and to “go up the mountain of the Lord”. The first is to “search for God, to look for his Face”. He referred himself particularly to the young people “Dear young friends – how important this is in today’s world: don’t let yourselves be simply led without direction in life; don’t content yourselves with what others think or say or do. Look intently around yourselves in your search for God. Don’t allow the call to God to dissolves itself in your souls. Desire that which is the greatest of all. Desire to know Him – his Face”.
“The other concrete condition in rising up to God is this: only those of “innocent hands and pure heart” may stay in the holy place. Innocent hands - are hands that are not used for acts ofviolence they are hands that are not sullied by corruption and bribes. Pure hearts – when is a heart pure? Hearts are pure when they are not stained by lies and hypocrisy. Which remains as clear as spring water because it does not know duality. A heart is pure when it is estranged from the intoxication of pleasure; a heart for which love is true and not just the passion of a moment. Innocent hands and clean heart: if we walk together with Christ, we will rise and find the purifications which truly bring us to that height to which man is destined: friendship with God Himself.
Benedict XVI then recalled another symbol – now no longer in use – of the Palm Sunday procession, when the priest on his arrival at the door “smote the closed door with the processional cross, which then opened before him” . The Pope explained “the image beautifully depicted the mystery of Christ who, with the wood of his cross, the strength of his love gifted to us, knocked from the world on God’s door; a world that was failing to find access to God”.
The Pontiff concluded “with the cross Christ burst open the door to God, the door between God and humankind. Now it is open. But also from the other side our Lord is knocking with his cross: he is knocking on the world’s door, on the door to our hearts, which all too often and often in great numbers remains closed to God”.
Almost in an appeal to all of the world’s “indifferent” – made so by too much science or too much pain – Benedict XVI added that Christ “ speaks to us more or less in this way: if the proof that God gives you of His existence in creation fails to open you to Him; if God’s word and the Church’s message leave you indifferent – then look at me, at the God who made himself flesh to suffer for you, with you – see that I suffer for your love and open yourself to me and God the Father”.
At the end of the celebration Benedict XVI greeted the young people in diverse languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Italian. The Pope struggled to calm the crowds into silence for the Angelus prayer. The young people’s enthusiasm however, found an outlet at the conclusion of the ceremony when the Pope toured the entire square greeting the crowds from his open top jeep.