At the beginning of Holy Week, Pope Francis urges us to look at the crucifix, the "cathedra of God", where "the Son of God", "emptied" and "humbled" himself" and encourages us to "learn about the humble love which saves and gives life, so that we may give up all selfishness, and the seeking of power and fame". The Pope brings to mind "the many marginalized, the many refugees" left to die in indifference. Tens of thousands of young people in preparation for the World Youth Day in Krakow in July.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Jesus ..., at the height of his annihilation, reveals the true face of God, which is mercy. He forgives those who are crucifying him, he opens the gates of paradise to the repentant thief and he touches the heart of the centurion. If the mystery of evil is unfathomable, then the reality of Love poured out through him is infinite". Although "God’s way of acting may seem so far removed from our own, that he was annihilated for our sake, while it seems difficult for us to even forget ourselves a little", "Jesus invites us to walk his path", to "renounce 'selfishness, the pursuit of power and fame", choosing "the path of service, of giving, of self-forgetfulness". During his homily on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus, Francis also recalled the fate of "so many people, so many people, so many refugees" to which the world shows indifference.
This is how Pope Francis summed up the meaning of today's celebration, which begins the rites of Holy Week. The feast day marks the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, acclaimed by the people with waving palm and olive branches.
Recalling this rite, ahead of Mass near the obelisk that stands in the middle of St. Peter's Square, the Pope blessed palm and olive branches, at the beginning of a procession toward the front of the basilica.
There were tens of thousands of young people present in the square from the diocese of Rome and Italy, in preparation for the XXXI World Youth Day to be held July 26 to 31 in Krakow (Poland). The young people were also the readers and singers during the liturgy. The Gospel today is the long story of the Passion of Our Lord according to St. Luke, dramatized by three deacons and choir.
In his homily, Pope Francis first of all recalls the "enthusiasm" of the crowds of Jerusalem in welcoming Jesus, "as he entered Jerusalem, He desires to enter our city and our lives ... May nothing prevent us from finding in him the source of our joy, true joy, which abides and brings peace; for it is Jesus alone who saves us from the snares of sin, death, fear and sadness".
"Today’s liturgy - he continued - "teaches us that the Lord has not saved us by his triumphal entry or by means of powerful miracles. The Apostle Paul, in the second reading, epitomizes in two verbs the path of redemption: Jesus “emptied” and “humbled” himself (Phil 2:7-8). These two verbs show the boundlessness of God’s love for us. Jesus emptied himself: he did not cling to the glory that was his as the Son of God, but became the Son of man in order to be in solidarity with us sinners in all things; yet he was without sin. Even more, he lived among us in “the condition of a servant” (v.7); not of a king or a prince, but of a servant.
"Therefore he humbled himself, " noted the Pope "and the abyss of his humiliation, as Holy Week shows us, seems to be bottomless".
"But this is only the beginning. The humiliation of Jesus reaches its utmost in the Passion: he is sold for thirty pieces of silver and betrayed by the kiss of a disciple whom he had chosen and called his friend. Nearly all the others flee and abandon him; Peter denies him three times in the courtyard of the temple. Humiliated in his spirit by mockery, insults and spitting, he suffers in his body terrible brutality: the blows, the scourging and the crown of thorns make his face unrecognizable. He also experiences shame and disgraceful condemnation by religious and political authorities: he is made into sin and considered to be unjust. Pilate then sends him to Herod, who in turn sends him to the Roman governor. Even as every form of justice is denied to him, Jesus also experiences in his own flesh indifference, since no one wishes to take responsibility for his fate".
"The crowd, who just a little earlier had acclaimed him, now changes their praise into a cry of accusation, even to the point of preferring that a murderer be released in his place. And so the hour of death on the cross arrives, that most painful form of shame reserved for traitors, slaves and the worst kind of criminals. But isolation, defamation and pain are not yet the full extent of his deprivation. To be totally in solidarity with us, he also experiences on the Cross the mysterious abandonment of the Father. In his abandonment, however, he prays and entrusts himself: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:47). Hanging from the wood of the cross, beside derision he now confronts the last temptation: to come down from the Cross, to conquer evil by might and to show the face of a powerful and invincible God. Jesus, however, even here at the height of his annihilation, reveals the true face of God, which is mercy. He forgives those who are crucifying him, he opens the gates of paradise to the repentant thief and he touches the heart of the centurion. If the mystery of evil is unfathomable, then the reality of Love poured out through him is infinite, reaching even to the tomb and to hell. He takes upon himself all our pain that he may redeem it, bringing light to darkness, life to death, love to hatred".
"God’s way of acting" continued the Pope "may seem so far removed from our own, that he was annihilated for our sake, while it seems difficult for us to even forget ourselves a little. He comes to save us; we are called to choose his way: the way of service, of giving, of forgetfulness of ourselves. Let us walk this path, pausing in these days to gaze upon the Crucifix, the “royal seat of God”, to learn about the humble love which saves and gives life, so that we may give up all selfishness, and the seeking of power and fame. By humbling himself, Jesus invites us to walk on his path. Let us turn our faces to him, let us ask for the grace to understand something of the mystery of his obliteration for our sake; and then, in silence, let us contemplate the mystery of this Week".
After Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the faithful. Before the Marian prayer, he addressed a greeting to the many young people present in the square. "Today - he said - we celebrate the 31st World Youth Day, which will culminate at the end of July in the great world meeting in Krakow. The theme is "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy" (Mt 5,7). My special greeting goes to the young people present here, and extends to all the youth of the world. I hope that you will come in great numbers to Krakow, home to St. John Paul II initiator of the World Youth Days. To his intercession we entrust the final months of preparation of this pilgrimage that in the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, will be the Jubilee of young people at the level of the universal Church.
There are many young volunteers of Krakow here with us. Returning to Poland, they will bring those in charge of teh country an olive branch from Jerusalem, Assisi and Monte Cassino and blessed today in this square, as an invitation to cultivate intentions of peace, reconciliation and fraternity. Thank you for this wonderful initiative; continue with courage".