Homily of Pope Francis at the Mass of the Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord at St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 March 2013

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130324_palme_en.html

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: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 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 God’s 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 life’s 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.

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. Lk 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. Is 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 himself… 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 can’t 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 – 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 God’s 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. Christ’s 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.

Today in this Square, there are many young people: for twenty-eight years Palm Sunday has been World Youth Day! This is our third word: youth! Dear young people, I saw you in the procession as you were coming in; I think of you celebrating around Jesus, waving your olive branches. I think of you crying out his name and expressing your joy at being with him! You have an important part in the celebration of faith! You bring us the joy of faith and you tell us that we must live the faith with a young heart, always: a young heart, even at the age of seventy or eighty. Dear young people! With Christ, the heart never grows old! Yet all of us, all of you know very well that the King whom we follow and who accompanies us is very special: he is a King who loves even to the Cross and who teaches us to serve and to love. And you are not ashamed of his Cross! On the contrary, you embrace it, because you have understood that it is in giving ourselves, in giving ourselves, in emerging from ourselves that we have true joy and that, with his love, God conquered evil. You carry the pilgrim Cross through all the Continents, along the highways of the world! You carry it in response to Jesus’ call: “Go, make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), which is the theme of World Youth Day this year. You carry it so as to tell everyone that on the Cross Jesus knocked down the wall of enmity that divides people and nations, and he brought reconciliation and peace. Dear friends, I too am setting out on a journey with you, starting today, in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We are already close to the next stage of this great pilgrimage of the Cross. I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare well – prepare spiritually above all – in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world. Young people must say to the world: to follow Christ is good; to go with Christ is good; the message of Christ is good; emerging from ourselves, to the ends of the earth and of existence, to take Jesus there, is good! Three points, then: joy, Cross, young people.

Let us ask the intercession of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us the joy of meeting Christ, the love with which we must look to the foot of the Cross, the enthusiasm of the young heart with which we must follow him during this Holy Week and throughout our lives. May it be so.

Sunday, 24 March 2013 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Holy Week (Passion Reading)

Luke 22 : 14 – Luke 23 : 56 (Palm Sunday Year C)

When the hour came, Jesus took His place at the table and the Apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I was eager to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

Then they passed Him a cup, and when He had given thanks, He said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that, from now on, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” Jesus also took bread, and after giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

And after the supper, He did the same with the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant, sealed in My Blood, which is poured out for you. Yet the hand of the traitor is with Me on the table. Know that the Son of Man is going the way marked out for Him. But alas for that one who betrays Him!”

They began to ask one another which of them could do such a thing. They also began to argue among themselves which of them should be considered the most important. And Jesus said, “The kings of the pagan nations rule over them as lords, and the most hard-hearted rulers claim the title, ‘Gracious Lord.'”

“But not so with you; let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is the greatest, he who sits at the table or he who serves? He who is seated, isn’t it? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”

“You are the ones who have been with Me, and stood by Me, through My troubles; because of this, just as the kingship has been given to Me by My Father, so I give it to you. You will eat and drink at My table at My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones and govern the twelve tribes of Israel.”

“Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift you like grain, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have recovered, you shall strengthen your brothers.” Then Peter said, “Lord, with You I am ready to go even to prison and death.” But Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day before you have denied three times that you know Me.”

Jesus also said to them, “When I sent you without purse or bag or sandals, were you short of anything?” They answered, “No.” And Jesus said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and a bag as well. And if anyone is without a sword, let hm sell his cloak to buy one. For Scripture says : ‘He was numbered among criminals.’ These words have to be fulfilled in Me, and now everything written about Me is taking place.”

Then they said, “See, Lord, here are two swords!” But He answered, “That is enough.”

After this, Jesus left to go as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. When He came to the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not be put to the test.” Then He went a little further, about a stone’s throw, and kneeling down He prayed, “Father, if it is You will, remove this cup from Me; however, not My will but Yours be done.” And an angel from heaven appeared to give Him strength.

As He was in agony, He prayed even more earnestly, and great drops of blood formed like sweat and fell to the ground. When He rose from prayer, He went to His disciples, but found them worn out with grief, and asleep. And He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Get up and pray, so that you may not be put to the test.”

Jesus was still speaking when a group appeared, and the man named Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss Him, and Jesus said to him, “Judas, with a kiss do you betray the Son of Man?”

Those with Jesus, seeing what would happen, said to Him, “Master, shall we use the sword?” And one of them struck the HIgh Priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus stopped him, “No more of this!” He touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Then Jesus spoke to those coming against Him, the chief priests, officers of the Temple and elders; and He said to them, “Did you really set out against a robber? Do you need swords and clubs to arrest Me? Day after day I was among you, teaching in the Temple, and you did not arrest Me. But this is the hour of the power of darkness; this is your hour.”

Then they seized Him and took Him away, bringing Him to the High Priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance. A fire was kindled in the middle of the courtyard, where people were gathered, and Peter sat among them. A maidservant noticed him. Looking at him intently in the light if the fire, she exclaimed, “This man also was with Him!” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

A little later, someone who saw Him said, “You are also one of them!” Peter replied, “My friend, I am not!” After about an hour another asserted, “Surely this man was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”

Again Peter denied, “My friend, I don’t know what you are talking about.” He had not finished saying this, when a cock crowed. The Lord turned around and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the word that the Lord had spoken, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter went outside, weeping bitterly.

And the guards, who had arrested Jesus, mocked and beat Him. They blindfolded Him, struck Him, and then asked, “Who hit You? Tell us, prophet!” And they hurled many other insulting words at him.

At daybreak, the council of the elders of the people, among whom were the chief priests and the scribes, assembled again. Then they had Jesus brought before them, and they began questioning Him, “Tell us, are You the Christ?” Jesus replied, “You will not believe, if I tell you, and neither will you answer, if I ask you. Yet from now on, the Son of Man will have His seat at the right hand of the MIghty God.”

In chorus they asked, “So you are the Son of God?” And Jesus said to them, “You are right, I am.” Then they said, “What need have we of witnesses? We have heard it from His own lips.

The whole council rose and brought Jesus to Pilate. They gave their accusation : “We found this Man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claming to be Christ the King.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You said so.” Turning to the chief priests and the crowd, Pilate said, “I find no basis for a case against this Man.” But they insisted, “All the country of the Jews is being stirred up with His teaching. He began in Galilee and now He has come all the way here.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked if the Man was a Galilean. Finding the accused to come under Herod’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was delighted to have Jesus before him now; for a long time he had wanted to see Him because of the reports about Him, and he was hoping to see Jesus work some miracle. He piled up question upon question, but got no reply from Jesus.

All the while, the chief priests and the scribes remained standing there, vehemently pressing their accusations. Finally, Herod ridiculed Him and with his guards mocked him. And when he had put a rich cloak on Him, he sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod, who were enemies before, became friends from that day.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the elders and the people, and said to them, “You have brought this Man before me and accused Him of subversion. In your presence, I have examined Him and found no basis for your charges; and neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to me. It is quite clear that this Man has done nothing that deserves a death sentence. I will therefore have Him scourged and then release Him.”

On the Passover, Pilate had to release a prisoner. Therefore, shouting as one man, they protested, “No! Away with this Man! Release Barabbas instead!” This man had been thrown into prison for an uprising in the city and for murder.

Since Pilate wanted to release Jesus, he appealed to the crowd once more, but they shouted back, “To the cross with Him! To the cross!” A third time Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done? Since no crime deserving death has been proved, I shall have Him scourged and let Him go.”

But they went on shouting and demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their shouts grew louder. So Pilate decided to pass the sentence they demanded. He released the man they asked for, the one who was in prison for rebellion and murder, and he handed Jesus over in accordance with their wishes.

When they led Jesus away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the fields, and laid the cross on him, to carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Him; among them were women, beating their breasts and grieving for Him, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me! Weep rather for yourselves and for your children, for the days are coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the women without child! Happy are those who have not given birth or nursed a child!'”

“And they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if this is the lot of the green wood, what will happen to the dry?

Along with Jesus, two criminals also were led out to be executed. There, at the place called the Skull, He was crucified together with two criminals – one on His right and another on His left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And the guards cast lots to divide His clothes among themselves.

The people stood by, watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at Him, saying to one another, “Let the Man who saved others now save Himself, for He is the Messiah, the chosen One of God!” The soldiers also mocked Him and, when they drew near to offer Him bitter wine, they said, “So You are the king of the Jews? Free Yourself!”

Above Jesus there was a inscription in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted Him, “So You are the Messiah? Save Yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as He did? For us it is just : this is payment for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom.”

Jesus replied, “Truly, you will be with Me today in paradise.”

It was almost midday. The sun was hidden, and darkness came over the whole land until mid-afternoon; and, at that time, the curtain of the Sanctuary was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” And saying that, He gave up His Spirit.

The captain, on seeing what had happened, acknowledged the hand of God, “Surely this was an upright Man!” he said. And all the people who had gathered to watch the spectacle, as soon as they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts.

But those who knew Jesus remained there, at a distance, especially the women, who had followed Him from Galilee; they witnessed all this.

Then intervened a member of the Jewish supreme council, a good and righteous man named Joseph, from the Judean town of Arimathea. He had not agreed with the decision and action of his fellow members, and he lived uprightly in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. Joseph went to Pilate, and asked for Jesus’ body. He then took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a yet unused tomb, cut out of a rock.

It was Preparation Day, and the star which marks the beginning of the Sabbath was shining. So the women, who had come with Jesus from Galilee, followed Joseph to see the tomb, and how His body was laid. And returning home, they prepared perfumes and ointments. And on the Sabbath day, they rested, as the Law required.

 

Alternative reading (shorter version)

 

Luke 23 : 1-49

The whole council rose and brought Jesus to Pilate. They gave their accusation : “We found this Man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claming to be Christ the King.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You said so.” Turning to the chief priests and the crowd, Pilate said, “I find no basis for a case against this Man.” But they insisted, “All the country of the Jews is being stirred up with His teaching. He began in Galilee and now He has come all the way here.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked if the Man was a Galilean. Finding the accused to come under Herod’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was delighted to have Jesus before him now; for a long time he had wanted to see Him because of the reports about Him, and he was hoping to see Jesus work some miracle. He piled up question upon question, but got no reply from Jesus.

All the while, the chief priests and the scribes remained standing there, vehemently pressing their accusations. Finally, Herod ridiculed Him and with his guards mocked him. And when he had put a rich cloak on Him, he sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod, who were enemies before, became friends from that day.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the elders and the people, and said to them, “You have brought this Man before me and accused Him of subversion. In your presence, I have examined Him and found no basis for your charges; and neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to me. It is quite clear that this Man has done nothing that deserves a death sentence. I will therefore have Him scourged and then release Him.”

On the Passover, Pilate had to release a prisoner. Therefore, shouting as one man, they protested, “No! Away with this Man! Release Barabbas instead!” This man had been thrown into prison for an uprising in the city and for murder.

Since Pilate wanted to release Jesus, he appealed to the crowd once more, but they shouted back, “To the cross with Him! To the cross!” A third time Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done? Since no crime deserving death has been proved, I shall have Him scourged and let Him go.”

But they went on shouting and demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their shouts grew louder. So Pilate decided to pass the sentence they demanded. He released the man they asked for, the one who was in prison for rebellion and murder, and he handed Jesus over in accordance with their wishes.

When they led Jesus away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the fields, and laid the cross on him, to carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Him; among them were women, beating their breasts and grieving for Him, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me! Weep rather for yourselves and for your children, for the days are coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the women without child! Happy are those who have not given birth or nursed a child!'”

“And they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if this is the lot of the green wood, what will happen to the dry?

Along with Jesus, two criminals also were led out to be executed. There, at the place called the Skull, He was crucified together with two criminals – one on His right and another on His left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And the guards cast lots to divide His clothes among themselves.

The people stood by, watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at Him, saying to one another, “Let the Man who saved others now save Himself, for He is the Messiah, the chosen One of God!” The soldiers also mocked Him and, when they drew near to offer Him bitter wine, they said, “So You are the king of the Jews? Free Yourself!”

Above Jesus there was a inscription in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted Him, “So You are the Messiah? Save Yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as He did? For us it is just : this is payment for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom.”

Jesus replied, “Truly, you will be with Me today in paradise.”

It was almost midday. The sun was hidden, and darkness came over the whole land until mid-afternoon; and, at that time, the curtain of the Sanctuary was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” And saying that, He gave up His Spirit.

The captain, on seeing what had happened, acknowledged the hand of God, “Surely this was an upright Man!” he said. And all the people who had gathered to watch the spectacle, as soon as they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts.

But those who knew Jesus remained there, at a distance, especially the women, who had followed Him from Galilee; they witnessed all this.