John Paul II's Homily on Palm Sunday

Cross Is Greatest Sign of Jesus’ Love

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 4, 2004 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II’s homily during the Eucharistic celebration today, Palm Sunday.

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1. «Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!» (Luke 19:38). With these words, the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus as he entered the holy city, acclaiming him as King of Israel. A few days later, however, the same crowd would reject him with hostile cries: «Crucify, crucify him!» (Luke 23:21). The Palm Sunday liturgy makes us relive these two moments of the last week of the earthly life of Christ. It immerses us in that fickle crowd, which in a few days changed from joyful enthusiasm to murderous contempt.

2. In the climate of joy clouded by sadness, which characterizes Palm Sunday, we celebrate the 19th World Youth Day. This year, its theme is «We Wish to See Jesus» (John 12:21), the request addressed to the apostles by «some Greeks» (John 12:20) who arrived in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.

Before the multitude that came to hear him, the Lord proclaimed: «I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself» (John 12:32). Here is his answer, then: All those who seek the Son of man, will be able to see him, on the feast of Passover, as the true Lamb slain for the salvation of the world.

Jesus died on the cross for each one of us. The cross is, therefore, the greatest and most eloquent sign of his merciful love, the only sign of salvation for every generation and for the whole of humanity.

3. Some 20 years ago now, at the end of the Holy Year of the Redemption, I entrusted the Jubilee cross to young people. On that occasion, I exhorted them to be faithful disciples of Christ, crucified King, who «appears to us as he who frees man from what limits, diminishes and almost destroys this freedom at its very roots, in the soul of man, in his heart, and in his conscience» («Redemptor Hominis,» 12).

Since then, the cross has continued to go across numerous countries, in preparation for World Youth Days. During its pilgrimage, it has gone across the continents: Like a torch passed from hand to hand, it has been taken from country to country; it has become the luminous sign of the trust that animates the young generations of the third millennium.

4. Dear young people! While celebrating the 20th anniversary of the beginning of this extraordinary spiritual adventure, let that same charge renew you: «To you I entrust the cross of Christ! Carry it in the world as the sign of the Lord Jesus’ love for humanity, and proclaim to all that only in Christ, dead and risen, is there salvation and redemption» (Insegnamenti, VII, 1 [1984], 1105).

Certainly the message that the cross communicates is not easy to understand in our time, in which material well-being and comfort are proposed and sought as priority values. But you, dear young people, do not be afraid to proclaim in every circumstance the Gospel of the cross. Do not be afraid to go against the current!

5. Christ Jesus … humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him» (Philippians 2:6,8-9). The wonderful hymn of the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians reminded us earlier that the cross has two aspects that are inseparable: It is, at the same time, painful and glorious. The suffering and humiliation of the death of Jesus are profoundly connected to the exaltation and glory of his resurrection.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! My very dear young people! May awareness of this consoling truth never fail you. The passion and resurrection of Christ constitute the center of our faith and our support in inevitable daily trials.

May Mary, sorrowful Virgin and silent witness of the joy of the resurrection, help you to follow the crucified Christ and to discover in the mystery of the cross the full meaning of life.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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