Satan tempted Jesus with triumphalism but the Lord responded with humility and with silence. And in that humility is a lesson for all the faithful.
This was at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily for Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019, during Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Square. An estimated 40,000 attended the service.
“Jesus shows us how to face moments of difficulty and the most insidious of temptations by preserving in our hearts a peace that is neither detachment nor superhuman impassivity, but confident abandonment to the Father and to his saving will, which bestows life and mercy,” Pope Francis said. “He shows us this kind of abandonment by spurning, at every point in his earthly ministry, the temptation to do things his way and not in complete obedience to the Father. From the experience of his forty days in the desert to the culmination of his Passion, Jesus rejects this temptation by his obedient trust in the Father.
“Today, too, by his entrance into Jerusalem, he shows us the way. For in that event, the evil one, the prince of this world, had a card up his sleeve: the card of triumphalism. Yet the Lord responded by holding fast to his own way, the way of humility.”
The Holy Father explained that “triumphalism” includes a litany of “shortcuts and false compromises.” In the end, it means doing things our way rather than God’s way, pursuing our will rather than His. But Jesus knows – and shows us – a better way.
“He knows that true triumph involves making room for God and that the only way to do that is by stripping oneself, by self-emptying,” Francis said. “To remain silent, to pray, to accept humiliation. There is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith and to precede us on that path.”
The Holy Father reminded those listening that Mary followed that same path of humility, as have “countless holy men and women.” Reminding the crowd that it is World Youth Day, he noted that there are many young saints, including those “next door” who are known only to God.
“Dear young people, do not be ashamed to show your enthusiasm for Jesus, to shout out that he is alive and that he is your life,” Francis encouraged. “Yet at the same time, do not be afraid to follow him on the way of the cross. When you hear that he is asking you to renounce yourselves, to let yourselves be stripped of every security, and to entrust yourselves completely to our Father in heaven, then rejoice and exult! You are on the path of the kingdom of God.”