An estimated 250,000 faithful packed St. Peter’s Square for the Palm Sunday Mass presided by Pope Francis. The Mass is the first liturgical celebration of Holy Week celebrated by the recently elected Bishop of Rome.
Prior to the beginning of the Mass, the Holy Father drove around the Square greeting the faithful aboard an open-top SUV. Thousands waved palms as the Pope passed by them.
In his homily, the Holy Father began his homily by speaking on the Christ’s triumphant entry in Jerusalem. “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,” Pope Francis said.
“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.”
The Holy Father noted that despite the crowds proclaiming Christ as King, Jesus chose not to enter into Jerusalem accompanied by a court or surrounded by an army, but instead chose to enter riding a donkey.
“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. He enters to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision,” he said.
Pope Francis said that the place where Christ shines forth his kingship is in one place: the Cross, which the Pontiff described as “his royal throne.”
“Why the Cross?,” the Holy Father asked. “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 cant take with you and have to leave.”
‘The Heart Never Grows Old’
The Holy Father greeted the youth present for World Youth Day, which is celebrated at the local level on Palm Sunday. Yesterday’s celebration marked the 28th year of the World Youth Day which Pope John Paul II began in 1985.
The Holy father encouraged the youth to continue in their journey of faith. “Dear young people!,” he said. “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.”
The Holy Father took the opportunity to confirm his participation in this year’s International World Youth Day which will be held in July in Rio de Janeiro.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited the faithful to seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother who ”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.”