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1. Jesus enters into Jerusalem. The crowd of disciples accompanies him in celebration, cloaks are placed on the road before him, his miracles are spoken of, a shout of praise goes up: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven” (Luke 19:38).
Crowd, celebration, praise, blessing, peace: it is a climate of joy that is being experienced. Jesus has reawakened many hopes of the heart, above all in the humble people, the simple, poor, forgotten, those who do not count in the eyes of the world. He understood human misery, he manifested the face of God’s mercy and deigned to heal the body and soul.
This is Jesus. This is his heart that looks upon all of us, that looks upon all of our afflictions, our sins. Jesus’ love is great. And so he enters into Jerusalem with this love, and looks upon all of us. It is a beautiful scene: full of light – the light of Jesus’ love, the light of his heart – of joy, of celebrating.
At the beginning of Mass we too repeated this. We waved our palms. We too welcomed Jesus; we too expressed the joy of accompanying him, of knowing that he is near, present in us and among us, as a friend, as a brother, and as king, that is, like a glowing beacon in our life. Jesus is God but he lowered himself to walk with us. He is our friend, our brother. Here he lights our way. And in this way we have welcomed him today. And this is the first word that I want to say to you: joy! Never be sad men and women: a Christian can never be! Never give in to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that arises from possessing many things, rather it comes from having met a Person: Jesus, who is among us; it comes from knowing that with him we are never alone, even in difficult moments, even when the journey of life collides with problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are many! And it is in this moment that the enemy comes, the devil comes, many times disguised as an angel, and he speaks to us deceitfully. Do not listen to him! We follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and he carries us: here is where our joy lies, the hope that we, in this world of ours, must have. And, please, do not let hope be stolen from you! Do not let your hope be stolen! The hope that Jesus gives us.
2. But we ask ourselves – here we approach to the second word – Why does Jesus come to Jerusalem? Or perhaps better: How does Jesus enter into Jerusalem? The crowd acclaims him King. And he does not oppose this, he does not silence them (cf. Luke 19:39-40). But what kind of King is Jesus? Let us see: he rides a colt, he does not have a court that follows him, he is not surrounded by an army that would symbolize power. Those who welcome him are humble, simple people, who have the sense to see in Jesus something more; they have that sense of faith, which says: this is the Savior. Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honors reserved for earthly kings, to those who have power, to those who dominate; he enters to be beaten, insulted and reviled, as Isaiah foretold in the first reading (cf. Isaiah 50:6); he enters to receive a crown of thorns, a reed, a purple cloak, his royalty will be an object of scorn; he enters to climb Calvary, carrying a tree. And this is the second word: cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem to die on the cross. And it is exactly here that his being a king, as God, is manifested: the royal throne is the wood of the cross! I think of what Benedict XVI said to the cardinals: you are princes but of a crucified King. That is Jesus’ throne. Jesus takes it upon himself… Why the cross? Because Jesus takes upon himself evil, filth, the sin of the world, even our sin, the sins of all of us, and he washes them away with his blood, with mercy, with God’s love. Let us look around: how greatly does evil wound humanity! War, violence, economic conflicts that harm the weakest, desire for money, which no one can take with them, it must be left behind. My grandmother said to us children: the shroud that they bury you in won’t have pockets. Love of money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And – we all know – there are our own sins: lack of love and respect for God, for our neighbor, for the whole of creation. And Jesus on the cross feels the whole weight of evil and with the power of God’s love conquers it, he defeats it in his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for all of us upon the cross. The cross of Christ, embraced with love, never brings sadness with it, but joy, the joy of being saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.
3. Today there are many young people in this piazza: for 28 years Palm Sunday has been the Day of Young People! This is the third word: youth! Dear young people, I saw you in the procession, when you came in; I imagine you celebrating around Jesus, shaking the olive branches; I imagine you as you shout his name and express your joy at being with him! You have an important part in the feast 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 70 or 80! Young heart! With Christ the heart never grows old! But we all know that the King that we follow and who accompanies us is very special: he is a King who loves even to the cross and that teaches us to serve, to love. And you are not ashamed of the cross! On the contrary, you embrace it, because you have understood that it is in the gift of self, in going out of yourself that you have true joy and that with God’s love he conquered evil. You carry the Pilgrim Cross across all the continents, down the roads of the world! You carry it responding to Jesus’ invitation, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (cf. Matthew 28:19), which is the theme of World Youth Day this year. You carry it to say to everyone that on the cross Jesus broke down the wall of enmity that separates men and peoples, and brought reconciliation and peace. Dear friends, I too journey with you, starting today, in the footsteps of John Paul II and of Benedict XVI. We are already near this next stage on this great pilgrimage of the cross. Look with joy to July, to Rio de Janeiro! I have an appointment with you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare yourselves well, above all spiritually in your communities, so that meeting will be a sign of faith for the whole world. The young people must say to the world: it is good to follow Jesus; it is good to go with Jesus; Jesus’ message is good; it is good to go out of yourself to the ends of the earth and existence to bring Jesus! Three words: joy, cross, youth.
Let us ask the intercession of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us the joy of the encounter with Christ, the love with which we, at the foot of the cross, must look upon him, the enthusiasm of the young heart with which we must follow him this Holy Week and our whole life. Amen.[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]