Full text of the Pope’s Homily on Palm Sunday 2021

Every year this Liturgy arouses in us a feeling of astonishment. We go from the joy of welcoming Jesus who enters Jerusalem to the pain of seeing him condemned to death and crucified. It is a deep feeling that will accompany us throughout Holy Week. Let us then enter this stupor.

Jesus surprises us from the first moment. His people welcome him solemnly, but he enters Jerusalem on a humble donkey. People wait for the mighty deliverer for Passover, but Jesus comes to fulfill Passover with his sacrifice. His people hope to celebrate victory over the Romans with the sword, but Jesus comes to celebrate God’s victory with the cross. What happened to those people, who in a few days went from hailing Jesus with hosannas to shouting “crucify him”? What happened to them? In reality, those people followed more of an image of the Messiah than the real Messiah. They admired Jesus, but were unwilling to be surprised by Him. Astonishment is different from mere admiration. Admiration can be worldly, because it looks for the tastes and expectations of each one; instead, amazement remains open to the other, to its novelty. Also today there are many who admire Jesus, because he spoke well, because he loved and forgave, because his example changed history … and so much more. They admire him, but their lives do not change. Because admiring Jesus is not enough. It is necessary to follow his path, to allow himself to be questioned by him, to go from admiration to astonishment.

And what is the most surprising thing about the Lord and about his Easter? The fact that He reaches glory by way of humiliation. He triumphs by welcoming pain and death, which we, hostages of admiration and success, would avoid. On the other hand, Saint Paul tells us, Jesus “emptied himself, […] he humbled himself” (Phil 2,7.8). It is surprising to see the Almighty reduced to nothing. See Him, the Word that knows everything, teach us in silence from the chair of the cross. See the king of kings whose throne is a gallows. See the God of the universe stripped of everything. See him crowned with thorns and not with glory. Seeing Him, goodness in person, being insulted and trampled on. Why all this humiliation? Lord, why did you let them do all this to you?

He did it for us, to touch the depths of our human reality, to experience our entire existence, all our evil. To get closer to us and not leave us alone in pain and death. To recover, to save us. Jesus went up on the cross to descend into our suffering. He tasted our worst states of mind: failure, rejection by all, betrayal of those who love him and even abandonment of God. He experienced our most painful contradictions in his own flesh, and thus redeemed them, transformed them. His love is close to our fragility, it reaches where we feel most ashamed. And now we know that we are not alone. God is with us in every wound, in every fear. No evil, no sin has the last word. God wins, but the palm of victory goes through the tree of the cross.

Let us ask for the grace of stupor. The Christian life, without wonder, is monotonous. How can we witness the joy of having found Jesus, if we do not allow ourselves to be surprised every day by his admirable love, which forgives us and makes us start anew? If faith loses its ability to surprise itself, it becomes deaf, it no longer feels the wonder of grace, it no longer experiences the taste of the Bread of life and the Word, it no longer perceives the beauty of the brothers and the gift of creation. And he has no other way out than to take refuge in legalism, clericalism and all those attitudes that Jesus condemns in Matthew chapter 23.

In this Holy Week, let us lift our gaze to the cross to receive the grace of amazement. Saint Francis of Assisi, looking at the Crucified One, was amazed that his friars did not cry. And we, are we still capable of allowing ourselves to be moved by the love of God? Why have we lost the ability to wonder at him? Why? Perhaps because our faith has been corroded by habit. Perhaps because we remain locked in our regrets and allow ourselves to be paralyzed by our frustrations. Perhaps because we have lost confidence in everything and we even believe we are failures. But behind all these “maybe” is the fact that we have not opened ourselves to the gift of the Spirit, which is the One who gives us the grace of amazement.

Let’s start again from amazement; Let’s look at the Crucified One and say to Him: “Lord, how much You love me, how valuable I am to You!” Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by Jesus in order to live again, because the greatness of life is not in having or affirming ourselves, but in discovering ourselves loved. This is the greatness of life, discovering yourself loved. And the greatness of life is precisely in the beauty of love. In the Crucified we see God humbled, the Almighty reduced to a spoil. And with the grace of amazement we understand that, by welcoming those who are discarded, drawing closer to those who are humiliated by life, we love Jesus. Because He is in the last, in the rejected, in those that our Pharisaic culture condemns.

Today the Gospel shows us, just after the death of Jesus, the most beautiful image of stupor. It is the scene of the centurion who, seeing him “expire like this, exclaimed: ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mk 15:39). He was amazed by love. How had he seen Jesus die? He had seen him die loving, and this impressed him. He suffered, he was exhausted, but he still loved. This is astonishment before God, who knows how to fill even the moment of death with love. In this gratuitous and unprecedented love, the centurion, a pagan, meets God. This man really was the Son of God! His phrase confirms the Passion. Many before him in the Gospel, admiring Jesus for his miracles and wonders, had recognized him as the Son of God, but Christ himself had commanded them to be silent, because there was a risk of remaining in worldly admiration, in the idea of ​​a God that had to be adored and feared as powerful and terrible. Now no longer, before the cross there is no room for misinterpretations. God has revealed himself and reigns only with the disarmed and disarming force of love.

Brothers and sisters, today God continues to surprise our minds and hearts. Let this amazement invade us, let us look at the Crucified One and let us also say to him: “You really are the Son of God. You are my God”.

 

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