.- On Sunday morning in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father presided at a solemn liturgical celebration for Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord, which marks the beginning of Holy Week. The Holy Father blessed the palms and the olives and, following a procession from the obelisk in the square to the altar, celebrated the Eucharist.
The Eucharistic liturgy was attended by 50,000 pilgrims, the majority of them young people from Rome and other dioceses currently celebrating 22nd World Youth Day, which has as its theme this year: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."
In his homily, Benedict XVI affirmed that in the procession of Palm Sunday we, like the disciples who accompanied the Lord, acclaim Him, “for all the prodigies (mighty deeds) we have seen. Yes, we too have seen and still see the prodigies (mighty deeds) of Christ: how He brings men and women to renounce the comfort of their lives and to put themselves entirely at the service of those who suffer; how He gives men and women the courage to oppose violence and lies, so as to make room in the world for truth; how, in secret, He induces men and women to do good to others, to create reconciliation where there was hatred, to create peace where there was enmity.”
The Palm Sunday procession, he continued, "is also a procession of Christ the King. ... To recognize Him as King means to accept Him as the One Who shows us the way, the One we trust and follow. It means accepting His Word day after day as a valid criterion for our lives. It means seeing in Him the authority to which we submit. We submit to Him because His authority is the authority of truth.”
The procession “is also an expression of our 'yes' to Jesus and of our readiness to follow Him wherever He may take us,” said the Holy Father but, he added, “what does ‘following Christ’ actually mean? ... It is,” he explained, “a fundamental decision to take no account of utility and profit, career and success, as the ultimate aim of our lives, but to recognize truth and love as authentic criteria. It is a choice between living only for ourselves, and giving ourselves for something greater. In following Him, we enter the service of truth and love. In losing ourselves we find ourselves again.”
The psalm of today's Mass, said the Pope, explains “what it means to ascend with Christ. ‘Who shall ascend the Hill of the Lord?’ the psalm asks, and indicates two essential conditions. Those who ascend and truly want to reach the heights, the real summit, must be people who ... look around them to seek God, to discover His Face.”
Turning to address young people, the Pope highlighted the importance, above all today, of “not letting oneself be buffeted from place to place in life; of not being satisfied with what others think and say and do. Study God and seek God. Do not let the question about God dissolve in our hearts - the desire for that which is greater, the desire to know Him and His Face.”
“The other very real condition for the ascent is this: those who have ‘clean hearts and pure hands’ can stand in the holy place. Pure hands are hands that are not used for acts of violence. They are hands that have not been dirtied with corruption and bribes.” As for clean hearts: “A heart is clean that does not pretend and is not stained with lies and hypocrisy, a heart that remains transparent like spring water because it knows no duplicity. A heart is clean that is not led astray with the exhilaration of pleasure, a heart whose love is true and not just the passion of a moment.”
Benedict XVI concluded by recalling that “with the cross Jesus opened wide the door to God, the door between God and mankind. Now that door is open. But from the other side the Lord knocks with His cross, he knocks at the doors of the world, at the doors of our hearts, which are so often ... closed to God. And He speaks to us more or less like this: if the proofs that, in His creation, God gives you of His existence do not convince you to open yourself to Him, if the words of Scripture and the message of the Church leave you indifferent, then look at me, your Lord and your God. This is the appeal that, at this moment, we let penetrate our hearts.”