Benedict XVI joined thousands of young pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square
yesterday to celebrate both Palm Sunday and the 21st World Youth Day.
Referring to Jesus‘ sacrifice on the cross, he said that real life is
gained not by seizing it, but by giving it.
The theme of this year’s World Youth Day, which takes place in the Vatican during odd years, was "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
After the traditional blessing of the palm branches, the Pope began his homily by recalling how for 20 years, "thanks to John Paul II, Palm Sunday has become a special day for young people; the day on which youth all over the world go out to meet Christ in the desire to accompany Him into their cities and countries, that He may remain among us and establish His peace in the world.”
He stressed that "If we want to go out and meet Jesus, and walk alongside Him on His journey, we must however ask: along what path does He intend to lead us? What do we expect from Him? What does He expect from us?"
Benedict cited the words of Zechariah who prophesies in Luke’s Gospel about the coming King Jesus, who "will be a king of the poor, a poor man among the poor and for the poor."
The Pope pointed out that "one can be materially poor and yet have one's heart full of desire for wealth and for the power that derives from wealth. ... Interior freedom is a necessary condition for overcoming the corruption and avidity that are now devastating the world; and this freedom can be found only if God becomes our wealth."
He said that the Prophet Zechariah "also shows us that this king will be a king of peace," and this fact "takes concrete form in the sign of the cross. ... The new weapon that Jesus puts in our hands is the cross, a sign of reconciliation, a sign of the love that is stronger than death.”
“Every time we make the sign of the cross”, he said, “we must remember not to meet injustice with injustice, violence with violence; we must remember that we can conquer evil only with good, and never by repaying evil with evil."
Pope Benedict said that Zechariah’s third assertion was "the announcement of universality. ... Christ reigns by becoming our bread and giving Himself to us. This is the way in which He builds His kingdom."
It is through the Eucharist, Benedict said, that "we enter His kingdom of peace. In Him we welcome, in some way, all our brothers and sisters to whom He comes, in order truly to become a kingdom of peace in the midst of this divided world."
He summed up by saying that "These three characteristics announced by the prophet - poverty, peace and universality - come together in the sign of the cross. It is for this reason, and rightly so, that the cross has become the focal point of World Youth Days.”
“There was a time,” he pointed out, “a time that has not yet been completely left behind, in which Christianity was rejected precisely because of the cross. The cross represents sacrifice, it was said, the cross is a sign of the negation of life. What we want, however, is life entire, without restrictions or renunciation."
"And Palm Sunday”, he stressed, “tells us that that the real great 'yes' is the cross, that the cross is the real tree of life. We do not find life by seizing it but by giving it.”
“Love is a giving of self and for this reason it is the way of true life symbolized by the cross."