Vatican City, Mar 28, 2021 / 04:50 am America/Denver (CNA).
Here is the full text of Pope Francis’ Palm Sunday homily, delivered March 28, 2021, at St. Peter’s Basilica:
Every year this liturgy leaves us amazed: we pass from the joy of welcoming Jesus as he enters Jerusalem to the sorrow of watching him condemned to death and then crucified. That sense of interior amazement will remain with us throughout Holy Week. Let us reflect more deeply on it.
From the start, Jesus leaves us amazed. His people give him a solemn welcome, yet he enters Jerusalem on a lowly colt. His people expect a powerful liberator at Passover, yet he comes to bring the Passover to fulfillment by sacrificing himself. His people are hoping to triumph over the Romans by the sword, but Jesus comes to celebrate God’s triumph through the cross. What happened to those people who in a few days’ time went from shouting “Hosanna” to crying out “Crucify him”? What happened? They were following an idea of the Messiah rather than the Messiah. They admired Jesus, but they did not let themselves be amazed by him. Amazement is not the same as admiration. Admiration can be worldly, since it follows its own tastes and expectations. Amazement, on the other hand, remains open to others and to the newness they bring. Even today, there are many people who admire Jesus: he said beautiful things; he was filled with love and forgiveness; his example changed history … and so on. They admire him, but their lives are not changed. To admire Jesus is not enough. We have to follow in his footsteps, to let ourselves be challenged by him; to pass from admiration to amazement.
What is most amazing about the Lord and his Passover? It is the fact that he achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid. Jesus -- as St. Paul tells us -- “emptied himself… he humbled himself” (Philippians 2:7-8). This is the amazing thing: to see the Almighty reduced to nothing. To see the Word who knows all things teach us in silence from the height of the cross. To see the king of kings enthroned on a gibbet. Seeing the God of the universe stripped of everything and crowned with thorns instead of glory. To see the One who is goodness personified, insulted and beaten. Why all this humiliation? Why, Lord, did you wish to endure all this?
Jesus did it for us, to plumb the depths of our human experience, our entire existence, all our evil. To draw near to us and not abandon us in our suffering and our death. To redeem us, to save us. Jesus was lifted high on the cross in order to descend to the abyss of our suffering. He experienced our deepest sorrows: failure, loss of everything, betrayal by a friend, even abandonment by God. By experiencing in the flesh our deepest struggles and conflicts, he redeemed and transformed them. His love draws close to our frailty; it touches the very things of which we are most ashamed. Yet now we know that we are not alone: God is at our side in every affliction, in every fear; no evil, no sin will ever have the final word. God triumphs, but the palm of victory passes through the wood of the cross. For the palm and the cross are inseparable.