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Palm Sunday, 20 March 2005

20th World Youth Day
"We have come to worship him"
(Mt 2,2)


Cardinal Camillo Ruini presided over the Mass, representing the Holy Father who followed the celebration from his apartment and from his window overlooking the Square.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The account of the Lord's Passion touches and moves our hearts, our faith and our capacity for loving.

We are first aware of a stark contrast: the Gospel read immediately after the blessing of the branches speaks to us of a festive crowd, crying: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!".

In the Passion narrative, however, another crowd, the majority of whom were the same people of Jerusalem, cried: "Crucify him!". We do not have far to look to discover the reason for this contrast. It suffices to look within ourselves.

The Prophet Jeremiah had already warned: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt. Who can understand it?" (Jer 17: 9). The betrayal by Judas and also by Peter show how great this human untrustworthiness is.

But the contrast between the crowd that acclaims Jesus and the crowd that clamours for the crucifixion and, more generally, the frailness and susceptibility of human hearts, is only one dimension of the Lord's Passion and not the deepest.

We find its fullest meaning in the Apostle Paul's words that we heard in the Second Reading: "Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave.... He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross" (Phil 2: 6-8).

Furthermore, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul tells us how effective the Son of God's humiliation of himself has been for us: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Cor 5: 21).

Thus, it is precisely the humiliation, suffering and death of the Son of God that shed light on the mystery of God, but also on the mystery of man.

Indeed, if we look at the many human sufferings, especially the suffering of the innocent, we are as it were bewildered and prompted to ask ourselves whether God loves us and takes care of us or whether, by chance, an evil destiny exists that not even God can change.

In the Cross of Christ, on the other hand, we come into contact with the true face of God, in the words of Jesus himself who tells us, "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11: 27).

In the Cross of Christ, in fact, the face of God does not lose its greatness and mystery, but becomes extraordinarily close and friendly, because it is the Face of the One who, in his own Son, shares to the very end even the darkest side of the human condition.

Therefore, from the Cross of Christ, strength and the hope of redemption shine out over all human suffering; thus, the drama and mystery of suffering - which are basically the drama and mystery of our lives - are not eliminated but no longer appear to us as something obscure and absurd.

Of course, before the crucified Jesus, any claim of our own to innocence, any ambition to be able to build a just and perfect world with our own hands, fails. While we recognize that we are weak and sinful, we feel embraced and sustained by the love of God which is stronger than sin and death, and we become capable of discovering, even in the small events of our daily lives, a meaning that is extraordinarily rich and full, for it is destined not to fade with the passing of time but to bear fruit for eternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, and especially you, dear young people who are celebrating World Youth Day, the Lord Jesus has not hidden from us the fact that his Cross also concerns us, that to be his disciples we are called to make room for him in our lives: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16: 24).

These words are understandably frightening; indeed, they are especially frightening to us, people of our time who are led to see suffering only as something that is useless and harmful. Yet this is our mistake and it prevents us not only from understanding the importance of suffering, but also the meaning of life.

Before the crucified Jesus let us also remember something else that he said: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.... For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt 11: 28-30).

Yes, the Cross of Jesus does not discourage or weaken us. On the contrary, from the Cross springs energy that is ever new, that shines in the feats of the saints and has made the Church's history fruitful, the energy that is particularly radiant today on the tired face of the Holy Father.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us therefore trust in the crucified and Risen Lord and put our life in his hands, just as he put his own life in the hands of God the Father (cf. Lk 23: 46).