In Christ the Whole of Humanity Will Be Blessed
Vatican Information Service – April 2, 2012
Vatican City, 1 April 2012 (VIS) – Benedict XVI today opened Holy Week celebrations by celebrating Mass for Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, in the presence of 60,000 faithful.
The Pope went by popemobile to the altar, situated under the obelisk of St. Peter’s Square which was decorated with branches, flowers and thirteen olive trees from the Italian region of Puglia.
“Palm Sunday”, said the Holy Father in his homily, “is the great doorway leading into Holy Week, the week when the Lord Jesus makes His way towards the culmination of His earthly existence. He goes up to Jerusalem in order to fulfil the Scriptures and to be nailed to the wood of the Cross, the throne from which He will reign forever, drawing to Himself humanity of every age and offering to all the gift of redemption”.
The Pope dwelt on the episodes associated with Christ’s entry into Jerusalem: the healing of blind Bartimaeus and the enthusiasm of the crowds who cried: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”. “This festive acclamation, reported by all four evangelists, is a cry of blessing, a hymn of exultation: it expresses the unanimous conviction that, in Jesus, God has visited His people and the longed-for Messiah has finally come. And everyone is there, growing in expectation of the work that Christ will accomplish once He has entered the city”.
“But”, the Holy Father added, “what is the content, the inner resonance of this cry of jubilation? The answer is found throughout Scripture, which reminds us that the Messiah fulfils the promise of God’s blessing, God’s original promise to Abraham, father of all believers: “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you … and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves”. … Hence He Whom the crowd acclaims as the blessed one is also He in Whom the whole of humanity will be blessed. Thus, in the light of Christ, humanity sees itself profoundly united and, as it were, enfolded within the cloak of divine blessing, a blessing that permeates, sustains, redeems and sanctifies all things”.
Therefore the primary message of today’s feast is “the invitation to adopt a proper outlook upon all humanity, on the peoples who make up the world, on its different cultures and civilisations. The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing: a wise and loving look, capable of grasping the world’s beauty and having compassion on its fragility. Shining through this look is God’s own look upon those He loves and upon Creation, the work of His hands”.
“Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us? What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God? It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King Who chooses the Cross as His throne. We are called to follow a Messiah Who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude.
We must ask ourselves what our true expectations are, the Pope said addressing young people also for the occasion of today’s World Youth Day. “May Palm Sunday be a day of decision for you, the decision to say yes to the Lord and to follow Him all the way, the decision to make His Passover, His death and resurrection, the very focus of your Christian lives. It is the decision that leads to true joy, as I reminded you in this year’s World Youth Day Message – “Rejoice in the Lord always””.
Finally, the Holy Father expressed the hope that these days may “call forth two sentiments in particular: praise, after the example of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with their “Hosanna!”, and thanksgiving, because in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: He will give us His life, His body and His blood, His love. But we must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ Who suffered, died and rose for us”.
Benedict XVI concluded his homily with the words of St. Andrew, bishop of Crete: “So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ, … so let us spread ourselves like coats under His feet. … Let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death”.