Vatican News: Reflecting on the Liturgy of Palm Sunday, Pope Francis contrasted the joy of the people who celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with the cries of those who want to silence him.
Pope Francis invites us all to see ourselves in the Palm Sunday liturgy. He says that the liturgy “expresses the contradictory feelings that we too, … experience”: love and hatred, self-sacrifice and “washing our hands”, loyalty and betrayal.
Sounds of joy
The Pope says that we can imagine that among those in the crowd who sang and shouted as Jesus entered Jerusalem would have been such people as the prodigal son, the healed leper, “those who had followed Jesus because they felt his compassion for their pain and misery.” Their “outcry is the song and the spontaneous joy of all those left behind and overlooked, who, having been touched by Jesus, can now shout: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” These people cannot but help to praise the person responsible for restoring their dignity and their hope, making it possible for them to trust again, the Pope says.
But there is another group present as well. The joy of those who have been touched by God’s mercy is unbearable and intolerable for others Pope Francis points out. “How hard it is for the comfortable and the self-righteous to understand the joy and the celebration of God’s mercy!”
This prompts another kind of shouting, Pope Francis observes. It comes from those wishing to “twist reality,” “invent stories,” “gain power,” “silence dissonant voices,” “spin facts,” defend themselves, and discredit the defenseless. In the end, “they disfigure the face of Jesus and turn him into a ‘criminal,’ ” Pope Francis says.
“And so the celebration of the people ends up being stifled. Hope is demolished, dreams are killed, joy is suppressed; the heart is shielded and charity grows cold.”
The joy of the young
The conclusion of Pope Francis’ homily was directed to the young. He pleaded with them not to succumb to the attempts of their elders to silence them.
“Dear young people, the joy that Jesus awakens in you is a source of anger and irritation to some, since a joyful young person is hard to manipulate,” he says.
Pope Francis recalls the words of Jesus to the Pharisees who wanted to silence his disciples. To “Teacher, rebuke your disciples,” Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk 19:39-40).
Pope Francis begs young people to choose to sing Hosanna and not to keep quiet: “Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out.”
Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis’ prepared Palm Sunday homily, which was given this morning in St. Peter’s Square.“Jesus enters Jerusalem. The liturgy invites us to share in the joy and celebration of the people who cry out in praise of their Lord; a joy that will fade and leaves a bitter and sorrowful taste by the end of the account of the Passion. This celebration seems to combine stories of joy and suffering, mistakes and successes, which are part of our daily lives as disciples. It somehow expresses the contradictory feelings that we too, the men and women of today, experience: the capacity for great love… but also for great hatred; the capacity for courageous self-sacrifice, but also the ability to “wash our hands” at the right moment; the capacity for loyalty, but also for great abandonment and betrayal.
We also see clearly throughout the Gospel account that the joy Jesus awakens is, for some, a source of anger and irritation.
Jesus enters the city surrounded by his people and by a cacophony of singing and shouting. We can imagine that amid the outcry we hear the voice of the forgiven son, the healed leper, or the bleating of the lost sheep. Then too, the song of the publican and the unclean man; the cry of those living on the edges of the city. And the cry of those men and women who had followed Jesus because they felt his compassion for their pain and misery… That outcry is the song and the spontaneous joy of all those left behind and overlooked, who, having been touched by Jesus, can now shout: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. How could they not praise the one who had restored their dignity and hope? Theirs is the joy of so many forgiven sinners who are able to trust and hope once again.
All this joy and praise is a source of unease, scandal and upset for those who consider themselves righteous and “faithful” to the law and its ritual precepts. A joy unbearable for those hardened against pain, suffering and misery. A joy intolerable for those who have forgotten the many chances they themselves had been given. How hard it is for the comfortable and the self- righteous to understand the joy and the celebration of God’s mercy! How hard it is for those who trust only in themselves, and look down on others, to share in this joy.
Here is where another kind of shouting comes from, the fierce cry of those who shout out: “Crucify him!” It is not spontaneous but already armed with disparagement, slander and false witness. It is the voice of those who twist reality and invent stories for their own benefit, without concern for the good name of others. The cry of those who have no problem in seeking ways to gain power and to silence dissonant voices. The cry that comes from “spinning” facts and painting them such that they disfigure the face of Jesus and turn him into a “criminal”. It is the voice of those who want to defend their own position, especially by discrediting the defenceless. It is the cry born of the show of self-sufficiency, pride and arrogance, which sees no problem in shouting: “Crucify him, crucify him”.
And so the celebration of the people ends up being stifled. Hope is demolished, dreams are killed, joy is suppressed; the heart is shielded and charity grows cold. It is cry of “save yourself”, which would dull our sense of solidarity, dampen our ideals, and blur our vision… the cry that wants to erase compassion.
Faced with such people, the best remedy is to look at Christ’s cross and let ourselves be challenged by his final cry. He died crying out his love for each of us: young and old, saints and sinners, the people of his times and of our own. We have been saved by his cross, and no one can repress the joy of the Gospel; no one, in any situation whatsoever, is far from the Father’s merciful gaze. Looking at the cross means allowing our priorities, choices and actions to be challenged. It means questioning ourselves about our sensitivity to those experiencing difficulty. Where is our heart focused? Does Jesus Christ continue to be a source of joy and praise in our heart, or does its priorities and concerns make us ashamed to look at sinners, the least and forgotten?
Dear young people, the joy that Jesus awakens in you is a source of anger and irritation to some, since a joyful young person is hard to manipulate.
Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out.”