By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
In his Palm Sunday homily, 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.”