In his passion, Jesus reveals the God of mercy, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Just as the crowds and government
officials tried to dodge responsibility for Jesus’ fate after he was arrested,
so today too many individuals and countries want someone else to care for
refugees fleeing violence and migrants seeking a better life, Pope Francis

Preaching about the story of Jesus’ passion and death on
Palm Sunday, March 20, the pope said that in addition to betrayal and
injustice, Jesus experienced indifference as the crowds who had hailed his
entry into Jerusalem, Herod, Pilate and even his own disciples washed their
hands of him.

“This makes me think of so many people, so many
emarginated, so many migrants and refugees for whom many do not want to assume
responsibility for their fate,” the pope said in his homily.

Greece and other European countries have been overwhelmed by
refugees, particularly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. An agreement between
Turkey and the European Union went into effect on Palm Sunday to prevent
refugees from attempting dangerous sea crossings from Turkey and to stem the
continuing flow of refugees into Europe. Under the agreement, most refugees
arriving in Greece will be returned to Turkey. For each refugee returned, one who
has not left Turkey should be resettled in the European Union.

Carrying a woven palm branch, known as a
“palmurello,” Pope Francis led the Palm Sunday Mass with more than 60,000 people gathered on a warm spring morning in St. Peter’s Square.

Young people from Poland and around the world assisted at
the Mass, carrying long palm branches in the procession and proclaiming the
Scripture readings. With Krakow, Poland, set to host the international
gathering of World Youth Day with Pope Francis in July, the day’s second
reading was in Polish.

At the end of Mass, before reciting the Angelus, Pope
Francis expressed his hope that in July many young Catholics would converge on
Krakow, “homeland of St. John Paul II, who began World Youth Day.”

The Palm Sunday liturgy begins with a commemoration of Jesus
entering Jerusalem to acclamations of “Hosanna” from the crowd. In
his homily the pope said, “We have made that enthusiasm our own; by waving
our olive and palm branches we have expressed our praise and our joy, our
desire to receive Jesus who comes to us.”

The commemoration is not just about a historical event, the
pope said. “Just as he entered Jerusalem, so he desires to enter our
cities and our lives. As he did in the Gospel, riding on a donkey, so too he
comes to us in humility.”

Pope Francis prayed that nothing would “prevent us from
finding in him the source of our joy, true joy, which abides and brings peace;
for it is Jesus alone who saves us from the snares of sin, death, fear and

On the cross, at the height of his humiliation, Jesus
reveals God’s identity as the God of mercy, Pope Francis said, adding that the
cross is God’s “cathedra,” the place from which he teaches people all
they need to know about him.

“He forgives those who are crucifying him, he opens the
gates of paradise to the repentant thief and he touches the heart of the
centurion,” he said.

Jesus’ life and death, the pope said, was a story of how,
out of love, he “emptied and humbled” himself to save humanity.

In Holy Week, he said, the first sign of Jesus’ endless love
is the scene of him washing the disciples’ feet, “as only servants would
have done.”

“He shows us by example that we need to allow his love
to reach us, a love which bends down to us,” Pope Francis said. People
must accept Jesus’ love, experience his tenderness and give witness to the fact
that “true love consists in concrete service.”

“Hanging from the wood of the cross,” the pope
said, Jesus faced his last temptation, which was to come down from the cross,
“to conquer evil by might and to show the face of a powerful and
invincible God.”

Instead, Jesus “takes upon himself all our pain that he
may redeem it, bringing light to darkness, life to death, love to hatred,”
the pope said.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter @Cindy_Wooden

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