VATICAN CITY, APR 9, 2006 (VIS) - Thousands of young people from all over the world participated in a Eucharistic celebration presided by the Pope in St. Peter's Square this morning, Palm Sunday and 21st World Youth Day, which has as its theme this year "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
Before the Mass, Benedict XVI blessed palms and olive branches near the obelisk in St. Peter's Square, before moving in procession to the altar.
At the beginning of his homily, the Holy Father recalled how for 20 years, "thanks to John Paul II, Palm Sunday has become a special day for young people; the day on which youth all over the world go out to meet Christ in the desire to accompany Him into their cities and countries, that He may remain among us and establish His peace in the world.
"If we want to go out and meet Jesus, and walk alongside Him on His journey, we must however ask: along what path does He intend to lead us? What do we expect from Him? What does He expect from us?"
Commenting the words of Zechariah on the king to come, who "will be a king of the poor, a poor man among the poor and for the poor," Benedict XVI pointed out how "one can be materially poor and yet have one's heart full of desire for wealth and for the power that derives from wealth. ... Interior freedom is a necessary condition for overcoming the corruption and avidity that are now devastating the world; and this freedom can be found only if God becomes our wealth."
The Prophet Zechariah "also shows us that this king will be a king of peace," the Pope went on, and this aspect "takes concrete form in the sign of the cross. ... The new weapon that Jesus puts in our hands is the cross, a sign of reconciliation, a sign of the love that is stronger than death. Every time we make the sign of the cross we must remember not to meet injustice with injustice, violence with violence; we must remember that we can conquer evil only with good, and never by repaying evil with evil."
Zechariah's third affirmation, the Holy Father added, is "the announcement of universality. ... Christ reigns by becoming our bread and giving Himself to us. This is the way in which He builds His kingdom." Through the Eucharist "we enter His kingdom of peace. In Him we welcome, in some way, all our brothers and sisters to whom He comes, in order truly to become a kingdom of peace in the midst of this divided world."
"These three characteristics announced by the prophet - poverty, peace and universality - come together in the sign of the cross. It is for this reason, and rightly so, that the cross has become the focal point of World Youth Days. There was a time, a time that has not yet been completely left behind, in which Christianity was rejected precisely because of the cross. The cross represents sacrifice, it was said, the cross is a sign of the negation of life. What we want, however, is life entire, without restrictions or renunciation."
"And Palm Sunday tells us that that the real great 'yes' is the cross, that the cross is the real tree of life. We do not find life by seizing it but by giving it. Love is a giving of self and for this reason it is the way of true life symbolized by the cross."
HML/PALM SUNDAY/... VIS 20060410 (610)