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Pope Francis challenged his 100,000 hearers at yesterday’s Palm Sunday Mass in St Peter’s Square, asking in the narrative of Christ’s passion and death, “Who am I?”
Francis carried a wooden pastoral staff carved by Italian prison inmates as he processed, and worshippers waved olive and palm branches recalling Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Setting his prepared text aside Francis spoke for 15 minutes off the cuff. He asked: “Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back?”
“The teachers of the law … were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?”
“The disciples … who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus?”
“Am I like Judas, who feigns loved and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over?
“Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses?
“Am I like Pilate? … Do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?
“Am I like that crowd … for [whom] it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.”
“Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?
“Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?
“Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the tomb, weeping and praying?
“Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!”, and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?”
Although Pope Francis appeared weary while preaching, his energy appeared to return after the two-hour liturgy and he removed his vestments to chat with the cardinals, who were more formally attired than him.
Riding on the Popemobile through the crowds, he posed for selfies with various groups of young people, including a group from Rio de Janeiro who had carried a large cross into the square. At one point he leant down from the Popemobile to drink maté, South American tea, offered to him in a Thermos by a worshipper.
After the distribution of Communion, Francis delivered his Angelus address, during which he extended a special greeting to the participants of the World Youth Days (WYD).
A delegation of young people from Brazil, which hosted the festival last year, handed the WYD Cross to a delegation of youth from Poland. The festival will next take place in Krakow in 2016.
Read Francis’ homily here.
Above: Pope Francis carries palms as he processes at the start of yesterday's Palm Sunday Mass. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring