April 4, 2020

Pope Francis Palm Sunday Homily

Pope Francis opened Holy Week celebrating the Palm Sunday liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica without a congregation. The full text of his homily follows.

Celebration of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Saint Peter’s Basilica
Sunday, 5 April 2020


Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7).  Let us allow these words of the Apostle Paul to lead us into these holy days, when the word of God, like a refrain, presents Jesus as servant: on Holy Thursday, he is portrayed as the servant who washes the feet of his disciples; on Good Friday, he is presented as the suffering and victorious servant (cf. Is 52:13); and tomorrow we will hear the prophecy of Isaiah about him: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold” (Is 42:1).  God saved us by serving us.  We often think we are the ones who serve God.  No, he is the one who freely chose to serve us, for he loved us first.  It is difficult to love and not be loved in return.  And it is even more difficult to serve if we do not let ourselves be served by God.

But how did the Lord serve us?  By giving his life for us.  We are dear to him; we cost him dearly.  Saint Angela of Foligno said she once heard Jesus say: “My love for you is no joke”.  His love for us led him to sacrifice himself and to take upon himself our sins.  This astonishes us: God saved us by taking upon himself all the punishment of our sins.  Without complaining, but with the humility, patience and obedience of a servant, and purely out of love.  And the Father upheld Jesus in his service.  He did not take away the evil that crushed him, but rather strengthened him in his suffering so that our evil could be overcome by good, by a love that loves to the very end.

The Lord served us to the point of experiencing the most painful situations of those who love: betrayal and abandonment.

Betrayal.  Jesus suffered betrayal by the disciple who sold him and by the disciple who denied him.  He was betrayed by the people who sang hosanna to him and then shouted: “Crucify him!” (Mt 27:22).  He was betrayed by the religious institution that unjustly condemned him and by the political institution that washed its hands of him.  We can think of all the small or great betrayals that we have suffered in life.  It is terrible to discover that a firmly placed trust has been betrayed.  From deep within our heart a disappointment surges up that can even make life seem meaningless.  This happens because we were born to be loved and to love, and the most painful thing is to be betrayed by someone who promised to be loyal and close to us.  We cannot even imagine how painful it was for God who is love.  Read complete homily