Papal Homily for Palm Sunday
"To Recognize God We Must Abandon the Pride That Blinds Us"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2008 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at Sunday Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Year after year the Gospel passage for Palm Sunday relates to us Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Together with his disciples and a growing throng of pilgrims, he ascended from the plain of Galilee to the Holy City. Like steps in this ascent, the evangelists have transmitted three of Jesus' announcements of his passion, using this at the same time to sketch the interior ascent that was also occurring in this pilgrimage. Jesus is on his way to the temple -- toward the place where God, as Deuteronomy says, desired to "establish the dwelling" of his name (cf. 12:11; 14:23). The God who created heaven and earth has given a name, he has made himself available to be called upon, indeed, he has almost made himself touchable by men. No place can contain him and nevertheless, or precisely because of this, he himself gives himself a name, so that he, the true God, can personally be venerated there as the God in our midst.
From the story of the 12-year-old Jesus we know that he loved the temple as the house of his Father, as his paternal house. Now he comes again to this temple, but his journey goes beyond it: The ultimate goal of his ascent is the cross. It is the ascent that the letter to the Hebrews describes as an ascent to the tent that is not made of human hands, to the presence of God. The ascent to the presence of God passes through the cross. It is the ascent to that which is "love to the end" (cf. John 13:1), and is thus God's true mountain, the definitive place of contact between God and man.
During the entry into Jerusalem the people pay homage to Jesus as the Son of David with the words of Psalm 118  of the pilgrims: "Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest of heavens!" (Matthew 21:9). Then he arrives at the temple. But there, where there should be the space of the meeting between God and man, he finds people selling animals and money changers who use the place of prayer for their business. It is true that the animals being sold there are destined for sacrifice in the temple. And because it was forbidden to use coins in the temple on which there were representations of the emperor, which were in conflict with the true God, it was necessary to exchange them for coins that did not bear idolatrous images.
But all of that could have been done elsewhere: The place that it had now appropriated was supposed to be the atrium for the pagans. The God of Israel was in fact the God of all peoples. And even if the pagans did not enter, so to speak, into the interior of revelation, they could nevertheless, in the atrium, associate themselves with prayer to the one God. The God of Israel, the God of all men, was always also awaiting their prayer, their seeking, their invocation. But now, the atrium was dominated by business, business that had been legalized by the competent authority, an authority which, for its part, had a part of the merchants' earnings.
The merchants were acting in a correct way according to the order that was in force, but the order itself was corrupt. "Greed is idolatry," says the letter to the Colossians (cf. 3:5). It is this idolatry that Jesus encounters and in the face of which he cites Isaiah: "My house shall be called a house of prayer" (Matthew 21:13; cf. Isaiah 56:7) and Jeremiah: "But you have made it a den of thieves" (Matthew 21:13; cf. Jeremiah 7:11). Against the badly interpreted order Jesus, with his prophetic gesture, defends the true order of things that is found in the Law and the Prophets.
As Christians, all of this must make us think today: Is our faith pure and open enough that, beginning from it, the "pagans" -- the persons today who are seeking and have their questions -- can also intuit the light of the one God, can associate themselves with our prayer in the atriums of faith and by their seeking perhaps become worshippers? Does the awareness that greed is idolatry also reach our heart and our life practices? Do we not perhaps also allow idols to enter even into the world of our faith? Are we disposed to let the Lord purify us again and again, allowing him to chase out of us and the Church what is contrary to him?
In the purification of the temple, however, there is more going on than the struggle against abuses. A new moment in history has been foretold. What Jesus had announced to the Samaritan woman in regard to her question about worship is now beginning: "The hour has come, and is now here, in which the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; because the Father seeks such worshippers" (John 4:23). The time in which animals were sacrificed to God has ended. Animal sacrifice had always been a ...
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