Monday, April 16, 2018

Ex Oriente Shock – In Easter(n) Jolt, US' Ukrainian Chief Resigns at 66

Four days ago, this scribe played backup to Metropolitan Stefan Soroka as the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic diaspora in the States paid tribute to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar a year since the "Moses" of his people died at 84.

Ironically enough, the theme for the journalistic reflection on Husar was drawn from the Pope's homage to the titanic late patriarch of Kiev: "He might've been blind, but he could see beyond" – a reference to the cardinal's near-total lack of sight over his last decade.

This morning, however, literally everyone just woke up blind: at Roman Noon, Francis had accepted Soroka's resignation at 66 as head of the US' largest and oldest Eastern Catholic Church, a subsequent statement from the Philadelphia-based archeparchy citing unspecified "medical reasons" as the rationale for the move.

Numbering some 13,000 Catholics, the metropolia spans the eastern half of Pennsylvania and all of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, its three suffragans – in Chicago, Stamford and Parma – extending its reach from coast to coast. Given the constant Eastern tradition – now fully brought out of the shadows in the US by Francis – roughly half its 55 priests are married.

Among Soroka's aides and clergy in the tight-knit community, the decision of the Canadian-born hierarch – named the church's Stateside head in late 2000 – has been received with shock. While he fought back a bout with prostate cancer at the turn of the decade and has rebounded well from a February knee operation, Whispers ops in the archeparchy expressed no awareness of ongoing health concerns early today. If anything, the metropolitan looked in unremarkably fine form at the Thursday event, not giving a single indication of his imminent departure over three hours of sitting together and warmly catching up, the time capped off by a lunch of Husar's beloved hot dogs.

Indeed, as some of his parishes observe Pascha according to the Julian calendar (and thus, as with the Orthodox, a week behind the others), Soroka talked glowingly of celebrating Easter twice across his scattered turf.

Together with the resignation, Soroka's freshly-named auxiliary – Bishop Andriy Rabiy, at 42 the youngest member of the US bench – was appointed apostolic administrator of the archeparchy, granting him the full authority of the ordinary during the vacancy. On being asked last week how his new deputy was faring, Soroka said he hadn't been able to utilize Rabiy enough so far as "he's still at the parish" where he's pastor some 40 miles upstate, in the old coal regions to which Ukrainian immigrants flocked at the turn of the 20th century, the catalyst for the US jurisdiction's establishment in 1913.

As for the compound on two square blocks of what's become immensely valuable Philadelphia real-estate over Soroka's tenure, unlike a Latin-church appointment, the succession to Franklin Street will be charted by the 25-man Ukrainian Synod, which will submit the terna of candidates to the Congregation of the Oriental Churches in Rome, whose own membership makes a final recommendation to the Pope.

While the US' Eastern Catholic population has grown markedly in recent years due to immigration from India and the Middle East – which has respectively spurred the establishment of new eparchies for the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Chaldean churches – the Ukrainian archeparchy holds a de facto primacy of place on the broader scene as the nation's oldest and most-established sui iuris (self-governing) community, as well as given the UGCC's place as the global church's largest Eastern fold. (On a related note, only over the last decade the Eastern churches have been constituted as a USCCB region unto themselves, ending the prior practice of the hierarchs' belonging to the Latin-dominant geographic areas where they are respectively based.)

All that said, today's move occurs against the backdrop of a striking generational shift in the leadership of the 7 million-member Ukrainian church, marked by an equal uptick of assertiveness after its Soviet-era persecution and existence "in the catacombs."

Six years since that movement began with another shock – the Synod's choice of one of its most junior members, then 40 year-old Sviatoslav Shevchuk, to succeed Husar at the church's helm – the changing of the guard has been reinforced by a steady tide of elections of new bishops in their early 40s or even late 30s; just last week, an auxiliary in Ukraine was named at 38 after barely a decade as a priest.

To be sure, the pattern extends to these shores – beyond Rabiy, of the UGCC's three domestic suffragans, Bishop Bohdan Danylo of Parma is 46 and Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk of Chicago arrived last summer at 49. What's more, the trio – each named since 2014 and, as of today, the majority of the US' active Ukie bench – were all born in the church's Eastern European heartland, a trend ostensibly set to continue with the choice of the diaspora's next head.

All told, the movement reflects a fresh round of Ukrainian and Polish immigration to the States over recent years, which has accordingly altered the church's makeup.

While the appointment process is considerably less cumbersome than a Latin-church pick, the naming of a successor could still take several months – for starters, given the post's internal prominence as one of two UGCC metropolitan seats outside Ukraine (the other located in Soroka's native Winnipeg), the hierarchs' deliberations are likely to be equally intense. On another front, unless the terna is submitted by the executive council of the Ukrainian Synod or the full body is convoked in an extraordinary session to address the vacancy, the next global meeting of the eparchs isn't slated to take place until September.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Amid Abuse Probe's Hearing of "Many Crucified Lives," Pope Summons Chile to Rome

In but the latest striking turn of a home-turf debacle which has colored the broad perception of his pontificate, in a letter released tonight on two continents, the Pope told the Chilean bishops that "I have committed grave errors of judgment and perception" in a long-simmering abuse scandal which has rocked the country's church, specifically citing his lack "of true and balanced information" on it.

Released on roughly an hour's warning, the six-page typed missive – dated Sunday – was made public at Francis' insistence at 8pm Rome time in an unusual joint issue by both the Chilean episcopal conference and the Holy See Press Office.

In his message, addressing the 2,300-page dossier compiled last month by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta – the Vatican's onetime lead prosecutor of abuse cases – the pontiff aimed to "beg for the forgiveness of all who I have offended," ostensibly in light of his prior, repeated defenses of Bishop Juan Barros, a protege of the country's most infamous predator priest, Fr Fernando Karadima.

In numerous earlier instances, Francis sought to base the opposition to Barros – whose 2015 appointment to a diocese sparked ongoing protests – on "calumny" and "Leftists who orchestrated all this." By contrast, the Pope's letter said that his reading of the interviews taken by Scicluna and a priest currently on staff at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "bring me pain and shame."

Even as the duo form the centerpiece of the entire fiasco, neither Barros nor Karadima – the latter restricted to a life of prayer and penance, but not dismissed from the clerical state – were cited by name in the letter.

Beyond issuing an extraordinary summons of all the Chilean bishops to the Vatican to discuss the situation – which the body's president subsequently said would take place over the third week of May – the Pope said he would likewise meet with at least some of the 64 victims interviewed "over the coming weeks," in the hope of expressing his apology personally.

Notably, Francis' letter made an explicit point of "thanking the various organizations and the means of communication for their professionality in treating this very delicate case, respecting the right of citizens to be informed and the good name of those who spoke out." That line was a starkly direct hit at the criticism voiced by Santiago's retired Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, 84 – a hand-picked member of the pontiff's "Gang of Nine" lead advisers – who blamed "profit" motives by Karadima's victims, Barros' own interviews and general media coverage of the abuse eruption for a "parallel focus" of bad optics that trailed the Pope over his January visit to the country.

Yet in another sign that Francis' Latin impatience had hit a boiling point – just with a fresh target – this week's letter rapped the Chilean bench in these memorable words: "Sometimes, when evils rumple our souls and throw us into the world, scared and buttoned-up inside our comfortable 'winter palaces,' the love of God goes into our encounter and makes our intentions pure, that we might love as free, mature and [self]critical men."

Albeit discreetly, today's move garnered a thumbs-up from the camps of both Scicluna and another "Gang" member, Boston's Cardinal Seán O'Malley OFM Cap., who arguably extended the scandal's visibility and range by publicly criticizing Francis after Papa Bergoglio's in-flight blast at victim-survivors seeking Barros' removal during the January trek.

Even if the letter made no clear determination on Barros' fate, the writing there is essentially on the proverbial wall. Well more, though, the message released today puts the fate of two even more critical figures in the balance: Errazuriz, for reasons stated above, not to mention being considerably past Conclave age yet still in Francis' official "inner circle"...

...and above all, the prelate long described as the last Vatican "Sacred Cow" which Francis hasn't dared touch – Cardinal Angelo Sodano: at age 90 still Dean of the College, who as Nuncio to Chile (1977-90) was said to be closely allied with Karadima, then as John Paul II's all-powerful Secretary of State worked to squelch the CDF's probe into the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Marcial Maciel, who Benedict XVI could only banish from ministry after his election as Pope and a long Curial war, going on to place the entire community under Apostolic Visitation.

Here, something else bears recalling: while the wider world/press corps was focused on a tribunal's conviction of the then-Pope's butler in late 2012 amid the soap-opera known as "Vatileaks," Papa Ratzinger used the multiple distractions of that Saturday morning in October to slip then-Msgr Scicluna (above) far out of Rome and back to his island home as an auxiliary bishop.

On paper, the appointment was a considerable demotion – and, given the duo's history, a shocking one. But in a reality only to become clear with time, that stealth nod was the ultimate sign of the Resignation to come – a departing Pope's sense of his best shot to protect the aide who did the bulk of his footwork in purging at least 3,000 abusive clerics worldwide.

Maybe now, five and a half years later, you lot might finally begin to grasp why these things occurred as they did....

To say nothing of the stakes now ahead.

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Monday, April 09, 2018


APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION

GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE

OF THE HOLY FATHER

FRANCIS

On the call to holiness in today's world

“REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1).

What follows is not meant to be a treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification. My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4).....


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Thursday, April 05, 2018

Now Playing: “The Son of Hollywood” – Pope Taps Camarillo Chief as LA Aux.

As he emerged from a battle with cancer at the start of this decade, Msgr Marc Trudeau told a friend that “I have learned more about God's mercy since I've been sick than I ever knew when I was well.”

He might’ve had that insight some time before the current pontificate... but now, fully restored to health, he’ll get to share the result with the church as a “Francis bishop.”

As an ongoing flood of new deputies reshapes the US bench, at Roman Noon this Easter Thursday the Pope named the 60 year-old priest of Los Angeles, until now rector of St John’s Seminary in Camarillo – a dentist by training who first came to prominence as the soft-spoken yet indispensable priest-secretary to Cardinal Roger Mahony – as an auxiliary of the largest diocese American Catholicism has ever known, its 5 million members (70 percent of them Hispanic) now ranking alongside Mexico City, Kinshasa and Milan as the global church's principal outposts by size.

After a 15-month wait, Trudeau effectively succeeds Bishop Oscar Solis, the Filipino immigrant who became the first Asian ever to lead a US diocese last year on his transfer to Salt Lake City. With today’s move, per LA custom, the bishop-elect will leave the helm of the growing Camarillo house to oversee one of the mammoth archdiocese’s five pastoral regions: each of them home to roughly a million Catholics – and, accordingly, each a larger and more complex operation on their own than most Stateside archdioceses at large. While a final determination remains to be made, it’s mostly expected that the rookie will take Solis’ place at the helm of the San Pedro region – the juggernaut’s historically “vibrant” southern tip, anchored in Long Beach and comprising 67 mega-parishes, eight high schools and four hospitals.

On the broader front, meanwhile, today’s move marks an early round of the musical chairs set to shake up the Southland's church leadership again over the next two years. As Trudeau takes Solis’ place, yet another auxiliary seat opened on Tuesday with Rome’s retirement of veteran Bishop Thomas Curry, who aged out on his 75th birthday in January. And as the suffragan diocese of Fresno – now grown to over a million Catholics – enters the docket upon next week’s 75th of Bishop Armando Ochoa (himself a native Angeleno), given the distinct prospect of a current LA deputy being named there in due course, Archbishop José Gomez could well receive six auxiliaries of his choosing within the space of just four years. (A prior trio of auxiliaries were elevated in mid-2015.)

Of course, all this takes place against the backdrop of Gomez's own transition to the helm of the nation’s bishops. Currently halfway through his three-year term as the bench's #2 officer, the Mexican-born prelate’s election as the next USCCB President is virtually certain in November 2019.

Long known across the board as an unfailingly kind, low-key presence even for a spate of intense, high-profile roles, over time it’s been said of Trudeau that “if you surveyed the priests, he’d top the list” in terms of esteem – or, as another set the bar even higher, “Everybody thinks he’s a saint.”

For his part, however, the bishop-elect – who got his wish of returning to the trenches as a pastor on Mahony's 2011 retirement, only to be named to lead Camarillo three years later – is said to be in a state of "shock" over the news.

Developing – more to come.

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Saturday, March 31, 2018

"He Is Not Here!" – On Easter Night, "The Stone of the Tomb Cried Out"

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
THE EASTER VIGIL IN THE HOLY NIGHT
ST PETER'S BASILICA
31 MARCH 2018

We began this celebration outside, plunged into the darkness of the night and the cold. We felt an oppressive silence at the death of the Lord, a silence with which each of us can identify, a silence that penetrates to the depths of the heart of every disciple, who stands wordless before the cross.

These are the hours when the disciple stands speechless in pain at the death of Jesus. What words can be spoken at such a moment? The disciple keeps silent in the awareness of his or her own reactions during those crucial hours in the Lord’s life. Before the injustice that condemned the Master, his disciples were silent. Before the calumnies and the false testimony that the Master endured, his disciples said nothing. During the trying, painful hours of the Passion, his disciples dramatically experienced their inability to put their lives on the line to speak out on behalf of the Master. What is more, not only did they not acknowledge him: they hid, they escaped, they kept silent (cf. Jn 18:25-27).

It is the silent night of the disciples who remained numb, paralyzed and uncertain of what to do amid so many painful and disheartening situations. It is also that of today’s disciples, speechless in the face of situations we cannot control, that make us feel and, even worse, believe that nothing can be done to reverse all the injustices that our brothers and sisters are experiencing in their flesh.

It is the silent night of those disciples who are disoriented because they are plunged in a crushing routine that robs memory, silences hope and leads to thinking that “this is the way things have always been done”. Those disciples who, overwhelmed, have nothing to say and end up considering “normal” and unexceptional the words of Caiaphas: “Can you not see that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed?” (Jn 11:50).

Amid our silence, our overpowering silence, the stones begin to cry out (cf. Lk 19:40) and to clear the way for the greatest message that history has ever heard: “He is not here, for he has been raised” (Mt 28:6). The stone before the tomb cried out and proclaimed the opening of a new way for all. Creation itself was the first to echo the triumph of life over all that had attempted to silence and stifle the joy of the Gospel. The stone before the tomb was the first to leap up and in its own way intone a song of praise and wonder, of joy and hope, in which all of us are invited to join.

Yesterday, we joined the women in contemplating “the one who was pierced” (cf. Jn 19:36; cf. Zech 12:10). Today, with them, we are invited to contemplate the empty tomb and to hear the words of the angel: “Do not be afraid… for he has been raised” (Mt 28:5-6). Those words should affect our deepest convictions and certainties, the ways we judge and deal with the events of our daily lives, especially the ways we relate to others. The empty tomb should challenge us and rally our spirits. It should make us think, but above all, it should encourage us to trust and believe that God “happens” in every situation and every person and that his light can shine in the least expected and most hidden corners of our lives. He rose from the dead, from that place where nobody waits for anything, and now he waits for us – as he did the women – to enable us to share in his saving work. On this basis and with this strength, we Christians place our lives and our energy, our intelligence, our affections and our will, at the service of discovering, and above all creating, paths of dignity.

He is not here... he is risen! This is the message that sustains our hope and turns it into concrete gestures of charity. How greatly we need to let our frailty be anointed by this experience! How greatly we need to let our faith be revived! How greatly we need our myopic horizons to be challenged and renewed by this message! Christ is risen, and with him, he makes our hope and creativity rise so that we can face our present problems in the knowledge that we are not alone.

To celebrate Easter is to believe once more that God constantly breaks into our personal histories, challenging our “conventions”, those fixed ways of thinking and acting that end up paralyzing us. To celebrate Easter is to allow Jesus to triumph over the craven fear that so often assails us and tries to bury every kind of hope.

The stone before the tomb shared in this, the women of the Gospel shared in this, and now the invitation is addressed once more to you and to me. An invitation to break out of our routines and to renew our lives, our decisions, and our existence. An invitation that must be directed to where we stand, what we are doing and what we are, with the “power ratio” that is ours. Do we want to share in this message of life or do we prefer simply to continue standing speechless before events as they happen?

He is not here... he is raised! And he awaits you in Galilee. He invites you to go back to the time and place of your first love and he says to you: Do not be afraid, follow me.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Today, "Jesus Gave His Life for Love"

Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating Holy Scripture.

So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass' colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the "Hosannas” and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary’s anguish as he hung three hours before he died.

We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears.

Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven Scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the Holy Week services of the church, not just by attending, but also by preparing, by studying the readings, entering into the spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship.

Let us sing, "Lord, have mercy," and "Hosanna." Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, uniting with the suffering church throughout the world -- in Rome and Northern Ireland, in Syria and Lebanon, in South Africa and Angola, India and China, Nicaragua and El Salvador, in Washington, D.C., and Jackson, Mississippi.

Let us break bread together; let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery. Let us do it in memory of him, acknowledging in faith his real presence upon our altars.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable.

Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work.

We unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God's healing, God's forgiveness, God's unconditional love.

Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow, offering to the downtrodden resources to help themselves.

May our fasting be the kind that saves and shares with the poor, that actually contacts the needy, that gives heart to heart, that touches and nourishes and heals.

During this Holy Week when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.
*   *   *
While these words have marked this Week here since time immemorial – at least, in digital-age terms – they echo even more poignantly on this Good Friday.

For starters, it was 28 years ago today that Sister Thea Bowman, whose deathbed preach this was, went home at 52 after a long fight with cancer. Yet even more than the coincidence of the calendar, earlier this year her native church of northern Mississippi began the journey toward opening her long-sought cause for beatification.

As Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson said this week about pursuing the process, the Franciscan dynamo's "prophetic spirit, brilliant mind and boundless stamina inspired many, and became a beacon for the Church to embrace more authentically the essence of its Catholicity." Most of all, especially in the context of today's double anniversary, Thea's "suffering united her to the Cross of the Lord Jesus, and served to deepen her love and her graceful spirit.

"Indeed, she lived until she died."

Sometimes it's more visible than others, but on this darkest of days, each one of us brings our own cross to the Cross... and just as the Crucified would triumph over death itself, so may we know the fullness of new life.

To one and all, may every blessing and gift of this Triduum be yours – may these days be a truly Holy Week.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

"Dear Young People, You Have It In You To Shout... Please, Make That Choice"

Over his prior Palm Sundays as Pope, Francis has consistently stuck to the rubrical request for a "brief" meditation, while shirking his usual practice for major liturgies in reflecting without a prepared text on the Passion of the Lord and the days ahead.

This year, however, the opening message of Holy Week was prepared, significantly longer – and, in a rarity for any homily of Papa Bergoglio's, footnoted.

While this day has marked the Roman celebration of World Youth Day in years when the global gathering isn't held since the concept was instituted by now-St John Paul II, that focus was heightened this time around by the past week's Pre-Synodal meeting of 300 young people, culminating in yesterday's release of a landmark message from the group, now the clearest indicator of the agenda for October's Vatican summit of the world's bishops on youth in the church and their vocational discernment.

(As ever the principal text for a Synod, the fall assembly's Instrumentum Laboris or "working paper" remains to be released, but will be drawn largely from this week's sessions, along with a similarly unprecedented online outreach to the world's young people. For purposes of context, until now the gatherings' starting points have solely been dictated by consultations of the Roman Curia, the episcopal conferences and the 15-prelate Synod Council.)

The first word of a long, dramatic Week, here's the English translation of Francis' homily (Readings) – as always, the year's first Mass in St Peter's Square.

*   *   *
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
ST PETER'S SQUARE
25 MARCH 2018

Jesus enters Jerusalem. The liturgy invites us to share in the joy and celebration of the people who cry out in praise of their Lord; a joy that will fade and leaves a bitter and sorrowful taste by the end of the account of the Passion. This celebration seems to combine stories of joy and suffering, mistakes and successes, which are part of our daily lives as disciples. It somehow expresses the contradictory feelings that we too, the men and women of today, experience: the capacity for great love… but also for great hatred; the capacity for courageous self-sacrifice, but also the ability to “wash our hands” at the right moment; the capacity for loyalty, but also for great abandonment and betrayal.

We also see clearly throughout the Gospel account that the joy Jesus awakens is, for some, a source of anger and irritation.

Jesus enters the city surrounded by his people and by a cacophony of singing and shouting. We can imagine that amid the outcry we hear, all at the same time, the voice of the forgiven son, the healed leper, or the bleating of the lost sheep. Then too, the song of the publican and the unclean man; the cry of those living on the edges of the city. And the cry of those men and women who had followed Jesus because they felt his compassion for their pain and misery… That outcry is the song and the spontaneous joy of all those left behind and overlooked, who, having been touched by Jesus, can now shout: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. How could they not praise the one who had restored their dignity and hope? Theirs is the joy of so many forgiven sinners who are able to trust and hope once again. And they cry out. They rejoice. This is joy.

All this joy and praise is a source of unease, scandal and upset for those who consider themselves righteous and “faithful” to the law and its ritual precepts.[1] A joy unbearable for those hardened against pain, suffering and misery. Many of these think to themselves: “Such ill-mannered people!” A joy intolerable for those who have forgotten the many chances they themselves had been given. How hard it is for the comfortable and the self-righteous to understand the joy and the celebration of God’s mercy! How hard it is for those who trust only in themselves, and look down on others, to share in this joy.[2]

And so here is where another kind of shouting comes from, the fierce cry of those who shout out: “Crucify him!” It is not spontaneous but already armed with disparagement, slander and false witness. It is a cry that emerges in moving from the facts to an account of the facts; it comes from this “story”. It is the voice of those who twist reality and invent stories for their own benefit, without concern for the good name of others. This is a false account. The cry of those who have no problem in seeking ways to gain power and to silence dissonant voices. The cry that comes from “spinning” facts and painting them such that they disfigure the face of Jesus and turn him into a “criminal”. It is the voice of those who want to defend their own position, especially by discrediting the defenceless. It is the cry born of the show of self-sufficiency, pride and arrogance, which sees no problem in shouting: “Crucify him, crucify him”.

And so the celebration of the people ends up being stifled. Hope is demolished, dreams are killed, joy is suppressed; the heart is shielded and charity grows cold. It is cry of “save yourself”, which would dull our sense of solidarity, dampen our ideals, and blur our vision... the cry that wants to erase compassion, that “suffering with” that is compassion, that is the weakness of God.

Faced with such people, the best remedy is to look at Christ’s cross and let ourselves be challenged by his final cry. He died crying out his love for each of us: young and old, saints and sinners, the people of his times and of our own. We have been saved by his cross, and no one can repress the joy of the Gospel; no one, in any situation whatsoever, is far from the Father’s merciful gaze. Looking at the cross means allowing our priorities, choices and actions to be challenged. It means questioning ourselves about our sensitivity to those experiencing difficulty. Brothers and sisters, where is our heart focused? Does Jesus Christ continue to be a source of joy and praise in our heart, or does its priorities and concerns make us ashamed to look at sinners, the least and forgotten?

And you, dear young people, the joy that Jesus awakens in you is a source of anger and even irritation to some, since a joyful young person is hard to manipulate. A joyful young person is hard to manipulate!

But today, a third kind of shouting is possible: “And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He replied, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out”” (Lk 19: 39-40).

The temptation to silence young people has always existed. The Pharisees themselves rebuke Jesus and ask him to silence them.

There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anaesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. “Keep quiet, you!” There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.

On this Palm Sunday, as we celebrate World Youth Day, we do well to hear Jesus’ answer to all those Pharisees past and present, even the ones of today: “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk 19:40).

Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you to opt for Sunday’s “Hosanna!”, so as not to fall into Friday’s “Crucify him!”... It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders – so often corrupt – keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?

Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out.

_______________________
[1] Cf. R. Guardini, El Señor, 383.
[2] Cf. Apsotolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 94.

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