Yesterday, in his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Benedict XVI returned to what has become a leitmotif in his preaching: the Face of God. The Holy Father’s words were, in fact, reminiscent of the message he gave last September on the occasion of his pilgrimage to to the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello. Alluding to the traditional rites of Palm Sunday during which the subdeacon (or priest) would strike the door of the church with the foot of the processional cross, Pope Benedict explained that by means of the Cross, Christ knocks at the door of God in the name of all mankind, and knocks at door of mankind, and of every human heart, in the name of God.
Seek the Face of God
“Who may go up the mountain of the Lord?” the psalm asks, and it indicates two essential conditions. Those who ascend and really want to get to the top, to arrive at the true height, must be persons who ask themselves about God. They must be persons who look about themselves in search of God, in search of His Face. My dear young friends, how important this is today: not allowing yourselves to be carried here and there by life; not being satisfied with what everyone thinks, says and does. Be attentive to God, seek God. We must not let the question about God dissolve in our souls. The desire for what is greater. The desire to know Him — his Face.
Innocent Hands and a Pure Heart
The other very concrete condition for the ascent is this: “He who has innocent hands and a pure heart” can stand in the holy place. Innocent hands — hands that are not used for acts of violence. They are hands that are not dirtied by corruption, by bribes. A pure heart — when is the heart pure? That heart is pure that does not pretend and does not sully itself with lies and hypocrisy. A heart that remains transparent like water rises up, for it does not know duplicity. That heart is pure that does not weary itself with the drunkenness of pleasure; a heart whose love is true and not only a passion of the moment. Innocent hands and a pure heart: If we walk with Jesus, we will ascend and find purification that carry us truly to that height for which man is destined: friendship with God Himself.
The Cross Opens Wide the Door Between God and Men
Psalm 24, speaking of the ascent, ends with an entrance liturgy before the temple gate: “Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the King of Glory may enter.” In the old liturgy of Palm Sunday, the priest, once he arrived at the church doors, knocked loudly with the staff of the cross at the closed doors, which were then opened. It was a beautiful image of Jesus Himself who, with the wood of the cross, with the power of his love which he gives, knocked from the side of the world on God’s door; from the side of a world that was unable to find access to God. With the cross, Jesus opens wide the door of God, the door between God and men. Now it is open.
God Knocks at Door of the World
But also from the other side the Lord knocks with His cross: He knocks at the door of the world, at the doors of our hearts, which so often and in such great numbers are closed to God.