Dear Beloved Youth in Christ!
Every year on Palm Sunday I rejoice that I have the opportunity to address you with this pastoral address and together with you to experience the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem – the feast of the Lord’s triumph, which leads us into the Paschal Mystery of the sufferings, death and resurrection of Christ in order to be with the Lord in His eternal victory in one week. I confess to you that I receive great joy and inspiration from every encounter with you both in Ukraine and in the diaspora. These encounters give hope and faith for the future of our Church, country, and the world. I thank you for your openness, your sincerity in conversation, your love towards your own Church and people, and I hope that the opportunity for encounters with you will grow even more! In particular, I am delighted with the encounters with young people in the diaspora, because by your lives and activity you bear witness to the global dimension of our Church and to your deep rootedness in her spiritual, liturgical, and cultural traditions. It is known that the youth of today on different continents is experiencing a vast amount of hardships and challenges, however, at the same time, in the very Person of Jesus Christ they find sound and true guides for their own lives, and His Holy Church wants to be right beside them and to accompany young people in their searching.
In describing the event of Palm Sunday, which we are experiencing today, the evangelists give many details that allow us to re-create the scene and the awareness of those days, to feel the context, to imagine the main heroes. During the course of three years Christ teaches in various corners of Palestine, preaches about the Kingdom of Heaven, performs miracles – heals the sick, casts out demons, eventually He raises the dead – and He becomes very well known. For His people and even for His occupiers Jesus Christ is not just an unknown carpenter: the people see in Him their Messiah – Saviour and Deliverer. The people experience His power and follow Him. This power scares away some, inspires others, for He Himself does not simple repeat the regulations of the Old Testament Law, but He teaches with full authority as the Son of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s teaching is always relevant and fresh, and every time it exceeds all the latest attitudes and trends.
And here God’s Anointed One enters Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover, where at this time a lot of people gather from the various places of the great Roman Empire. Above all, young people recognize and accept Christ; they place before Him palm branches and garments. They meet Him, shouting: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! But alongside these who accept and recognize are those who complain and disassociate themselves from the new reality that is about to come! They complain about Jesus Himself, saying: Teacher, rebuke Your disciples! The elite of that time learned to live within the conditions of Roman domination, within the conditions of internal divisions; it already was used to negotiate, to dodge and receive some dividends. And right here something absolutely new happens, something that these teachers of the Law themselves teach and what they await, but what they do not understand and cannot control. Christ answers: I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. On the contrary, He closes the mouths of those who complain, of those who are not pleased with Him and the youth, but He supports those who accept the new reality, those who do not want to play according to the old rules, to put new wine into old wineskins (cf. Mt. 9:17).
Young people feel that there is novelty and power in Christ. They are drawn to Him and accept Him. They accept the new, just revealed Messiah, who enters Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace sitting upon a foal, but not as the triumphant conqueror, whom, possibly, the representatives of the old elite awaited. Young people do not complain but act – they meet Christ – sincerely and loudly, clearly and openly. Young people do not fear, the spirit of bondage and fear has not yet managed to enslave them!
Let us look today at ourselves. We often complain, especially about something new, something unknown. We hang on to old schemes, we hide in the convenient confines of our lives, we are afraid to change a thing. In caring for our own comfort zone, we discourage life and renewal. Being young in age, we often regret the past and act as “the old in spirit”, setting ourselves apart from the world around us, instead of changing it, we are afraid of the new, instead of understanding it, and we complain about everything that provokes us to live fully and to grow.
Last year during World Youth Day in Krakow, the Pope called these girls and boys “young couch potatoes”, young people “who [already] go into retirement at the age of 20”! Therefore, today I urge all of you: Don’t complain!
Let us not complain about our shortcomings, because we can overcome them. Let us not complain but let us work, listening to the words of the Venerable Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky: Not by the rolls of one minute but with the efforts and sacrifices to bloodshed does our people move. And it is easier at times to shed blood in a moment of enthusiasm than to fulfil one’s obligations toiling many years and enduring the intense heat of day, and the temperature of the sun, and the anger of people and the hatred of enemies, and the absence of trust among one’s own, and the lack of aid from those close by, and amid this kind of work to finish one’s task right to the end, not waiting for laurels before the victory or for a reward before merit (Pastoral Letter to Young People, 1932).
In different situations we come into contact with people who tempt us to complain, they offer us cheap populism – to gain without much effort that which is convenient and comfortable, that which flatters our ear but is an empty promise without any sense of responsibility, that which sounds great but does not give life and strength for positive building. Politicos often manipulate our feelings, they think about narrow corporate goals, about ratings, about future elections, instead of seriously working for the future of their own people and for the common good. Let us not support those who speculate on difficulties and challenges! Let us not throw up our hands but let us follow Christ, and let us build our renewed future ourselves! Let us be with those who create new things, who are the guarantee of a new, reinvigorated, vibrant Ukraine.
Dear young people! I assure you that the Church is with you, with those who do not complain but who act, who see the future and work for it. The Church preaches Christ who enters Jerusalem and who by the power of the Holy Spirit brings us great change and supports those who accept change. I thank you for your openness and boldness to bear witness to Christ and to act according to this witness. For witness always anticipates activity. In addressing the young people this year, the Holy Father Pope Francis encourages them to be active: The Church and society need you. With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, and more humane world. The Roman Pontiff considers the question of young people so important that the upcoming Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church will be dedicated to youth, faith, and vocational discernment. Together with our Pope, I wish to encourage you to be active, to the fruitful use of the gift of youth, its constructive voice, to which the Church lends her support.
Palm Sunday is a special time – the words of our poet, Oleksandr Oles, truly communicate today’s spirit: With sadness a joy was embracing… We rejoice at the glorious entrance to Jerusalem, while at the same time understanding that we stand together with Christ on the threshold of sufferings. Passion Week, which begins tomorrow, speaks so much to us about the human person – betrayal, sufferings, fear, doubts and death. But at the same time it tells us about the great and compassionate God, who by death conquers death.
I urge you, dear young friends, to live through next week in faith and in your personal trust in God so great, who for us becomes small and dies for us on the Cross in order to rise and grant us everlasting life. May your faith become power for you that will help you to overcome various challenges and tests that will occur along the way. May the Most Holy Mother of God accompany us on this way, for she is the example of actively answering the Lord’s call.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the Saturday of the Akathist Hymn,
1 April 2017 A.D.