For this reason, the verification of the Transfiguration is, paradoxically, the Agony in Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22: 39-46). With his impending Passion, Jesus was to feel mortal anguish and entrust himself to the divine will; his prayer at that moment would become a pledge of salvation for us all.
Indeed, Christ was to implore the Heavenly Father "to free him from death" and, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote: "he was heard for his godly fear" (5: 7). The Resurrection is proof that he was heard.
Dear brothers and sisters, prayer is not an accessory or "optional", but a question of life or death. In fact, only those who pray, in other words, who entrust themselves to God with filial love, can enter eternal life, which is God himself.
During this Season of Lent, let us ask Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word and Teacher of the spiritual life, to teach us to pray as her Son did so that our life may be transformed by the light of his presence.
After the Angelus:
I would like to thank those who in the past few days have accompanied me with prayer during the Spiritual Exercises. I encourage everyone during this Lenten Season to seek silence and recollection, to leave more room for prayer and meditation upon the Word of God.
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, including the group from St Brigid's Parish in Killester, Dublin. Today's Gospel invites us to ponder the mystery of Christ's Transfiguration, to acknowledge him as the Incarnate Son of God and to follow him along the way that leads to the saving mystery of his Cross and Resurrection. During this Lenten Season, may you grow closer to the Lord in prayer, and may he shed the light of his face upon you and your families.
I wish you all a good Sunday!
St Peter's Square
The Spiritual Exercises customarily held here at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican at the beginning of Lent ended yesterday. Together with my collaborators of the Roman Curia I spent days in recollection and intense prayer, reflecting on the priestly vocation in harmony with the Year that the Church is celebrating. I thank all who have been close to us in spirit.
On this Second Sunday of Lent the Liturgy is dominated by the episode of the Transfiguration which in Luke's Gospel immediately follows the Teacher's invitation: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9: 23). This extraordinary event is an encouragement in the following of Christ.
Luke does not speak of the Transfiguration but describes what happens through two elements: the Face of Jesus which changes and his clothes that become a dazzling white in the presence of Moses and Elijah, a symbol of the Law and of the Prophets. The three disciples who witness the scene are heavy with sleep: this is the attitude of those who, although they have seen divine miracles, fail to understand. It is only the struggle against drowsiness that enables Peter, James and John to "see" Jesus in his glory. Then the rhythm quickens: while Moses and Elijah take their leave of the Master, Peter speaks and as he speaks a cloud envelops him and the other disciples in its shadow. This cloud, while it covers them, reveals the glory of God, just as happened for the pilgrim people in the desert. Their eyes can no longer see but their ears can hear the voice that comes out of the cloud: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" (v. 35).
The disciples no longer have before them a transfigured face or dazzling garments or a cloud that reveals the divine presence. They have before them "Jesus... alone" (v. 36). Jesus is alone with his Father while he prays but at the same time, "Jesus... alone" is all that the disciples and the Church of every epoch have been granted; and this must suffice on the journey. The only voice to listen to, the only voice to follow is his, the voice of the One going up to Jerusalem who was one day to give his life to "change our lowly body to be like his glorious body" (Philippians 3: 21).
"Master, it is well that we are here" (Luke 9: 33) are Peter's ecstatic words, that often resemble our own desire before the Lord's consolations. However the Transfiguration reminds us that the joys sown by God in life are not finishing lines; rather they are lights he gives us during our earthly pilgrimage in order that "Jesus alone" may be our Law and his word the criterion that directs our existence.
In this Lenten period I invite everyone to meditate assiduously on the Gospel. I also hope that in this Year for Priests Pastors may be "truly pervaded by the word of God... really know that word... to the point that it really leaves a mark on [their] lives and shapes [their] thinking" (cf. Homily, Chrism Mass, 9 April 2009). May the Virgin Mary help us to live intensely our moments of encounter with the Lord so that we may follow him joyfully every day. Let us turn our gaze to her, invoking her with the prayer of the Angelus.
After the Angelus:
I learned with deep sorrow the tragic news of the recent killing of several Christians in the city of Mossul and I followed with keen concern the other episodes of violence, perpetrated in the tormented Iraqi regions to the detriment of defenceless people who belong to various religions. During these days of intense recollection I frequently prayed for all the victims of those attacks and today I would like to join in spirit in the prayer for peace and for the re-establishment of security, promoted by the Council of the Bishops of Nineveh. I am affectionately close to the Christian communities of the whole country. Never tire of being a leaven of good for your homeland, to which, for centuries now, you are fully entitled to belong!
In the delicate political phase that Iraq is undergoing, I appeal to the civil Authorities to make every possible effort to restore security to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities. I hope that the Authorities will not give in to the temptation of making temporary and individual interests prevail over the safety and fundamental rights of every citizen. Lastly, as I greet the Iraqis present here in the Square, I urge the international community to do its utmost to give Iraqis a future of reconciliation and justice, while I trustingly invoke from Almighty God the precious gift of peace.
My thoughts also turn to Chile and to the people hit by the earthquake that has taken a heavy toll of life and caused immense damage. I pray for the victims and I am spiritually close to the people tried by this serious disaster. I implore from God relief for them in their suffering and courage in these adversities. I am certain that widespread solidarity will not be lacking, especially from the Church organizations.
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus prayer, especially the group of priests from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. On this Second Sunday of Lent the voice of our Heavenly Father instructs us to listen to Jesus, the beloved Son of God. May our Lenten journey continue to dispose our hearts to Christ and to his saving truth. Upon all of you I invoke Almighty God's abundant Blessings of strength and peace!
I wish you all a good Sunday!
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for your affection!
Today, the Second Sunday of Lent, we have a particularly beautiful Gospel, that of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Luke the Evangelist highlights in particular the fact that Jesus was transfigured while he was praying. Jesus experienced a profound relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat which he made on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John, the three disciples ever present at the moments of the Teacher's divine manifestation (Luke 5:10; 8:51; 9:28).
The Lord, who had just foretold his death and Resurrection (9:22), granted the disciples a foretaste of his glory. And the heavenly Father’s voice rang out in the Transfiguration, as in the baptism: “this is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (9:35). Moreover the presence of Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, is particularly significant: the whole history of the Covenant is oriented to him, Christ, who makes a new “exodus” (9:31), not toward the promised land, as in the time of Moses, but toward Heaven.
Peter’s words “Master, it is well that we are here” represent the impossible attempt to put this mystical experience on hold. St Augustine commented: “[Peter]... on the mountain... had Christ as the food of his soul. Why should he have to go down to return to his hard work and sorrows while up there he was filled with sentiments of holy love for God and which thus inspired in him a holy conduct? (Sermon 78,3: pl 38, 491).
In meditating on this passage of the Gospel, we can learn a very important lesson from it: first of all, the primacy of prayer, without which the entire commitment to the apostolate and to charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give the right time to prayer, both personal and of the community, which gives rest to our spiritual life. Moreover, prayer does not mean isolating oneself from the world and from its contradictions, as Peter wanted to do on Mount Tabor; rather, prayer leads back to the journey and to action. “The Christian life”, I wrote in my Message for this Lent, “consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love” (n. 3).
Dear brothers and sisters, I hear this word of God as addressed to me in particular at this moment of my life. Thank you! The Lord is calling me “to scale the mountain”, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church; indeed, if God asks me this it is precisely so that I may continue to serve her with the same dedication and the same love with which I have tried to do so until now, but in a way more suited to my age and strength.
Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she help everyone always to follow the Lord Jesus, in prayer and in active charity.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the words of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
4 March 2013