At 12 noon today, the Holy Father Francis looked out of the studio window in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square.
These were the Pope’s words in introducing the Marian prayer:
Before the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
On this Second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of the Transfiguration is proclaimed. Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him on the mountain and is revealed to them in all his beauty as Son of God (cf. Mt 17:1-9).
Let us pause a moment over this scene and ask ourselves: Of what does this beauty consist? What do the disciples see? A special effect? No, that is not it. They see the light of God’s holiness shining on the face and on the clothing of Jesus, the perfect image of the Father. God’s majesty, God’s beauty is revealed. But God is Love. Therefore, the disciples had been beholding with their eyes the beauty and splendour of divine Love incarnate in Christ. They had a foretaste of paradise. What a surprise for the disciples! They had the face of Love before their very eyes for so long without ever being aware of how beautiful it was! Only now do they realize it with such joy, with immense joy.
In reality, through this experience, Jesus is forming them, preparing them for an even more important step. Soon after that, in fact, they would have to recognize the same beauty in him when he would mount the cross and his face would be disfigured. Peter struggles to understand: he would like to stop time, “pause” the scene, stay there and prolong this marvelous experience. But Jesus does not allow it. Indeed, his light cannot be reduced to a “magical moment”! It would thus become something false, artificial, something that would dissolve into the fog of passing sentiment. On the contrary, Christ is the light that orients our journey like the pillar of fire for the people in the wilderness (Ex 13:21). Jesus’ beauty does not alienate his disciples from the reality of life, but gives them the strength to follow him all the way to Jerusalem, all the way to the cross. Christ’s beauty is not alienating. It always brings you forward. It does not make you hide. Go forward!
Brothers and sisters, this Gospel traces a path for us too. It teaches us how important it is to remain with Jesus even when it is not easy to understand everything he says and does for us. In fact, it is by staying with him that we learn to recognize on his face the luminous beauty of love he gives us, even when it bears the marks of the cross. And it is in his school that we learn to see the same beauty on the faces of the people who walk beside us every day – family, friends, colleagues who take care of us in the most varied ways. How many luminous faces, how many smiles, how many wrinkles, how many tears and scars reveal love around us! Let us learn to recognize them and to fill our hearts with them. And then let us set out in order to bring the light we have received to others as well, through concrete acts of love (cf. 1 Jn 3:18), diving into our daily occupations more generously, loving, serving, and forgiving with greater earnestness and willingness. The contemplation of God’s wonders, the contemplation of God’s face, of the Lord’s face, must move us to the service of others.
We can ask ourselves: Do we know how to recognize the light of God’s love in our lives? Do we recognize it with joy and gratitude on the faces of the people who love us? Do we look around us for the signs of this light that fills our hearts and open them to love and service? Or do we prefer the straw fires of idols that alienate us and close us in on ourselves? The great light of the Lord and the false, artificial light of idols. Which do I prefer?
May Mary, who kept the light of her Son in her heart even in the darkness of Calvary, accompany us always on the way of love.