In our journey towards Easter the Roman liturgy of the Second Sunday of Lent brings us to climb Mount Tabor where Jesus changed in appearance in front of Peter, James and John. The three apostles received the gift of seeing Jesus “transfigured” in the splendor of his divinity so that they would be able to bear the sight of the Master “disfigured” by the Passion, required condition of the Resurrection of the Redeemer, whose passionate love recreates and redeems.
However I think that Jesus did not want only to prepare his disciples for his and their passion. Jesus' transfiguration reveals what He already is, the Son of God in order to indicate one of the main characteristic of the disciple, the ability to listen. God testifies that Christ Jesus is his Son "This is my chosen son; listen to him” (Lk 9:35-36) Why? Because the disciple that listens to Jesus changes in appearance, the one who listens to Christ becomes like Christ. To listen to Christ is to live of Christ, to live the Son’s life. By listening to the Word our life is transformed into the life of sons and daughters of God. It is essential to listen to him in his Word, guarded in the Sacred Scripture. However, it is also important, “To listen to him in the events of our lives, seeking to decipher in them the messages of Providence. Finally, to listen to him in our brothers and sisters, especially in the lowly and the poor, to whom Jesus himself demands our concrete love. To listen to Christ and obey his voice: this is the principle way, the only way that leads to the fullness of joy and of love. (Benedict XVI, Angelus, March 12th, 2006)”
Let’s be devoted in this period of Lent to listening to Christ, so that we can have a pure heart and a wise mind, and to listening to Him in His Word, daily announced and broken in our communities. If we listen to Him we feed ourselves with a food rich enough to sustain us through our journey toward the Easter of the Resurrected, who is Beauty, Goodness and Truth. Let’s persevere to be “listeners of the Word” and not of chatters and noises. Let’s listen to the Word of God with attention, let’s contemplate it fully, then let’s take it down from the mountain and bring it among men. The disciple takes this Word transfigured by the light that on Christ’s face is like the sun, and that on his dresses is white like snow (Mt 17,2). Christianity is the religion of light. The Word who became flesh is the light that illuminates every man and every woman. It is mystic light at Nazareth at the annunciation, light in Bethlehem with angels and the star, light at the Jordan River with the dove of the Spirit, light on Mount Tabor, light at Easter and light of eternity.
2) Not three tents but only one.
Choosing the Gospel of the Transfiguration the Church invites us to restore our fragile and tired faith with the energy of the light. God gives us a foretaste, but we must give Him upfront credit without limits as did Abraham, who trusted God’s promise bringing into play his own existence, in the first reading.
We are like these three friends of Jesus to whom He gives comfort saying to them and to us “Be brave, have faith, get up and don’t be afraid, I’ve conquered the world” ( John 16, 33).
We, like Peter, are confused (“he did not know what he was saying.”) and full of fear (the three apostles “they became frightened”), but let’s listen in silence (“They fell silent”) to the Word of the Father who gives the affectionate command “Listen to Him”.
We, like Peter, can say” “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Like him, we would like to prolong the peace which comes from the encounter with Christ contemplated in his light.
Saint Peter was fascinated by that vision and saying “it is good that we are here”, let us apprehend the reasons of what is a dimension, maybe just lived, of the Christian life in this world, meditation. Meditation is not the prayer in which we ask for something from God. Instead it is the prayer used to admire His wonders, to recognize His greatness and His limitless goodness, to praise Him and to thank Him for what He has given to us and for what he assures He will give us.
Contemplation is the prayer that becomes sight. If we make time to contemplate Christ, the Father covers us with His light and this light radiates from us on all the others.
If we want the experience of light to remain in us, we must not make tents for Christ. We must be tents in which He can stay and transfigure us by being part of his Cross and his Resurrection.
“It is necessary namely that you at first to be made associate of the suffering thus after a while you may be able to participate of his glory. There He himself will welcome you and his men into imperishable tents. There truly you will not prepare three tends one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, but only one tent for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and the tent you will prepare is you. Then God will be all things in us all (Cor. 15); when, as we read in Apocalypse, the tent of God will be by men, and they will be (Apoc. 21) his people and he will be God-with them (Apoc. 21. 3)” (Peter the Venerable , Sermon pour la Transfiguration )
3) The Samaritan woman
The liturgy of Lent brightens the figure of Jesus so that every Christian is confronted by His presence and can follow Him. The Roman rite does it with the solemnity of the transfiguration; the Ambrosian liturgy proposes the life of the Samaritan woman who as usual goes to the well to draw water. The previous Sunday it had invited us to meditate the “littleness’ of Zacchaeus.
To meet the Publican, Christ “had” to go through Jericho; to meet the Samaritan woman, he “had” to go through Samaria. That was due not to the geography of the Holy Land but to the geography of charity that has roads forced by the Way of the Cross.
To go to Jerusalem where the Cross was waiting for Him, Jesus was “forced” to go through the region that divided Galilee from Judea, through a land inhabited by people that the other Jews considered infidels; traitors because they did not want to make sacrifices in Jerusalem, had built a Temple in Gerizim and had not accepted Nehemiah’s reform.
Jesus loved the Samaritan people. He healed one of them who was a leper and he was the only one among the other ten lepers who came back to give Him thanks. It was a Samaritan man who had helped the man robbed and wounded by thieves. It is a Samaritan woman He waits for at Jacob’s well. In fact one day his countrymen had said to Him “Are we not right to say that you are a Samaritan?”(John 8:53) Jesus had transformed this accusation in a synonym of “charitable man”.
All of us are called to live this period of Lent announcing the gospel of love with the concreteness of the Samaritan, who is a good man because he was compassionate and willing to enter in a brotherly relationship with the needy. In a love that opens to the other, every man can find complete realization and give meaning to life.
This is particularly valid for the Consecrated Virgins called to draw from Christ’s heart the love true and pure that quenches thirst and transfigures.
The consecrated virgins, like the good Samaritans, are called to transfigure the earth with charity that cannot be bought. It is charity that can only be asked for, received and shared.
In their prayer let these women, totally dedicated to Christ, say “Groom of salvation, hope to the ones who praise You, Christ God, grant us to find in our union with You without sin, like the virgins, the everlasting crown” to share in the humble service to our neighbor. ( Romanus Melodus, Hymns, Turin 2002, page 318).
GN 15:5-12, 17-18; PS 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14; PHIL 3:17—4:1; LK 9:28B-36
The Gospel of the Transfiguration
Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
DT 6a:11, 18-28; Ps 118: GAL 6:1-10; John 4:5-42
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Monsignor Francesco Follo is permanent observer of the Holy See to UNESCO, Paris.