Monday, February 19, 2024

Reflections on the Second Sunday
of Lent by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0336: Reflections on the Second Sunday of Lent  
Pope Benedict XVI 

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Second Sunday of Lent, on 12 March 2006, 4 March 2007, 17 February 2008, 8 March 2009, 28 February 2010,  20 March 2011, 4 March 2012, and 24 February 2013. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.



Saint Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Lent, 12 March 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday morning marked the end of the week of Spiritual Exercises preached by Cardinal Marco Cé, Patriarch emeritus of Venice, Italy, here in the Apostolic Palace. They were days dedicated entirely to listening to the Lord, who always speaks to us but expects our still greater attention, especially during this time of Lent.

Today’s Gospel reading also reminds us of this, re-proposing to us the episode of the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. Awestruck at the sight of the transfigured Lord who was speaking with Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John were suddenly overshadowed by a cloud, out of which came a voice which proclaimed:  “This is my beloved Son on whom my favour rests; listen to him” (Mk 9: 7).

When one has the grace to live a strong experience of God, it is as if one is living an experience similar to that of the disciples during the Transfiguration:  a momentary foretaste of what will constitute the happiness of Paradise. These are usually brief experiences that are sometimes granted by God, especially prior to difficult trials.

No one, however, is permitted to live “on Tabor” while on earth. Indeed, human existence is a journey of faith and as such, moves ahead more in shadows than in full light, and is no stranger to moments of obscurity and also of complete darkness. While we are on this earth, our relationship with God takes place more by listening than by seeing; and the same contemplation comes about, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light that is kindled in us by the Word of God.

Mary’s pilgrimage of faith

The Virgin Mary herself, among all human creatures the closest to God, still had to walk day after day in a pilgrimage of faith (see Lumen Gentium, no. 58), constantly guarding and meditating on in her heart the Word that God addressed to her through Holy Scripture and through the events of the life of her Son, in whom she recognized and welcomed the Lord’s mysterious voice.

And so, this is the gift and duty for each one of us during the season of Lent:  to listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in his Word, contained in Sacred Scripture. 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.



St Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Lent, 4 March 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the Second Sunday of Lent, the Evangelist Luke emphasizes that Jesus went up on the mountain “to pray” (9: 28), together with the Apostles Peter, James and John, and it was “while he prayed” (9: 29) that the luminous mystery of his Transfiguration occurred.

Thus, for the three Apostles, going up the mountain meant being involved in the prayer of Jesus, who frequently withdrew in prayer especially at dawn and after sunset, and sometimes all night.

However, this was the only time, on the mountain, that he chose to reveal to his friends the inner light that filled him when he prayed: his face, we read in the Gospel, shone and his clothes were radiant with the splendour of the divine Person of the Incarnate Word (see Lk 9: 29).

There is another detail proper to St Luke’s narrative which deserves emphasis: the mention of the topic of Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah, who appeared beside him when he was transfigured. As the Evangelist tells us, they “talked with him... and spoke of his departure” (in Greek, éxodos), “which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (9: 31).

Therefore, Jesus listens to the Law and the Prophets who spoke to him about his death and Resurrection. In his intimate dialogue with the Father, he did not depart from history, he did not flee the mission for which he came into the world, although he knew that to attain glory he would have to pass through the Cross.

On the contrary, Christ enters more deeply into this mission, adhering with all his being to the Father’s will; he shows us that true prayer consists precisely in uniting our will with that of God. For a Christian, therefore, to pray is not to evade reality and the responsibilities it brings but rather, to fully assume them, trusting in the faithful and inexhaustible love of the Lord.

For this reason, the verification of the Transfiguration is, paradoxically, the Agony in Gethsemane (see Lk 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.



St Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Lent, 17 February 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Spiritual Exercises, which brought the Pope and his collaborators of the Roman Curia together in prayer and meditation as they do every year, ended here in the Apostolic Palace yesterday. I thank all those who have been spiritually close to us; may the Lord reward them for their generosity. Today, the Second Sunday of Lent, as we continue on the penitential journey, the liturgy invites us, after presenting the Gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the desert last week, to reflect on the extraordinary event of the Transfiguration on the mountain. Considered together, these episodes anticipate the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ struggle with the tempter preludes the great final duel of the Passion, while the light of his transfigured Body anticipates the glory of the Resurrection. On the one hand, we see Jesus, fully man, sharing with us even temptation; on the other, we contemplate him as the Son of God who divinizes our humanity. Thus, we could say that these two Sundays serve as pillars on which to build the entire structure of Lent until Easter, and indeed, the entire structure of Christian life, which consists essentially in paschal dynamism: from death to life.

The mountain - Mount Tabor, like Sinai - is the place of nearness to God. Compared with daily life it is the lofty space in which to breathe the pure air of creation. It is the place of prayer in which to stand in the Lord’s presence like Moses and Elijah, who appeared beside the transfigured Jesus and spoke to him of the “exodus” that awaited him in Jerusalem, that is, his Pasch. The Transfiguration is a prayer event: in praying, Jesus is immersed in God, closely united to him, adhering with his own human will to the loving will of the Father, and thus light invades him and appears visibly as the truth of his being: he is God, Light of Light. Even Jesus’ raiment becomes dazzling white. This is reminiscent of the white garment worn by neophytes. Those who are reborn in Baptism are clothed in light, anticipating heavenly existence (see Rev 7: 9, 13). This is the crucial point: the Transfiguration is an anticipation of the Resurrection, but this presupposes death. Jesus expresses his glory to the Apostles so that they may have the strength to face the scandal of the Cross and understand that it is necessary to pass through many tribulations in order to reach the Kingdom of God. The Father’s voice, which resounds from on high, proclaims Jesus his beloved Son as he did at the Baptism in the Jordan, adding: “Listen to him” (Mt 17: 5). To enter eternal life requires listening to Jesus, following him on the way of the Cross, carrying in our heart like him the hope of the Resurrection. “Spe salvi”, saved in hope. Today we can say: “Transfigured in hope”.

Turning now in prayer to Mary, let us recognize in her the human creature transfigured within by Christ’s grace and entrust ourselves to her guidance, to walk joyfully on our path through Lent.



Saint Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Lent, 8 March 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the past few days, as you know, I have been doing Spiritual Exercises together with my collaborators in the Roman Curia. It was a week of silence and prayer: our minds and hearts could be entirely focused on God, listening to his word, meditating on the mysteries of Christ. To summarize, it is a bit like what happened to the Apostles Peter, James and John when Jesus took them with him up a high mountain, and while he prayed he was “transfigured”: his Face and his garments became luminous, glistening. Once again, the liturgy proposes this well-known episode on this very day, the Second Sunday of Lent (see Mk 9: 2-10). Jesus wanted his disciples in particular those who would be responsible for guiding the nascent Church to have a direct experience of his divine glory, so that they could face the scandal of the Cross. Indeed, when the hour of betrayal came and Jesus withdrew to the Garden of Gethsemani, he kept the same disciples Peter, James and John close to him, asking them to watch and pray with him (see Mt 26: 38). They were not to succeed in doing so, but the grace of Christ was to sustain them and help them to believe in the Resurrection.

I wish to emphasize that the Transfiguration of Jesus was essentially an experience of prayer (see Lk 9: 28-29). Indeed, prayer reaches its culmination and thus becomes a source of inner light when the spirit of the human being adheres to that of God and their respective wills merge, as it were, to become a whole. When Jesus went up the mountain, he was immersed in contemplation of the loving plan of the Father, who had sent him into the world to save humanity. Elijah and Moses appeared beside Jesus, meaning that the Sacred Scriptures were in concordance with the proclamation of his Paschal Mystery; that in other words Christ had to suffer and die in order to enter into his glory (see Lk 24: 26, 46). At that moment Jesus saw silhouetted before him the Cross, the extreme sacrifice necessary in order to free us from the dominion of sin and death. And in his heart, once again, he repeated his “Amen”. He said yes, here I am, may your loving will be done, O Father. And as had happened after his Baptism in the Jordan, from Heaven there came signs of God the Father’s pleasure: the light that transfigured Christ and the voice that proclaimed him “my beloved Son” (Mk 9: 7).

Together with fasting and works of mercy, prayer is the backbone of our spiritual life. Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you to find in this Lenten Season prolonged moments of silence, possibly in retreat, in order to review your own lives in the light of the loving plan of the heavenly Father. Let yourselves be guided in this more intense listening to God by the Virgin Mary, a teacher and model of prayer. Even in the thick darkness of Christ’s Passion, she did not lose the light of her divine Son but rather treasured it in her heart. For this we call on her as Mother of Trust and Hope!



St Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Lent, 28 February 2010

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” (Lk 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” (Phil 3: 21).

“Master, it is well that we are here” (Lk 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” (see 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.



St Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Lent, 20 March 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord who has granted me over the past few days the experience of the Spiritual Exercises and I am also grateful to all who have been close to me in prayer. This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent, is called “of the Transfiguration” because the Gospel recounts this mystery of Jesus’ life. After Jesus had foretold his Passion to the disciples, “he took with him Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light” (Mt 17:1-2). According to the senses the light of the sun is the brightest light known in nature but, according to the spirit, the disciples briefly glimpsed an even more intense splendour, that of the divine glory of Jesus which illumines the whole history of salvation. St Maximus Confessor says that “[the Lord’s] garments appear white, that is to say, the words of the Gospel will then be clear and distinct, with nothing concealed” (Ambiguum 10: PG 91, 1128 B).

The Gospel tells that beside the transfigured Jesus “there appeared... Moses and Elijah, talking with him” (Mt 17:3); Moses and Elijah, figure of the Law and of the Prophets. It was then that Peter, ecstatic, exclaimed “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Mt 17:4). However St Augustine commented, saying that we have only one dwelling place, Christ: “he is the Word of God, the Word of God in the Law, the Word of God in the Prophets” (Sermo De Verbis Ev. 78:3: PL 38, 491).

In fact, the Father himself proclaims: “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt 17:5). The Transfiguration is not a change in Jesus but the revelation of his divinity: “the profound interpenetration of his being with God, which then becomes pure light. In his oneness with the Father, Jesus is himself ‘light from light’” (Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Doubleday, New York, 2007, p. 310).

Peter, James and John, contemplating the divinity of the Lord, are ready to face the scandal of the Cross, as it is sung in an ancient hymn: “You were transfigured on the mountain and your disciples, insofar as they were able, contemplated your glory, in order that, on seeing you crucified, they would understand that your Passion was voluntary and proclaim to the world that you are truly the splendour of the Father” (Κοντάκιον είς τήν Μεταμόρφωσιν, in: Μηναια, t. 6, Rome 1901, 341).

Dear friends, let us too share in this vision and in this supernatural gift, making room for prayer, and for listening to the Word of God. Further, especially in this Season of Lent, I urge you, as the Servant of God Paul  VI wrote, “to respond to the divine precept of penitence by some voluntary act, apart from the renunciation imposed by the burdens of everyday life” (Apostolic Constitution Pænitemini, 17 February 1966, III, c: AAS 58 [1966], 182).

Let us invoke the Virgin Mary so that she may help us always to listen to and follow the Lord Jesus, even to the Passion and the Cross, in order to also participate in his glory.



Sunday, 20 March 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very pleased to be with you to celebrate an event as important as the Dedication to God and to the service of the community of this church called after St Corbinian. Providence has ordained that our meeting take place on the Second Sunday of Lent, distinguished by the Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus.

Today, we therefore have the juxtaposition of two elements, both of which are very important: on the one hand, the mystery of the Transfiguration, and on the other, that of the temple, that is, of God’s house amidst your houses. The Bible Readings we have heard were chosen to illustrate these two aspects.

The Transfiguration. The Evangelist Matthew has told us what happened when Jesus, taking with him three of his disciples — Peter, James and John — climbed a high mountain. While they were up there, on their own, Jesus’ face, and likewise his garments, became radiant. This is what we call “Transfiguration”: a luminous, comforting mystery. What is its meaning? The Transfiguration is a revelation of the Person of Jesus, of his profound reality.

In fact, the eye witnesses of the event, that is, the three Apostles, were enfolded in a cloud, also bright — which in the Bible always heralds God’s presence — and they heard a voice saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt 17:5). This event prepared the disciples for the Paschal Mystery of Jesus: to endure the terrible trial of the Passion and also to understand properly the luminous event of the Resurrection.

The narrative also speaks of Moses and Elijah who appear and talk with Jesus. Actually, this episode is related to another two divine revelations. Moses climbed Mount Sinai and there received God’s revelation. He asked God to show him his glory but God answered Moses that he would not see his face but only his back (see Ex 33:18-23)

God made a similar revelation to Elijah on the mountain: a more intimate manifestation, not accompanied by a storm, an earthquake or by fire, but by a gentle breeze (see 1 Kings 19:11-13).

Unlike these two episodes, in the Transfiguration it is not Jesus who receives the revelation of God; rather, it is precisely in Jesus that God reveals himself and reveals his face to the Apostles. Thus, those who wish to know God must contemplate the face of Jesus, his face transfigured: Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father’s holiness and mercy.

Let us also remember that on Mount Sinai Moses also received the revelation of God’s will: the Ten Commandments. And, again, it was on the mountain that Elijah received from God the divine Revelation of a mission he was to undertake.

Jesus, on the contrary, did not receive the revelation of what he was to do: he already knew it. Rather it was the Apostles who heard God’s voice in the cloud, commanding: “Listen to him”.

God’s will was fully revealed in the Person of Jesus. Anyone who wants to live in accordance with God’s will must follow Jesus, listen to him and accept his words, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, acquire a deep knowledge of them. This is the first invitation I wish to offer you, dear friends, with great affection: grow in the knowledge and love of Christ, both as individuals and as a parish community, encounter him in the Eucharist, in listening to his word, in prayer and in charity.

The second point is the Church as a building and especially as a community. Before reflecting, however, on the Dedication of your church, I would like to tell you that my joy at being with you today is enhanced for a special reason. Indeed, St Corbinian founded the Diocese of Freising, Bavaria, of which I was Bishop for four years. In my episcopal coat of arms I chose to insert an element closely associated with this Saint’s history: a bear.

It is said that a bear had torn St Corbinian’s horse to pieces while the Saint was on his way to Rome. He harshly reprimanded it, succeeded in taming it and on its back loaded his baggage which had so far been carried by the horse. The bear bore this burden as far as Rome and only then did the Saint set it free.

Perhaps this is the point at which to say a few words about the life of St Corbinian. St Corbinian was French. He was a priest from the region of Paris, not far from which he had founded a monastery for himself. He was held in high esteem as a spiritual counselor but was more inclined to contemplation and therefore came to Rome to build a monastery here, close to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

However Pope Gregory II — it was in about the year 720 — had founded a monastery nearby — thought highly of his qualities, had understood his qualities and ordained him a Bishop, charging him to go to Bavaria and to proclaim the Gospel in that land. Bavaria: the Pope was thinking of the country between the Danube and the Alps which had been the Roman Province of Raetia for 500 years. Only at the end of the fifth century did the majority of the Latin population return to Italy.

A few simple people had stayed there. The  land was sparsely populated and a new people settled in it, the Bavarian people which, because the Country had been Christianized in the Roman period, discovered there a Christian heritage. The Bavarian people had understood straight away that this was the true religion and wanted to become Christian. However, there was a lack of educated people and priests to preach the Gospel.

And so Christianity had remained very fragmented, in its early stages. The Pope knew of this situation, he knew of the thirst for faith that existed in that country. He thus charged St Corbinian to go there and proclaim the Gospel there. And in Freising, in the ducal city on the hilltop, the Saint built the Cathedral — there was already a Shrine to Our Lady — and the Bishops See remained there for more than 1,000 years.

Only after the Napoleonic period was it transferred to Munich, 30 kilometres further south. It is still called the “Diocese of Munich and Freising”, and Freising’s majestic Romanesque cathedral has remained the heart of the diocese. So we see that saints uphold the Church’s unity and universality.

Universality: St Corbinian connects France, Germany and Rome. Unity: St Corbinian tells us that the Church is founded on Peter and guarantees to us that the Church founded on the rock will endure for ever. One thousand years ago she was the same Church that she is today, because the Lord is always the same. He is always Truth, ever old and ever new, very up to date, present, and the key opening the future.

I would now like to thank all who have contributed to building this church. I know how hard the Diocese of Rome is working to ensure every neighbourhood suitable parish complexes.

I greet and thank the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector and the Bishop Secretary of the “Opera Romana” (Roman institution) for the preservation of faith and the provision of new churches. I greet in particular my two successors. I greet Cardinal Wetter, who conceived the initiative of dedicating a parish church to St Corbinian and provided effective support for the project’s realization. Thank you, Your Eminence, many thanks. I am glad that the church was built so quickly.

I greet Cardinal Marx, the current Archbishop of Munich and Freising, who feels love not only for St Corbinian but also for his Church in Rome. My cordial thanks to you too. I also greet Bishop Clemens, from the Diocese of Paderborn who is Secretary of the Council for the Laity. I extend a special thought to the parish priest, Fr Antonio Magnotta, with my sincere gratitude for your words to me. Thank you! and of course I also greet the parochial vicar!

Through all of you present here, I would like to extend a word of affectionate closeness to the approximately 10,000 residents in the Parish territory. Gathered round the Eucharist, we more easily note that the mission of every Christian community is to take the message of God’s love to everyone, to make everyone know his face. This is why it is important that the Eucharist always be the heart of the life of the faithful, as it is today for your Parish, although not all its members have been able to take part in person.

Today we are living an important day which crowns the efforts, exertions and sacrifices made by and the commitment of the local people to form a mature Christian community that now has a Church, now definitively consecrated, in which to worship God.

I rejoice that this goal has been achieved and I am sure that it will encourage the gathering and the development of the family of believers in this district. The Church wishes to be present in every neighbourhood in which people live and work, with the Gospel witness of consistent and faithful Christians, but also with appropriate premises for prayer gatherings and for the sacraments, Christian formation and the beginning of friendships and brotherhood, helping children, young people, families and the elderly grow in the spirit of community which Christ taught us and of which the Church stands in such great need.

Just as the parish premises were built, my Visit is intended to encourage you to build ever better the Church of living stones which you are. We heard in the Second Reading “You are God’s field, God’s building”, St Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:9) and to us. And he urges us to build on the one true foundation which is Jesus Christ (3:11).

For this reason, I also urge you to make your new church the place where one learns how to listen to the word of God, the permanent “school” of Christian prayer from which stems every activity of this young and committed parish.

The text from the Book of Nehemiah, presented in the First Reading, is enlightening in this respect. There it can be clearly seen that Israel is the people convoked to listen to the word of God, written in the book of the Law. This book is read solemnly by the ministers and explained to the people who, standing, raise their hands to Heaven then kneel and prostrate themselves, face to the ground, in a sign of adoration. It is a true liturgy enlivened by faith in God who speaks, by repentance for infidelity to the Lord’s Law, and especially by joy — for the proclamation of his word is a sign that he has not abandoned his People, that he is close. May you too, dear brothers and sisters, in gathering to listen to the word of God with faith and perseverance, become, from one Sunday to the next, a Church of God, inwardly formed and fashioned by his Word. What a great gift this is! May you always be grateful for it.

Yours is a young community, consisting largely of newly married couples who have come to live in the neighbourhood; there are many children and young people. I know the dedication and attention that are given to families and to the guidance of young couples: may you be able to start a pastoral service for families, marked by open and cordial hospitality to the new family nuclei, which will be able to foster reciprocal knowledge, so that the parish community may always be, increasingly, a “family of families” able to share with them, alongside the joys, the inevitable initial difficulties.

I also know that various groups of the faithful meet to pray, learning at the school of the Gospel, to participate in the Sacraments and to live that essential dimension for Christian life which is charity. I am thinking of all those who with the Parish Caritas seek to meet the many needs in the area, especially by responding to the expectations of the poorest and neediest people.

I rejoice in all you do to prepare children and young people for the sacraments of Christian life, and I urge you to to take an increasing interest in their parents too, especially those who have small children; the Parish is striving to propose to them too, at convenient times and in suitable ways, prayer and formation meetings, especially for the parents of children who must receive Baptism and the other sacraments of Christian initiation.

May you also treat with special care and attention families in difficulty or in an irregular or precarious condition. Do not leave them on their own, but be lovingly close to them, helping them to understand God’s authentic plan for marriage and the family.

The Pope wishes to address a special word of affection and friendship also to you, dear children and young people who are listening to me, and to your peers who live in this parish. The present and the future of the ecclesial and civil community are entrusted in a special way to you. The Church expects much from your enthusiasm, from your ability to look ahead and from your wish for firm in the choices in life.

Dear friends of San Corbiniano! The Lord Jesus Christ who led the Apostles to the mountain to pray and showed them his glory, has invited us to this new church today. Here we can listen to him, we can recognize his presence in the breaking of the Eucharist Bread; and in this way become a living Church, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a sign of God’s love in the world.

Go home with your hearts full of this gratitude and joy, because you are part of this great spiritual building which is the Church. Let us entrust our Lenten journey, and that of the entire Church to the Virgin Mary. May Our Lady, who followed her Son Jesus to the Cross, help us to be faithful disciples of Christ, so that we may be able to take part together with her in the joy of Easter. Amen.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 March 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent, is known as the Transfiguration of Christ. Indeed in the Lenten itinerary, having invited us to follow Jesus into the wilderness to face and overcome the temptations with him, the Liturgy now proposes that we climb the “mountain” of prayer with him to contemplate God’s glorious radiance on his human face. The episode of the Transfiguration of Christ is unanimously attested by the Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke. There are two essential elements: first of all, Jesus leads the disciples Peter, James and John up a high mountain and there “he was transfigured before them” (Mk 9:2) and his face and his garments shone with dazzling light while Moses and Elijah appeared beside him; the second, a cloud overshadowed the mountain peak and from it came a voice saying: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mk 9:7). Thus, light and the voice: the divine radiance on Jesus’ face, and the voice of the heavenly Father that witnesses to him and commands that he be listened to.

The mystery of the Transfiguration must not be separated from the context of the path Jesus is following. He is now decisively oriented to fulfilling his mission, knowing all too well that to arrive at the Resurrection he must pass through the Passion and death on the Cross. He had spoken openly of this to his disciples; but they did not understand, on the contrary they rejected this prospect because they were not reasoning in accordance with God, but in accordance with men (see Mt 16:23).

It is for this reason that Jesus takes three of them with him up the mountain and reveals his divine glory, the splendour of Truth and of Love. Jesus wants this light to illuminate their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of his Passion and death, when the folly of the Cross becomes unbearable to them. God is light, and Jesus wishes to give his closest friends the experience of this light which dwells within him.

After this event, therefore, he will be an inner light within them that can protect them from any assault of darkness. Even on the darkest of nights, Jesus is the lamp that never goes out. St Augustine sums up this mystery in beautiful words, he says: “what this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is [Christ] to the eyes of the heart” (Sermones 78, 2: PL 38, 490).

Dear brothers and sisters, we all need inner light to overcome the trials of life. This light comes from God and it is Christ who gives it to us, the One in whom the fullness of deity dwells (see Col 2:9). Let us climb with Jesus the mountain of prayer and, contemplating his face full of love and truth, let us allow ourselves to be filled with his light. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, our guide on the journey of faith, to help us to live out this experience in the season of Lent, finding every day a few moments for silent prayer and for listening to the Word of God.



Sunday, 4 March 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Parish of St John Baptist de La Salle,

First of all I would like to say a heartfelt thank you for this most cordial and warm welcome. I am grateful to the good Parish Priest for his beautiful words, and for the spirit of familiarity that I am encountering. We really are a family of God and the fact that you also see the Pope as a father is something very lovely that encourages me! However we must now remember that the Pope is not the highest authority to appeal to. The highest is the Lord and let us look to the Lord in order to perceive, to understand — as far as we can — something of the message of this Second Sunday of Lent.

Today’s liturgy prepares us both for the mystery of the Passion — as we heard in the First Reading — and for the joy of the Resurrection.

The First Reading refers us to the episode in which God puts Abraham to the test (see Gen 22:1-18). He had an only son, Isaac, who was born to him in his old age. He was the son of the promise, the son who would also bring salvation to the peoples. Nevertheless one day Abraham received from God the order to sacrifice him as an offering.

The elderly patriarch found himself facing the prospect of a sacrifice which for him, as a father, was without any doubt the greatest imaginable. Yet not even for a moment did he hesitate and having made the necessary preparations, he set out with Isaac for the arranged place.

And we can imagine this journey toward the mountaintop, and what happened in his own heart and in his son’s. He builds an altar, lays the wood upon it and having bound the boy, grasps the knife, ready to sacrifice him. Abraham trusts totally in God, to the point of being ready even to sacrifice his own son and, with his son the future, for without a child the promised land was as nothing, ends in nothing. And in sacrificing his son he is sacrificing himself, his whole future, the whole of the promise. It really is the most radical act of faith. At that very moment he is restrained by an order from on high: God does not want death, but life, the true sacrifice does not bring death but life, and Abraham’s obedience became the source of an immense blessing to this day. Let us end here now, but we can meditate upon this mystery.

In the Second Reading, St Paul says that God himself has made a sacrifice: he has given us his own Son, he gave him on the Cross to triumph over sin and death, to triumph over the Evil One and to overcome all the evil that exists in the world. And God’s extraordinary mercy inspires the Apostle’s admiration and profound trust in the power of God’s love for us; indeed, St Paul says: “He [God] who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Rom 8:32).

If God gives himself in the Son, he gives us everything. And Paul insists on the power of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice against every other force that can threaten our life.

He wonders: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?” (vv. 33-34).

We are in God’s heart, this is our great trust. This creates love and in love we go towards God. If God has given his own Son for all of us, no one can accuse us, no one can condemn us, no one can separate us from his immense love. Precisely the supreme sacrifice of love on the Cross, which the Son of God accepted and chose willingly, becomes the source of our justification, of our salvation. Just think that this act of the Lord’s endures in the Blessed Eucharist, and in his heart, for eternity, and this act of love attracts us, unites us with him.

Lastly, the Gospel speaks to us of the episode of the Transfiguration (see Mk 9:2-10): Jesus manifests himself in his glory before the sacrifice of the Cross and God the Father proclaims his beloved Son, the one he loves, and commands the disciples to listen to him. Jesus goes up a high mountain and takes three Apostles with him — Peter, James and John — who will be particularly close to him in his extreme agony, on another mountain, the Mount of Olives.

A little earlier the Lord had announced his Passion and Peter had been unable to understand why the Lord, the Son of God, should speak of suffering, rejection, death, a Cross, indeed he had opposed the prospect of all this with determination.

Jesus now takes the three disciples with him to help them to understand that the path to attaining glory, the path of luminous love that overcomes darkness, passes through the total gift of self, passes through the folly of the Cross. And the Lord must take us with him too ever anew, at least if we are to begin to understand that this is the route to take.

The Transfiguration is a moment of light in advance, which also helps us see Christ’s Passion with a gaze of faith. Indeed, it is a mystery of suffering but it is also the “blessed Passion” because — in essence — it is a mystery of God’s extraordinary love; it is the definitive exodus that opens for us the door to the freedom and newness of the Resurrection, of salvation from evil. We need it on our daily journey, so often also marked by the darkness of evil.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I have said, I am very happy to be with you today to celebrate the Lord’s Day. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector, Fr Giampaolo Perugini, your parish priest, whom I thank once again for his kind words on behalf of you all and also for the pleasing gifts you have offered me.

I greet the Parochial Vicars. And I greet the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who have been here for so many years. They deserve praise for having fostered the life of this parish, because their house immediately offered generous hospitality to it, during the first three years of its life.

I then extend my greeting to the Brothers of the Christian Schools, who are naturally attached to this parish church dedicated to their Founder. I greet in addition all those who are active in the parish context. I am referring to the catechists, the members of the associations and movements, as well as the various parish groups. Lastly I would like to embrace in spirit all the inhabitants of the district, and especially the elderly, the sick, and people who are lonely or in difficulty.

In coming to you today I noticed the special position of this church, set at the highest point in the district and endowed with a slender spire, as if it were a finger or an arrow pointing towards heaven. It seems to me that this is an important indication: like the three Apostles of the Gospel, we also need to climb the mountain of the Transfiguration to receive God’s light, so that his Face may illuminate our face. And it is in personal and community prayer that we encounter the Lord, not as an idea or a moral proposal but, rather, as a Person who wishes to enter into a relationship with us, who wants to be a friend and to renew our life to make it like his.

This encounter is not solely a personal event; your church, set at the highest point in the neighbourhood, reminds you that the Gospel must be communicated and proclaimed to all. We do not expect others to bring different messages, that do not lead to true life. Make yourselves missionaries of Christ to your brothers and sisters wherever they live, work, study or just spend their leisure time.

I know about the many important evangelization projects that you undertake, in particular through the after-school prayer and recreation centre called “Pole-star” — I am also glad to wear this shirt (the centre’s shirt) — where, thanks to the volunteer work of competent and generous people and the involvement of families, the gathering of young people through sports is encouraged, without however neglecting their cultural formation, through art and music. Above all the relationship with God, the Christian values and an increasingly aware participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration, are inculcated in them here.

I rejoice that the sense of belonging to the parish community has continued to develop and been consolidated down the years. Faith must be lived together and the parish is a place in which we learn to live our own faith in the “we” of the Church. And I would like to encourage you to promote pastoral co-responsibility too, in a perspective of authentic communion among all the realities present, which are called to walk together, to live complementarity in diversity, to witness to the “we” of the Church, of God’s family.

I know how committed you are in preparing the children and young people for the sacraments of Christian life. May the upcoming “Year of Faith” be a favourable opportunity also for this parish to increase and to reinforce the experience of catechesis on the great truths of the Christian faith, so as to enable the whole neighbourhood to know and to deepen its knowledge of the Church’s Creed, and to surmount that “religious illiteracy” which is one of the greatest difficulties of our day.

Dear friend, yours is a young community — it is made up of young families and, thanks be to God, of the numerous children and youth who live in it. In this regard, I would like to recall the task of the family and of the entire Christian community to educate in faith, assisted in this by the theme of the current Pastoral Year, by the Pastoral Guidelines proposed by the Italian Episcopal Conference and without forgetting the profound and ever up to date teaching of St John Baptist de La Salle.

You in particular, dear families, are the environment in which the first steps of faith are taken; may you be communities in which one learns to know and love the Lord more and more, communities in which each enriches the other in order to live a truly adult faith.

Lastly, I would like to remind all of you of the importance and centrality of the Eucharist in personal and community life. May the heart of your Sunday be Holy Mass which should be rediscovered and lived as a day of God and of the community, a day on which to praise and celebrate the One who died and was raised for our salvation, a day on which to live together the joy of an open community, ready to receive every person who is lonely or in difficulty.

Indeed, gathered around the Eucharist in fact, we more easily realize that the mission of every Christian community is to bring the message of God’s love to everyone. This is why it is important that the Eucharist always be at the heart of the faithful’s life, just as it is today.

Dear brothers and sisters, from Mount Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Lenten journey takes us to Golgotha, the hill of the supreme sacrifice of love of the one Priest of the new and eternal Covenant. That sacrifice contains the greatest power of transformation of both the human being and of history. Taking upon himself every consequence of evil and sin, Jesus rose the third day as the conqueror of death and of the Evil One. Lent prepares us to take part personally in this great mystery of faith which we shall celebrate in the Triduum of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ.

Let us entrust our Lenten journey and likewise that of the whole Church to the Virgin Mary. May she, who followed her Son Jesus to the Cross, help us to be faithful disciples of Christ, mature Christians, to be able to share with her in the fullness of Easter joy. Amen!



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 February 2013

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 (Lk 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” (no. 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. 

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