Monday, February 26, 2024

Reflections on the Third Sunday
of Lent by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0338: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent  
Pope Benedict XVI 

On seven occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Third Sunday of Lent, on 19 March 2006, 11 March 2007, 24 February 2008, 15 March 2009, 7 March 2010, 27 March 2011, and 11 March 2012. Here are the texts of seven brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and three homilies delivered on these occasions.



Saint Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 19 March 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 19 March, is the Solemnity of St Joseph, but as it coincides with the Third Sunday of Lent, its liturgical celebration is postponed until tomorrow. However, the Marian context of the Angelus invites us to reflect today with veneration on the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s spouse and Patron of the universal Church.

I like to recall that beloved John Paul II was also very devoted to St Joseph, to whom he dedicated the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, Guardian of the Redeemer, and who surely experienced his assistance at the hour of death.

The figure of this great Saint, even though remaining somewhat hidden, is of fundamental importance in the history of salvation. Above all, as part of the tribe of Judah, he united Jesus to the Davidic lineage so that, fulfilling the promises regarding the Messiah, the Son of the Virgin Mary may truly be called the “son of David”.

The Gospel of Matthew highlights in a special way the Messianic prophecies which reached fulfilment through the role that Joseph played:  the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (2: 1-6); his journey through Egypt, where the Holy Family took refuge (2: 13-15); the nickname, the “Nazarene” (2: 22-23).

In all of this he showed himself, like his spouse Mary, an authentic heir of Abraham’s faith:  faith in God who guides the events of history according to his mysterious salvific plan. His greatness, like Mary’s, stands out even more because his mission was carried out in the humility and hiddenness of the house of Nazareth. Moreover, God himself, in the person of his Incarnate Son, chose this way and style of life - humility and hiddenness - in his earthly existence.

From the example of St Joseph we all receive a strong invitation to carry out with fidelity, simplicity and modesty the task that Providence has entrusted to us. I think especially of fathers and mothers of families, and I pray that they will always be able to appreciate the beauty of a simple and industrious life, cultivating the conjugal relationship with care and fulfilling with enthusiasm the great and difficult educational mission.

To priests, who exercise a paternal role over Ecclesial Communities, may St Joseph help them love the Church with affection and complete dedication, and may he support consecrated persons in their joyous and faithful observance of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. May he protect workers throughout the world so that they contribute with their different professions to the progress of the whole of humanity, and may he help every Christian to fulfil God’s will with confidence and love, thereby cooperating in the fulfilment of the work of salvation.



Vatican Basilica, Third Sunday of Lent, 19 March 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have listened together to a famous and beautiful passage from the Book of Exodus, in which the sacred author tells of God’s presentation of the Decalogue to Israel. One detail makes an immediate impression:  the announcement of the Ten Commandments is introduced by a significant reference to the liberation of the People of Israel. The text says:  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20: 2).

Thus, the Decalogue is intended as a confirmation of the freedom gained. Indeed, at a closer look, the Commandments are the means that the Lord gives us to protect our freedom, both from the internal conditioning of passions and from the external abuse of those with evil intentions. The “nos” of the Commandments are as many “yeses” to the growth of true freedom.

There is a second dimension of the Decalogue that should also be emphasized:  by the Law which he gave through Moses, the Lord revealed that he wanted to make a covenant with Israel. The Law, therefore, is a gift more than an imposition. Rather than commanding what the human being ought to do, its intention is to reveal to all the choice of God:  He takes the side of the Chosen People; he set them free from slavery and surrounds them with his merciful goodness. The Decalogue is a proof of his special love.

Today’s liturgy offers us a second message:  The Mosaic Law was totally fulfilled in Jesus, who revealed God’s wisdom and love through the mystery of the Cross, “a stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor 1: 23-24).

The Gospel just proclaimed refers precisely to this:  Jesus drove the merchants and money-changers out of the temple. Through the verse of a Psalm:  “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (see Ps 69[68]: 10), the Evangelist provides a key for the interpretation of this significant episode. And Jesus was “consumed” by this “zeal” for the “house of God”, which was being used for purposes other than those for which it was intended.

To the amazement of everyone present, he responded to the request of the religious leaders who demand evidence of his authority by saying:  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2: 19). These are mysterious words that were incomprehensible at the time; John, however, paraphrased them for his Christian readers, saying:  “Actually, he was talking about the temple of his body” (Jn 2: 21).

His enemies were to destroy that “temple”, but after three days he would rebuild it through the Resurrection. The distressful “stumbling block” of Christ’s death was to be crowned by the triumph of his glorious Resurrection.

In this Lenten season, while we are preparing to relive this central event of our salvation in the Easter triduum, we are already looking at the Crucified One, seeing in him the brightness of the Risen One.

Dear brothers and sisters, today’s Eucharistic Celebration, which combines the commemoration of St Joseph with meditation on the liturgical texts of the Third Sunday of Lent, gives us the opportunity to consider in the light of the Paschal Mystery another important aspect of human life. I am referring to the reality of work, which exists today in the midst of rapid and complex changes.

In many passages, the Bible shows that work is one of the original conditions of the human being. When the Creator shaped man in his image and likeness, he asked him to till the land (see Gn 2: 5-6). It was because of the sin of our first parents that work became a burden and an affliction (see Gn 3: 6-8), but in the divine plan it retains its value, unaltered.

The Son of God, by making himself like us in all things, dedicated himself for many years to manual activities, so that he was known as “the carpenter’s son” (see Mt 13: 55). The Church has always, but especially in the last century, shown attention and concern for this social context, as the many social interventions of the Magisterium testify and the action of many associations of Christian inspiration show; some of them are gathered here today and represent the whole world of workers.

I am pleased to welcome you, dear friends, and I address my cordial greeting to each one of you. A special thought goes to Bishop Arrigo Miglio of Ivrea and President of the Italian Episcopal Commission for Social Problems and Work, Justice and Peace, who has interpreted your common sentiments and addressed courteous good wishes to me for my name day. I am deeply grateful to him.

Work is of fundamental importance to the fulfilment of the human being and to the development of society. Thus, it must always be organized and carried out with full respect for human dignity and must always serve the common good.

At the same time, it is indispensable that people not allow themselves to be enslaved by work or idolize it, claiming to find in it the ultimate and definitive meaning of life.

The invitation contained in the First Reading is appropriate in this regard:  “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God” (Ex 20:  8-9). The Sabbath is a holy day, that is, a day consecrated to God on which man understands better the meaning of his life and his work. It can therefore be said that the biblical teaching on work is crowned by the commandment of rest.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church speaks opportunely of this:  “For man, bound as he is to the necessity of work, this rest opens to the prospect of a fuller freedom, that of the eternal Sabbath (see Heb 4: 9-10). Rest gives men and women the possibility to remember and experience anew God’s work from Creation to Redemption, in order to recognize themselves as his work (see Eph 2: 10), and to give thanks for their lives and for their subsistence to him who is their author” (no. 258).

Work must serve the true good of humanity, permitting “men as individuals and as members of society to pursue and fulfil their total vocation” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 35). For this to happen, technical and professional qualifications, although necessary, do not suffice; nor does the creation of a just social order, attentive to the common good.

It is necessary to live a spirituality that helps believers to sanctify themselves through their work, imitating St Joseph, who had to provide with his own hands for the daily needs of the Holy Family and whom, consequently, the Church holds up as Patron of workers. His witness shows that man is the subject and protagonist of work.

I would like to entrust to St Joseph those young people who are finding integration into the working world difficult, the unemployed and everyone who is suffering hardship due to the widespread employment crisis.

Together with Mary, his Spouse, may St Joseph watch over all workers and obtain serenity and peace for families and for the whole of humanity.

May Christians, looking at this great Saint, learn to witness in every working environment to the love of Christ, the source of true solidarity and lasting peace. Amen!



St Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 11 March 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The passage of Luke’s Gospel that is proclaimed on this Third Sunday of Lent relates Jesus’ comments on two events of his time. The first: the uprising of some Galileans, which Pilate repressed with bloodshed. The second: the fall of the tower of Jerusalem, which claimed 18 victims. Two very distinct, tragic events: one caused by man, the other accidental.

According to the mentality of the time, people were inclined to think that the disgrace which struck the victims was due to some grave fault of their own. Jesus instead says: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans.... Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?” (Lk 13: 2, 4). And in both cases he concludes: “I tell you, No: but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (13: 3, 5).

This, then, is the point to which Jesus wants to bring his listeners: the necessity for conversion. He does not propose it in legalistic terms, but rather in realistic ones, as the only adequate response to the events that place human certainties in crisis.

In the face of certain disgraces, he warns, it does no good to blame the victims. Rather, true wisdom allows one to question the precariousness of existence and to acquire an attitude of responsibility: to do penance and to improve our lives.

This is wisdom, this is the most effective response to evil on every level: interpersonal, social and international.

Christ invites us to respond to evil, first of all, with a serious examination of conscience and the commitment to purify our lives. Otherwise, he says, we will perish, we will all perish in the same way.

In effect, people and societies that live without ever questioning themselves have ruin as their only final destination. Conversion, on the other hand, while not preserving one from problems and misfortunes, allows one to face them in a different “way”.

First of all, it helps to prevent evil, disengaging some of its threats. And in any case, it allows one to overcome evil with good: if not always on a factual level, which sometimes is independent of our will, certainly on a spiritual level.

In summary: conversion overcomes the root of evil, which is sin, even if it cannot always avoid its consequences.

Let us pray to Mary Most Holy, who accompanies and sustains us on our Lenten journey, so that she may help every Christian to rediscover the greatness, I would say, the beauty, of conversion.

May she help us understand that doing penance and correcting one’s conduct is not simply moralism, but the most effective way to change oneself and society for the better.

An adage expresses it well: to light a candle is worth more than to curse the darkness.



St Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 24 February 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year, on this Third Sunday of Lent, the liturgy again presents one of the most beautiful and profound passages of the Bible: the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (see Jn 4: 5-42). St Augustine, of whom I am speaking extensively in the Wednesday Catecheses, was justifiably fascinated by this narrative, and he made a memorable comment on it. It is impossible to give a brief explanation of the wealth of this Gospel passage. One must read and meditate on it personally, identifying oneself with that woman who, one day like so many other days, went to draw water from the well and found Jesus there, sitting next to it, “tired from the journey” in the midday heat. “Give me a drink”, he said, leaving her very surprised: it was in fact completely out of the ordinary that a Jew would speak to a Samaritan woman, and all the more so to a stranger. But the woman’s bewilderment was destined to increase. Jesus spoke of a “living water” able to quench her thirst and become in her “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”; in addition, he demonstrated that he knew her personal life; he revealed that the hour has come to adore the one true God in spirit and truth; and lastly, he entrusted her with something extremely rare: that he is the Messiah.

All this began from the real and notable experience of thirst. The theme of thirst runs throughout John’s Gospel: from the meeting with the Samaritan woman to the great prophecy during the feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7: 37-38), even to the Cross, when Jesus, before he dies, said to fulfil the Scriptures: “I thirst” (Jn 19: 28). Christ’s thirst is an entranceway to the mystery of God, who became thirsty to satisfy our thirst, just as he became poor to make us rich (see II Cor 8: 9). Yes, God thirsts for our faith and our love. As a good and merciful father, he wants our total, possible good, and this good is he himself. The Samaritan woman, on the other hand, represents the existential dissatisfaction of one who does not find what he seeks. She had “five husbands” and now she lives with another man; her going to and from the well to draw water expresses a repetitive and resigned life. However, everything changes for her that day, thanks to the conversation with the Lord Jesus, who upsets her to the point that she leaves her pitcher of water and runs to tell the villagers: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (Jn 4: 29).

Dear brothers and sisters, like the Samaritan woman, let us also open our hearts to listen trustingly to God’s Word in order to encounter Jesus who reveals his love to us and tells us: “I who speak to you am he” (Jn 4: 26), the Messiah, your Saviour. May Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of the Word made flesh, obtain this gift for us.



Third Sunday of Lent, 24 February 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the example of my venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, who visited your parish respectively on 20 March 1966 and 14 January 1979, I too have come among you today to meet your community and preside at the Eucharistic celebration in your beautiful church dedicated to St Mary “Liberatrice”. I have come for a very special event, the centenary of the consecration of the present-day church and the transfer of the title of the parish of “Our Lady of Providence”, which already existed in this neighbourhood of Testaccio, to “Santa Maria Liberatrice”. It was St Pius X who entrusted the parish to the spiritual sons of Don Bosco, and under the indefatigable guidance of Bl. Fr Michele Rua, St John Bosco’s first disciple, they built the church in which we are now gathered. The Salesians were really already carrying out their social and apostolic activity here in Testaccio, a district that has preserved its own specific territorial and cultural character. Although we are in the heart of the Roman metropolis, very familiar relations among people have persisted and while the situation has somewhat changed in the past 20 years, the people are still strongly rooted in their own territory, in the identity of the neighbourhood and in their attachment to religious traditions. I know, for example, that your patronal feast of St Mary “Liberatrice” every year gathers families and citizens who for various reasons have moved elsewhere.

Dear friends, I have willingly come to share your joy in the jubilee you are celebrating and I have desired to enrich it with the possibility of gaining a Plenary Indulgence throughout the centenary year. I greet you all with affection. First of all, I greet the Cardinal Vicar, Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara of the Central Sector and Fr Manfredo Leone, your parish priest. I warmly thank him and his Salesian confreres for the pastoral service they carry out together in your parish, and I am also grateful to him for his kind words to me on behalf of you all. I also greet the guests of the Salesian residence for priests whose headquarters are located on the parish premises, and the various Religious Communities present in the territory: the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians; the Daughters of Divine Providence and the Good Shepherd Sisters. I greet the men and women Cooperators and Salesian alumni, the parish associations, the various groups committed to the animation of catechesis, the liturgy, charity and the reading and deepening of the Word of God, the Confraternity of Santa Maria Liberatrice, the youth groups and those who encourage meetings and formation for engaged couples and established families. I address an affectionate greeting to the children of the catechism classes and to all who attend the prayer and recreation centre run by the parish and the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians. I would then like to extend my thoughts to all the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, especially the elderly, the sick and people who are alone and in difficulty. I am remembering each and all at this Holy Mass.

Dear brothers and sisters, let me now ask myself, together with you, what is the Lord telling us on this most important anniversary for your parish? In today’s biblical texts for the Third Sunday of Lent, useful ideas for meditation can be found that are particularly appropriate for this important occasion. Through the symbol of water, which we find in the First Reading and in the Gospel passage on the Samaritan woman, the Word of God transmits to us an ever lively and timely message: God thirsts for our faith and wants us to find the source of our authentic happiness in him. Every believer is in danger of practising a false religiosity, of not seeking in God the answer to the most intimate expectations of the heart but on the contrary, treating God as though he were at the service of our desires and projects.

In the First Reading we see the Jewish People suffer in the desert from lack of water and, in the grip of discouragement, complain and react violently, as on other occasions. They even reached the point of rebelling against Moses and almost of rebelling against God. The sacred author says: “They put the Lord to the proof by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?’“ (Ex 17: 7). The people demanded from God that he meet their expectations and needs, rather than abandoning themselves trustfully into his hands, and in their trial lost their trust in him. How often does this also happen in our lives? In how many circumstances, rather than conforming docilely to the divine will, do we want God to implement our own plans and grant our every desire? On how many occasions does our faith prove frail, our trust weak, our religious sense contaminated by magical and merely earthly elements? In this Lenten Season, as the Church invites us to make a journey of true conversion, let us accept with humble docility the recommendation of the Responsorial Psalm: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works’“ (Ps 95[94]: 7-9).

The symbolism of water returns with great eloquence in the famous Gospel passage that recounts Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman in Sychar, by Jacob’s well. We immediately perceive a link between the well, built by the great patriarch of Israel to guarantee his family water, and salvation history where God gives humanity water welling up to eternal life. If there is a physical thirst for water that is indispensable for life on this earth, there is also a spiritual thirst in man that God alone can satisfy. This is clearly visible in the dialogue between Jesus and the woman who came to Jacob’s well to draw water. Everything begins with Jesus’ request: “Give me a drink” (see Jn 4: 5-7). At first sight it seems a simple request for a little water in the hot midday sun. In fact, with this question, addressed moreover to a Samaritan woman - there was bad blood between the Jews and the Samaritans - Jesus triggers in the woman to whom he is talking an inner process that kindles within her the desire for something more profound. St Augustine comments: “Although Jesus asked for a drink, his real thirst was for this woman’s faith (In Io ev. Tract. XV, 11: PL 35, 1514). In fact, at a certain point, it was the woman herself who asked Jesus for the water (see Jn 4: 15), thereby demonstrating that in every person there is an inherent need for God and for salvation that only God can satisfy. It is a thirst for the infinite which only the water that Jesus offers, the living water of the Spirit, can quench. In a little while, in the Preface we shall hear these words: Jesus “asked the woman of Samaria for water to drink, and had already prepared for her the gift of faith. In his thirst to receive her faith, he awakened in her heart the fire of your love”.

Dear brothers and sisters, in this dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman we see outlined the spiritual itinerary that each one of us, that every Christian community, is ceaselessly called to rediscover and follow. Proclaimed in this Lenten Season, this Gospel passage acquires a particularly important value for catechumens who are already approaching Baptism. This Third Sunday of Lent is in fact linked to the so-called “first scrutiny”, which is a sacramental rite of purification and grace. The Samaritan woman thus becomes the figure of the catechumen enlightened and converted to the faith, who longs for the living water and is purified by the Lord’s action and words. Yet we who have already been baptized but are also still on the way to becoming true Christians, find in this Gospel episode an incentive to rediscover the importance and meaning of our Christian life, the true desire of God who lives in us. As he did with the Samaritan woman, Jesus wishes to bring us to powerfully profess our faith in him so that we may then proclaim and witness to our brethren the joy of the encounter with him and the marvels that his love works in our existence. Faith is born from the encounter with Jesus, recognized and accepted as the definitive Revealer and Saviour in whom God’s Face is revealed. Once that the Lord has won the Samaritan woman’s heart, her life is transformed and she runs without delay to take the Good News to her people (see Jn 4: 29).

Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of Santa Maria Liberatrice! This morning, Christ’s invitation to let ourselves be involved in his demanding Gospel proposal rings out loud and clear for every member of your parish community. St Augustine said that God thirsts after our thirst for him, that is, he desires to be desired. The further the human being distances himself from God, the more closely God pursues him with his merciful love. The liturgy encourages us today, also taking into account the Lenten Season in which we are living, to review our relationship with Jesus, to tirelessly seek his Face. And this is indispensable so that you, dear friends, can continue in the new cultural and social context the work of evangelization and human and Christian education carried out for more than a century by this parish, which also includes in the ranks of her parish priests Venerable Luigi Maria Olivares. Always open your hearts wider to the pastoral work in the missionary context, which impels every Christian to meet people - particularly youth and families - where they live, work and spend their leisure time, in order to proclaim to them God’s merciful love. I know that you are dedicating similar attention and concern to the care of vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life, proposing to children, young people and families the topic of vocations, which is of the utmost importance for the future of the Church. I encourage you then to persevere in the task of education, which constitutes the typical charism of every Salesian parish. May the after school prayer and recreation centre, the school and the moments for catechesis and prayer be enlivened by authentic educators, witnesses whose hearts are especially close to children, adolescents and youth. May St Mary “Liberatrice”, whom you love and venerate so deeply and who raised Jesus as a child and adolescent together with her husband Joseph, protect families and Religious in their task as formators and give them the joy, as Don Bosco desired, of seeing “good Christians and honest citizens” grow up in this neighbourhood. Amen!



Saint Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 15 March 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I shall be making my first Apostolic Journey to Africa from Tuesday 17 to Monday 23 March. I shall go to Cameroon, to the capital, Yaoundé, to present the “Instrumentum Laboris”, [working document] of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops that will be celebrated here in the Vatican in October. I shall then go on to Luanda, the capital of Angola, a country which has rediscovered peace after the long civil war and is now called to rebuild itself in justice. With this Visit I intend to embrace in spirit the entire African continent: its thousands of differences and its profoundly religious soul; its ancient cultures and its laborious process of development and reconciliation; its grave problems, its painful wounds and its enormous potential and hopes. I intend to strengthen Catholics in the faith, to encourage Christians in their ecumenical commitment and to bring to all the announcement of peace, entrusted to the Church of the Risen Lord.

As I prepare myself for this missionary Journey the words of the Apostle Paul, which today, on the Third Sunday of Lent, the liturgy proposes for our meditation, resound in my mind: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God”, the Apostle writes to the Christians of Corinth (1 Cor 1: 23-24). Yes, dear brothers and sisters! I am leaving for Africa aware that I have nothing to propose or give to those whom I shall meet except Christ and the Good News of his Cross, a mystery of supreme love, of divine love that overcomes all human resistence and even makes forgiveness and love for one’s enemies possible. This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world; this is the grace that can also renew Africa, because it generates an irresistible force of peace and a profound and radical reconciliation. The Church, therefore, does not pursue economic, social or political objectives; the Church proclaims Christ, certain that the Gospel can move the hearts of all and transform them, thereby renewing people and societies from within.

On 19 March, precisely during my Pastoral Visit to Africa, we shall celebrate the Solemnity of St Joseph, Patron of the universal Church and my personal Patron too. St Joseph, warned by an angel in a dream, had to flee with Mary to Egypt in Africa, to take Jesus, whom King Herod wanted to kill, to safety. Thus the Scriptures were fulfilled; Jesus trod in the footsteps of the ancient patriarchs, and, like the People of Israel, returned to the Promised Land after having been in exile in Egypt. I entrust to the heavenly intercession of this great Saint my upcoming Pilgrimage and the populations of the whole of Africa, together with the challenges that mark them and the hopes that enliven them. I am thinking in particular of the victims of hunger, disease, injustice, fratricidal conflicts and of every form of violence which unfortunately continues to afflict adults and children, without sparing missionaries, priests, men and women religious and voluntary workers. Brothers and sisters, accompany me on this Journey with your prayers, invoking Mary, Mother and Queen of Africa.



St Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 7 March 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Liturgy of this Third Sunday of Lent presents to us the topic of conversion. In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus, Moses, while tending his flock, sees a burning bush that is not consumed by the flames. He goes closer to look at this miracle when a voice calls him by name and, reminding him of his unworthiness, orders him to take off his sandals because that place is holy. The voice says to him, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob”. And he adds, “I am who am” (Ex 3: 6a, 14). God likewise shows himself in various ways in each of our lives. To be able to recognize his presence, however, we must approach him with an awareness of our wretchedness and with deep respect. Otherwise we would make ourselves incapable of encountering him and entering into communion with him. As the Apostle Paul writes, this event is also recounted as a warning to us: it reminds us that God does not reveal himself to those in whom are entrenched self-sufficiency and frivolity but rather to those who are poor and humble before him.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is questioned on certain distressing events: the killing of several Galileans in the temple, on the orders of Pontius Pilate, and the collapse of a tower on some passers by (see Lk 13: 1-5). In the face of the easy conclusion of considering evil as an effect of divine punishment, Jesus restores the true image of God who is good and cannot desire evil. And guarding us against believing that misfortunes are the immediate effect of the personal sins of those whom they afflict, says: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13: 2-3). Jesus asks us interpret these events differently, putting them in the perspective of conversion: misfortunes, sorrowful events must not awaken curiosity in us or the quest for presumed sins; instead they must be opportunities for reflection, in order to overcome the illusion of being able to live without God and to reinforce, with the Lord’s help, the commitment to change our way of life. With regard to sin, God shows himself to be full of mercy and never fails to remind sinners to avoid evil, to grow in love for him and to offer practical help to our neighbour in need, to live the joy of grace and not to go towards eternal death. However, the possibility of conversion demands that we learn to read the events of life in the perspective of faith, animated, that is, by holy fear of God. In the presence of suffering and bereavement, the true wisdom is to let ourselves be called into question by the precarious state of existence and to see human history with the eyes of God who, desiring always and only the good of his children, through an inscrutable design of his love sometimes permits us to be tried by suffering in order to lead us to a greater good.

Dear friends, let us pray Mary Most Holy, who accompanies us on our Lenten journey, that she may help every Christian to return to the Lord with his whole heart. May she sustain our firm decision to renounce evil and to accept the will of God in our lives with faith.




Third Sunday of Lent, 7 March 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

““Repent’, says the Lord, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’“, we proclaimed before the Gospel of this Third Sunday of Lent that presents us with the fundamental theme of this “strong season” of the liturgical year: the invitation to change our lives and to do works worthy of penance.

Jesus, as we heard, recalls two items of news: a brutal repression in the Temple by the Roman police (see Lk 13: 1) and the tragic death of 18 people, killed when the tower in Siloam collapsed (v. 4). People interpret these events as divine punishment for those victims’ sins, and thinking they are upright, believe they are safe from such accidents and that they have nothing in their own lives that they should change. Jesus, however, denounces this attitude as an illusion: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (vv. 2-3). And he invites us to reflect on these events for a greater commitment on the journey of conversion, for it is precisely the closure of ourselves to the Lord and the failure to take the path of our own conversion that lead to death, to the death of the soul. In Lent, each one of us is asked by God to mark a turning point in our life, thinking and living in accordance with the Gospel, correcting some aspect of our way of praying, acting or working and of our relations with others. Jesus makes this appeal to us, not with a severity that is an end in itself but precisely because he is concerned for our good, our happiness and our salvation. On our part, we must respond to him with a sincere inner effort, asking him to make us understand which particular ways we should change.

The conclusion of the Gospel passage reverts to the prospect of mercy, showing the urgent need to return to God, to renew life in accordance with God. Referring to a custom of the time, Jesus presents the parable of a fig tree planted in the vineyard. However, this fig tree was barren, it produced no fruit (see Lk 13: 6-9). The dialogue that develops between the master and the vinedresser shows on the one hand the mercy of God who is patient and allows human beings, all of us, time in which to convert; and on the other, the need to start to change both our interior and exterior way of life straight away in order not to miss the opportunities that God’s mercy affords us to overcome our spiritual laziness and respond to God’s love with our own filial love.

Moreover, in the passage we have heard, St Paul urges us not to deceive ourselves: it is not enough to have been baptized and nourished at the Eucharistic table if we do not live as Christians and are not attentive to the Lord’s signs (see 1 Cor 10: 1-4).

Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of San Giovanni della Croce, I am very glad to be with you today to celebrate the Lord’s Day with you. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector, Fr Enrico Gemma, your parish priest whom I thank for his beautiful words on behalf of you all, and the other priests who help him. I would then like to extend my thoughts to all the inhabitants of the district, especially the elderly, the sick and those who are lonely and in difficulty. I remember each and every one to the Lord at this Holy Mass.

I know that your parish is a young community. Indeed, it began its pastoral activity in 1989. It spent 12 years in temporary premises and then in the new parish complex. Now that you have a new sacred building, I would like my Visit to be an encouragement to you to become more and more the Church of living stones that you are. I know that the experience of the first 12 years marked a lifestyle that still endures. The lack of suitable premises and consolidated traditions, in fact, impelled you to trust in the power of God’s word which has been a lamp to light you on your way and has brought practical results of conversion, participation in the Sacraments, especially in the Sunday Eucharist, and service. I now urge you to make this Church a place in which people learn to listen better and better to the Lord who speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures. May these never cease to be the life-giving centre of your community so that it may become a continuous school of Christian life from which every pastoral activity stems.

The building of the new parish church has spurred you to a unanimous apostolic commitment, with special attention to the areas of catechesis and the Liturgy. I congratulate you on the pastoral efforts you are making. I know that various groups of the faithful gather to pray, to be trained at the school of the Gospel, to participate in the Sacraments especially Penance and the Eucharist and to live that dimension essential to Christian life which is charity. I am thinking gratefully of all who help make the liturgical celebrations livelier and increase the number of participants, as well as of those who, together with the parish Caritas and the Sant’Egidio group, seek to meet the many needs in the territory, especially the expectations of the poorest and neediest. Lastly, I am thinking of all your praiseworthy efforts for families and for the Christian education of children and of those who attend the after-school prayer and recreation centre.

Since it came into being this parish has been open to the new Movements and Ecclesial Communities, thereby developing a broader awareness of Church and experiencing new forms of evangelization. I urge you to continue courageously in this direction, but make sure you combine all the realities present in a uniform pastoral project. I learned with pleasure that with regard to vocations and the role of consecrated and lay people, your community is proposing to promote the co-responsibility of all the members of the People of God. As I have already had the opportunity to recall, this requires a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people: “They must no longer be viewed as “collaborators’, of the clergy but truly recognized as “co-responsible’, for the Church’s being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity” (Address to the Ecclesial Convention of the Diocese of Rome, 26 May 2009).

Dear Christian families, dear young people who live in this neighbourhood and attend the parish, let the wish to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all involve you more and more. Do not wait for others to come and bring you other messages that do not lead to life; rather, make yourselves missionaries of Christ for your brothers and sisters, where they live, work and study or merely spend their leisure time. Here too, start a far-reaching and thorough vocations ministry, consisting of the education of families and young people in prayer and in living life as a gift that comes from God.

Dear brothers and sisters, the strong season of Lent invites each one of us to recognize the mystery of God that becomes present in our life, just as we heard in the First Reading. Moses sees a bush in the wilderness that is burning but without being consumed. First of all impelled by curiosity, he approaches it to see the mysterious event when suddenly a voice comes from the bush that says: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3: 6). And it is precisely this God who sent him to Egypt, charging him to lead the People of Israel to the Promised Land and to ask the Pharaoh, on his behalf, to set Israel free. At this point Moses asks God what his Name is, the Name with which God manifests his special authority, in order to present God to the people and then to the Pharaoh. God’s answer may seem strange; it seems both an answer and not an answer. He says of himself simply: “I am who I am”. “He is”, and this must suffice. God, therefore, does not reject Moses’ request. He pronounces his Name, thus creating the possibility of invoking him, of calling on him, of a relationship with him. By revealing his Name, God establishes a relationship between himself and us. He enables us to invoke him, he enters into relations with us and gives us the possibility of being in a relationship with him. This means that he gives himself, in a certain way, to our human world, becoming accessible, as if he were one of us. He faces the risk of the relationship, of being with us. What began in the burning bush in the desert is accomplished in the burning bush of the Cross where God, having become accessible in his Son made man, really became one of us, is put into our hands and, in this way, realizes the liberation of humanity. On Golgotha God, who during the night of the flight from Egypt revealed himself as the One who frees us from slavery, revealed himself as the One who embraces every human being with the saving power of the Cross and the Resurrection and liberates him from sin and death, accepts him in the embrace of his love.

Let us remain in contemplation of this mystery of God’s Name, the better to understand the mystery of Lent and to live as individuals and as communities in permanent conversion, so as to be a constant epiphany in the world, a witness of the living God who sets us free us and saves us out of love. Amen.



St Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 27 March 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This third Sunday of Lent is characterized by the Jesus’ famous conversation with the Samaritan woman, recounted by the Evangelist John. The woman went every day to draw water from an ancient well that dated back to the Patriarch Jacob and on that day she found Jesus sitting beside the well, “wearied from his journey” (Jn 4:6). St Augustine comments: “Not for nothing was Jesus tried…. The strength of Christ created you, the weakness of Christ recreated you…. With his strength he created us, with his weakness he came to seek us out” (In Ioh. Ev., 15, 2).

Jesus’ weariness, a sign of his true humanity, can be seen as a prelude to the Passion with which he brought to fulfilment the work of our redemption. In the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, the topic of Christ’s “thirst” stands out in particular. It culminated in his cry on the Cross “I thirst” (Jn 19:28). This thirst, like his weariness, had a physical basis. Yet Jesus, as St Augustine says further, “thirsted for the faith of that woman” (In Ioh. Ev. 15,11), as he thirsted for the faith of us all.

God the Father sent him to quench our thirst for eternal life, giving us his love, but to give us this gift Jesus asks for our faith. The omnipotence of Love always respects human freedom; it knocks at the door of man’s heart and waits patiently for his answer.

In the encounter with the Samaritan woman the symbol of water stands out in the foreground, alluding clearly to the sacrament of Baptism, the source of new life for faith in God’s Grace. This Gospel, in fact — as I recalled in my Catechesis on Ash Wednesday — is part of the ancient journey of the catechumen’s preparation for Christian Initiation, which took place at the great Easter Vigil. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him”, Jesus said, “will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14).

This water represents the Holy Spirit, the “gift” par excellence that Jesus came to bring on the part of God the Father. Whoever is reborn by water and by the Holy Spirit, that is, in Baptism, enters into a real relationship with God, a filial relationship, and can worship him “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23, 24), as Jesus went on to reveal to the Samaritan woman. Thanks to the meeting with Jesus Christ and to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the human being’s faith attains fulfilment, as a response to the fullness of God’s revelation.

Each one of us can identify himself with the Samaritan woman: Jesus is waiting for us, especially in this Season of Lent, to speak to our hearts, to my heart. Let us pause a moment in silence, in our room or in a church or in a separate place. Let us listen to his voice which tells us “If you knew the gift of God…”. May the Virgin Mary help us not to miss this appointment, on which our true happiness depends.

Lastly, my thoughts turn to the authorities and citizens of the Middle East, where in the past few days various episodes of violence have occurred, so that there too priority may be given to the way of dialogue and reconciliation in the search for a just and fraternal coexistence.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 March 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Third Sunday of Lent the Gospel — in St John’s version — refers to the famous episode of Jesus who drives the animal dealers and the money-changers out of the Temple of Jerusalem (see Jn 2:13-25). The event, recorded by all the Evangelists, happened in the Passover Feast and made a deep impression on both the crowd and the disciples. How should we interpret Jesus’ action?

First of all it should be noted that it did not provoke any repression from the keepers of public order because it was seen as a typical prophetic action: indeed, in God’s name prophets often reported abuse and sometimes did so with symbolic gestures. The problem, if there was one, concerned their authority. For this reason the Jews asked Jesus: “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” (Jn 2:18), show us that you are truly acting in God’s name.

The expulsion of the dealers from the Temple has also been interpreted in a political and revolutionary sense, placing Jesus on a par with the zealots’ movement. The zealots were, precisely, “zealous” for God’s law and prepared to use violence to enforce respect for it. In Jesus’ day they were awaiting a Messiah who would free Israel from Roman domination. But Jesus did not fulfil this expectation, so much so that some disciples abandoned him and Judas Iscariot even betrayed him.

In fact it is impossible to interpret Jesus as violent: violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God, it is a tool of the antichrist. Violence is never useful to humanity but dehumanizes it.

Let us, therefore, listen to the words that Jesus spoke while he was carrying out this action. “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade”. And the disciples then remembered that in a Psalm is written: “zeal for your house has consumed me” (69[68]:10).

This Psalm is a call for help in a situation of extreme danger, because of the hatred of enemies: the plight that Jesus was to live through in his Passion. Zeal for the Father and for his house was to bring him to the cross: his was the zeal of love that pays in person, not the zeal that would like to serve God through violence.

In fact the “sign” that Jesus was to give as proof of his authority would be his very death and Resurrection. “Destroy this temple”, he said, “and in three days I will raise it up”. And St John recorded: “he spoke of the temple of his body” (Jn 2:20-21). With the Pasch of Jesus a new form of worship begins, the cult of love, and a new temple which is he himself, the Risen Christ, through whom every believer can worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23).

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit began to build this new temple in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us pray through his intercession that every Christian may become a living stone of this spiritual building. 

© Copyright 2014 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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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