VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
As you know, this past week I was on retreat together with my colleagues in the Roman curia. It was a week of silence and prayer: the mind and heart were able to dedicate themselves entirely to God, to listening to his Word, to meditation on the mysteries of Christ. In a certain way, it was little like what happened to the apostles Peter, James and John when Jesus took them away with him up the mountain alone, and while he prayed was “transfigured”: his face and his person appeared luminous, shining. The liturgy re-proposes this celebrated episode today in fact, the second Sunday of Lent (cf. Mark 9:2-10). Jesus wanted his disciples, especially those who would have the responsibility of leading the newborn Church, to directly experience his divine glory, to be able to face the scandal of the cross. Indeed, when the hour of betrayal comes and Jesus retires to Gethsemane to pray, he will keep the same Peter, James and John close by, asking them to keep watch with him (cf. Matthew 26:38). They cannot do it, the grace of Christ will sustain them and help them to believe in the Resurrection.
I would like to stress that Jesus’ transfiguration was essentially an experience of prayer (cf. Luke 9:28-29). Prayer, in fact, reaches its culmination — and thus becomes the source of interior light — when the spirit of man adheres to that of God and their wills join almost to form a single will. When Jesus ascends the mountain he immerses himself in the contemplation of the Father’s plan of love, who sent him into the world to save humanity. Elijah and Moses appear alongside Jesus, signifying that the Sacred Scriptures were in agreement in announcing the paschal mystery: that Jesus had to suffer and die to enter into his glory (cf. Luke 24:26, 46). In that moment Jesus sees the cross outlined before him, the extreme sacrifice necessary to liberate us from the reign of sin and death. And in his heart he once again repeats his “Amen.” He says yes, here I am, let your will of love be done, Father. And, as happened after the baptism in the Jordan, the signs of God’s pleasure came from heaven: the light that transfigured Christ and the voice that proclaimed him “my beloved Son” (Mark 9:7).
Together with fasting and works of mercy, prayer forms the essential structure of our spiritual life. Dear brothers and sisters, I exhort you to find in this time of Lent moments of prolonged silence, perhaps a retreat, to reflect again on your life in the light of heavenly Father’s plan of love. Let the Virgin Mary, teacher and model of prayer, be your guide in this more intense listening to God. Even in the deepest darkness of Christ’s passion she did not lose but safeguarded the light of the Divine Son in her soul. For this reason let us call upon Mary with confidence and hope![After the Angelus the Pope said:]
Today’s date, March 8, [International Women’s Day] invites us to reflect on the condition of women and to renew our commitment, that always and everywhere every woman can live and fully manifest her particular abilities, obtaining complete respect for her dignity. This is the sense in which the Second Vatican Council and the pontifical magisterium — especially in the servant of God John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Mulieris Dignitatem” (August 15, 1988) — have expressed themselves. Of more worth than the documents themselves is the testimony of the saints. And in our time there was that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: humble daughter of Albania, who became, by God’s grace, an example of charity in the service of human promotion to all the world. How many other women work in a hidden way every day for the good of humanity and for the Kingdom of God! Today I pledge my prayer for all women, that they be evermore respected in their dignity and valued in their positive possibilities.
Dear brothers and sisters, in the climate of intense prayer that marks Lent, I entrust to your remembrance the two apostolic journeys upon which, if it pleases God, I will soon embark. The week after next, on March 17-23, I will travel to Africa, first to Cameroon and then to Angola, to show my concrete nearness and that of the Church to the Christians and peoples of that continent, which is particularly dear to me. Then, on May 8-15, I will be on pilgrimage in the Holy Land to ask the Lord, while visiting the places sanctified by his life on earth, for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and for all of humanity. From this point forward I will count on the spiritual support of all of you, that God will accompany me and fill those whom I meet along the way with his graces.[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [The Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. On this, the Second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel invites us to ponder the mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration, to acknowledge him as the incarnate Son of God, and to follow him along the way that leads to the saving mystery of his Cross and Resurrection. During this Lenten season, may you grow closer to the Lord in prayer, and may he shed the light of his face upon you and your families!
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