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Looking at the Face of Christ, Icon of God, to Be Transformed

Lectio Divina: 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C

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Roman rite
Second Sunday of Lent – Year C – February 21, 2016
Gn 15,5-12.17-18; Ps 27;Phil  3.17 – 4.1; Lk 9,28b-36
Ambrosian Rite
Second Sunday of Lent
Gn 15,5-12.17-18; Ps 27; Phil 17- 4,1; Lk 9.28 – 36
1) This is my Son – Behold the Man.
Last Sunday the Lenten liturgy has invited us to conversion, making us relive the mystery of the temptation of Jesus and his victory to be with Him on the journey of return to the Father. This path of liberation, in the Gospel “exodus”, allows us to go from the slavery of sin and the condition of prisoners of error and evil to the freedom of children in the Son, to the truth and beauty of being in Christ and to the beauty of a love that always welcomes everyone and everything.
Today, the second leg of our penitential exodus, the Word of God brings us to a new dimension of participation in the mystery of Christ, inviting us to relive the transfiguration of Christ manifested in glory, that is, in divine beauty. During the Passion, Pilate, showing Christ disfigured by scourging, will say: “Behold the man“. Today, God the Father says: “Behold my Son, the chosen one“, the God-man who shows the true face of man.
If, on the one hand, to walk with Christ means denying our egoism and overcoming the temptations of life, on the other hand doing the exodus with Christ makes us go up to Mount Tabor to be transfigured in Christ and like Christ.
The Transfiguration concerns us too because we are called not only to witness the glory of God’s Son, but to live it. In fact, since we are with Christ, his glory invests us too, transforming our body and our soul. Then we live in his love, which is the light that illuminates and transforms us, our human relationships and our look to everyday life.
In the exodus of Lent towards Easter – route of our identification with the risen Christ – the transfiguration of Jesus is a particularly significant step, because we allow Him to transfigure us in his image and likeness, accepting like Him the Cross.
In today’s Gospel there is a particular that helps to understand that the Cross is the key which opens the door of glory. In fact, St. Luke does not just talk about the presence of Moses and Elijah with the transfigured Jesus. This Evangelist narrates – and he is the only evangelist to do so – the contents of the conversation of Jesus with these two great Old Testament characters, who symbolize the Law and the Prophets. He says that they speak with Christ of his exodus, that is, of his journey of redemption through his death for us, in Jerusalem, on the Cross (see Lk 9:31). Jesus listens to the Law and to the Prophets who speak of His death and resurrection. The Son of God does not escape the mission of being “The One who transfigures” for which he came into the world, even though he knows that to attain glory he will have to go on the Cross and die.
2) Two important elements: mountain and prayer.
The Transfiguration takes place on a mountain, a place often used by God to manifest himself, as the Bible teaches and as the life of Christ shows. To this physical place St. Luke adds a “spiritual place”, prayer, to be seen as the real “place” of the Transfiguration. In the story of the Transfiguration, the Evangelist is the only one to point out that “Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and, as he was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white” (Lk 9: 28-29). For this reason it is indeed true to say that “the Transfiguration is an event of prayer. In it becomes visible what happens in the dialogue between Jesus and the Father: the intimate interpenetration of his being with God, which becomes pure light. In his being one with the Father, Jesus himself is light from light” (Benedict XVI).
With Peter, James and John “let us go up today on the Mount of Transfiguration and stop in contemplation of the face of Jesus, to collect the message and translate it into our lives; because we too can be transformed by Love. Actually, love is capable of transfiguring all “(Pope Francis).
Besides being for the Apostles an anticipation of the Easter that will come through the passion and death on the Cross of Christ, the Transfiguration was a gift for them, because they began to live the experience of communion with God present in history, in the human flesh of Jesus.
The Transfiguration of Christ, the splendor of Truth and Love, is for us source of hope and call to welcome always in our heart, even in the darkest night, Jesus Christ, lamp that never turns off, because “what for the body’s eyes is the sun that we see, [Christ] is to the eyes of the heart “(St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermo 78, 2: PL 38, 490). Without his light that illuminates and transforms the hearts, the Cross would be only scandal and madness.
In short: the transfiguration of Christ took place in the silence of the mountain after a long prayer that Jesus had with the chosen friends, the Apostles Peter and John and James, and had as its main aim the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God, the chosen and the beloved, who is about to die for faithfulness to the Father so that the world may believe that God is only love and accept this Love.
3) Consecrated virginity and Transfiguration.
To pray this Love is not just to talk to our own Father, it is “an impulse of the heart, a simple look turned toward heaven, a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Manuscript C, 25r). Indeed, prayer is above all the loving relationship of the children of God with the Father who is good, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2565).
The life of piety or the life of prayer consist in living in obedient love to God. Certainly this life results in exercises or practices of piety, which means living in communion with God in the same way we live the usual relationships of our lives, the ones with family members and our closest and true friends. It is the communion with the Lord that gives light to all our other relationships.
This communion with God is lived and witnessed in a particular way by the Virgin in the world who are consecrated to Christ in a spousal way.
What does it mean to be “bride of Christ”?  “To be the bride of Christ – writes St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – is to have all the rights to his Heart. It is a heart for life. It is a living …forever. It is to rest totally in him and allow him to rest completely in our soul. It is to know nothing but love; to love worshiping, to love repairing, to love praying, asking and forgetting; to love always in all forms. Being his spouse is to have eyes in his eyes, the mind fascinated by Him, the heart all taken, flooded, as if beside itself and totally given to Him, the soul full of his soul, full of his prayer, the whole being captured and donated. It is to look always intensely at Him to discover his slightest desire; it is to enter into all his joys, sharing all his sorrows. It is to be fruitful, co-redeemer, generating souls to grace, multiplying the adopted children of the Father, those redeemed by Christ, those co-heirs of his glory. “
In the context of today’s Gospel, consecrated virginity indicates the complete gift of self to Christ, who shows that true prayer consists in uniting our will to the will of the Father, letting transfigured by him and not evading the reality of the world and the responsibilities that entails. It is to fully assume them, trusting in the faithful and inexhaustible love of the Lord. The consecrated Virgins are called to be special witnesses of the transfigured Christ, through a life of prayer and work loaded with silence so not to suffocate with their own words and the sounds of life the transfiguring Word of God, not to dress with false glory the glory of the One who is manifested in the scandal of the Cross and to proclaim the Love of the One who gives himself to the world to transform it with his mercy.
Patristic Reading
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
On the words of the gospel, Mt 17,1 “After six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter, and James, and John his brother,” etc.

  1. We must now look into and treat of that vision which the Lord showed on the mount. For it is this of which He had said, “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man in His Kingdom.”1 Then began the passage which has just been read. “When He had said this, after six days He took three disciples, Peter, and James, and John, and went up into a mountain.”2 These three were those” some,” of whom He had said, “There be some here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man in His kingdom.” There is no small difficulty here. For that mount was not the whole extent of His kingdom.3 What is a mountain to Him who possesseth the heavens? Which we not only read He doth, but in some sort see it with the eyes of the heart. He calleth that His kingdom, which in many places He calleth the “kingdom of heaven.” Now the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of the saints. “For the heavens declare the glory of God.”4 And of these heavens it is immediately said in the Psalm, “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.”5 Whose words, but of the heavens? And of the Apostles, and all faithful preachers of the word of God. These heavens therefore shall reign together with Him who made the heavens. Now consider what was done, that this might be made manifest.


  1. The Lord Jesus Himself shone bright as the sun; His raiment became white as the snow; and Moses and Elias talked with Him.6 Jesus Himself indeed shone as the sun, signifying that “He is the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”7 What this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is He to the eyes of the heart; and what that is to the flesh of men, that is He to their hearts. Now His raiment is His Church. For if the raiment be not held together by him who puts it on, it will fall off. Of this raiment, Paul was as it were a sort of last border. For he says himself, “I am the least of the Apostles.”8 And in another place, “I am the last of the Apostles.” Now in a garment the border is the last and least part. Wherefore as that woman which suffered from an issue of blood, when she had touched the Lord’s border was made whole,9 so the Church which came from out of the Gentiles, was made whole by the preaching of Paul. What wonder if the Church is signified by white raiment, when you hear the Prophet Isaiah saying, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow”?10 Moses and Elias, that is, the Law and the Prophets, what avail they, except they converse with the Lord? Except they give witness to the Lord, who would read the Law or the Prophets? Marc how briefly the Apostle expresses this; “For by the Law is the knowledge of sin; but now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested:” behold the sun; “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,”11 behold the shining of the Sun.


  1. Peter sees this, and as a man savouring the things of men says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”12 He had been wearied with the multitude, he had found now the mountain’s solitude; there he had Christ the Bread of the soul. What! should he depart thence again to travail and pains, possessed of a holy love to Godward, and thereby of a good conversation? He wished well for himself; and so he added, “If Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” To this the Lord made no answer; but notwithstanding Peter was answered. “For while he yet spake, a bright cloud came, and overshadowed them.”13 He desired three tabernacles; the heavenly answer showed him that we have One, which human judgment desired to divide. Christ, the Word of God, the Word of God in the Law, the Word in the Prophets. Why, Peter, dost thou seek to divide them? It were more fitting for thee to join them. Thou seekest three; understand that they are but One.


  1. As the cloud then overshadowed them, and in a way made one tabernacle for them, “a voice also sounded out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son.” Moses was there; Elias was there; yet it was not said, “These are My beloved sons.” For the Only Son is one thing; adopted sons another. He was singled out14 in whom the Law and the prophets glorified. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!” Because ye have heard Him in the Prophets, and ye have heard Him in the Law. And where have ye not heard Him? “When they heard this, they fell” to the earth. See then in the Church is exhibited to us the Kingdom of God. Here is the Lord, here the Law and the Prophets; but the Lord as the Lord; the Law in Moses, Prophecy in Elias; only they as servants and as ministers. They as vessels: He as the fountain: Moses and the Prophets spake, and wrote; but when they poured out, they were filled from Him.


  1. But the Lord stretched out His hand, and raised them as they lay. And then “they saw no man, save Jesus only.”15 What does this mean? When the Apostle was being read, you heard, “For now we see through a glass darkly,but then face to face.”16 And “tongues shall cease,” when that which we now hope for and believe shall come. In then that they fell to the earth, they signified that we die, for it was said to the flesh, “Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return.”17 But when the Lord raised them up, He signified the resurrection. After the resurrection, what is the Law to thee? what Prophecy? Therefore neither Moses nor Elias is seen. He only remaineth to thee, “Who in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”18 He remaineth to thee, “that God may be all in all.” Moses will be there; but now no more the Law. We shall see Elias there too; but now no more the Prophet. For the Law and the Prophets have only given witness to Christ, that it behoved Him to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day, and to enter into His glory. And in this glory is fulfilled what He hath promised to them that love Him, “He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him.”19 And as if it were said, What wilt Thou give him, seeing Thou wilt love him? “And I will manifest Myself unto him.” Great gift! great promise! God doth not reserve for thee as a reward anything of His own, but Himself. O thou covetous one; why doth not what Christ promiseth suffice thee? Thou dost seem to thyself to be rich; yet if thou have not God, what hast thou? Another is poor, yet if he hath God, what hath he not?


  1. Come down, Peter: thou wast desiring to rest on the mount; come down, “preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”20 Endure, labour hard, bear thy measure of torture; that thou mayest possess what is meant by the white raiment of the Lord, through the brightness and the beauty of an upright labouring in charity. For when the Apostle was being read we heard in praise of charity, “She seeketh not her own.21 She seeketh not her own;” since she gives what she possesses. In another place there is more danger in the expression, if you do not understand it right. For the Apostle, charging the faithful members of Christ after this rule of charity, says, “Let no man seek his own, but another’s.”22 For on hearing this, covetousness is ready with its deceits, that in a matter of business under pretence of seeking another’s, it may defraud a man, and so, “seek not his own, but another’s.” But let covetousness restrain itself, let justice come forth; so let us hear and understand. It is to charity that it is said, “Let no man seek his own, but another’s.” Now, O thou covetous one, if thou wilt still resist, and twist the precept rather to this point, that thou shouldest covet what is another’s; then lose what is thine own. But as I know thee weIl, thou dost wish to have both thine own and another’s. Thou wilt commit fraud that thou mayest have what is another’s; submit then to robbery that thou mayest lose thine own. Thou dost not wish to seek thine own, but then thou takest away what is another’s. Now this if thou do, thou doest not well. Hear and listen, thou covetous one: the Apostle explains to thee in another place more clearly this that he said, “Let no man seek his own, but another’s.” He says of himself, “Not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”23 This Peter understood not yet when he desired to live on the mount with Christ. He was reserving this for thee, Peter, after death. But now He saith Himself, “Come down, to labour in the earth; in the earth to serve, to be despised, and crucified in the earth. The Life came down, that He might be slain; the Bread came down, that He might hunger; the Way came down, that life might be wearied in the way; the Fountain came down, that He might thirst; and dost thou refuse to labour? ‘Seek not thine own.’ Have charity, preach the truth; so shall thou come to eternity, where thou shalt find security.”

1 (Mt 16,28
2 (Mt 17,1 Lc 9,28
3 Reguum comprehensum.
4 (Ps 19,1
5 (Ps 19,3-4.
6 (Mt 17,2-3.
7 (Jn 1,9
8 (1Co 15,9
9 (Mc 5,34
10 (Is 1,18
11 (Rm 3,20-21.
12 (Mt 17,4
13 (Mt 17,5).
14 Commendabatur.
15 (Mt 17,7-8.
16 (1Co 13,12
17 (Gn 3,19 Sept.
18 (Jn 1,1
19 (Jn 14,21
20 (2Tm 4,2
21 (1Co 13,5
22 (1Co 10,24
23 (1Co 10,33).

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Mgr Francesco Follo

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