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Archbishop Follo: The way of the Cross as the path to Transfiguration.

With the invitation to look at Christ transfigured because «what for the eyes of the body is the sun we see, it is [Christ] for the eyes of the heart»(St Augustin, Sermo 78, 2: PL 38, 490).

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Second Sunday of Lent – Year C- March 17th, 2019
Roman Rite
GN 15:5-12, 17-18; PS 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14; PHIL 3:17—4:1; LK 9:28B-36
The Gospel of the Transfiguration
Ambrosian Rite
Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
DT 6a:11, 18-28; Ps 118: GAL 6:1-10; John 4:5-42
1) The way of the cross is transfiguring.
Today’s Gospel traces the Lenten journey, making us climb with Christ on Mount Tabor to participate in his transfiguration by praying. For the Christian, praying is not escaping from reality and from the responsibilities that it entails, but taking them to the end, trusting in the faithful and inexhaustible love of the Lord. For this reason, the verification of the Transfiguration is, in a way that is absurd to us, the «disfigurement» of Jesus during the passion. In his now near passion, Jesus will experience mortal anguish and his face will be disfigured, but He will entrust himself to the will of the Father. In the hours of agony, the Redeemer’s prayer will be a pledge of salvation for all. Christ, in fact, will beg the heavenly Father to «deliver him from the dead» and, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes, «was heard for his piety» (5: 7). The Easter of resurrection is proof of this fulfillment.
On the journey to the Easter of Christ and with Christ, the Roman liturgy of the Second Sunday of Lent makes us climb Mount Tabor where Jesus changed in appearance in front of Peter, James, and John. The three apostles received the gift of seeing Jesus “transfigured” in the splendor of his divinity so that they would be able to bear the sight of the Master “disfigured” by the Passion that is the required condition of the Resurrection of the Redeemer whose passionate love recreates and redeems.
However, I think that Jesus did not want only to prepare his disciples to his and their passion. Jesus transfiguration reveals what He already is, the Son of God, in order to indicate one of the main characteristics of the disciple: the ability to listen. God testifies that Christ Jesus is his Son” This is my chosen Son; listen to him” (Lk 9:35-36) Why? Because the disciple that listen to Jesus changes in appearance, the one who listens to Christ becomes like Christ. To listen to Christ is to live of Christ, to live the Son’s life. By listening to the Word our life is transformed into the life of sons and daughters of God. It is essential to listen to him in his Word, guarded in the Sacred Scripture and proposed by the liturgy. In fact, » The pages of the Bible cease to be writings and become living words, spoken by God. It is God, who through the reader, speaks to us and questions us, we who listen with faith. The Spirit “who has spoken through the prophets” (Creed) and has inspired the sacred authors makes the Word of God that “we hear outwardly have its effect inwardly”. (Pope Francis, 31 January 2018).
    In this period of Lent, let’s be devoted to listening to Christ so that we can have a pure heart and a wise mind, and to listening to Him in His Word, which daily is announced and broken in our communities. If we listen to Him, we feed ourselves with a food rich enough to sustain us through the journey toward the Easter of the Resurrected, who is Beauty, Goodness and Truth. Let’s persevere to be “listeners of the Word” and not of chatters and noises. Let’s listen to the Word of God with attention, let’s contemplate it fully, then let’s take it down from the mountain and bring it among men. The disciple takes this Word transfigured by the light that on Christ’s face is like the sun, and on his dresses is white like snow (Mt 17,2). Christianity is the religion of light. The Word who became flesh is the light that illuminates every man and every woman. It is mystic light at Nazareth at the annunciation, light in Bethlehem with angels and the star, light at the Jordan River with the dove of the Spirit, light on Mount Tabor, light at Easter and light of eternity.

  • Not three tents but only one.

Choosing the Gospel of the Transfiguration, the Church invites us to restore our fragile and tired faith with the energy of the light. God gives us a foretaste, but we must give Him upfront credit without limits like Abraham who trusted God’s promise bringing into play his own existence.
We are like these three friends of Jesus to whom He gives comfort saying “Be brave, have faith, get up and don’t be afraid, I’ve conquered the world” (John 16, 33).
We, like Peter, are confused (“he did not know what he was saying.”) and full of fear (the three apostles  “became frightened”), but let’s listen in silence (“They fell silent”) to the Word of the Father who gives the affectionate command “Listen to Him”.
We, like Peter, can say “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Like him, we would like to prolong the peace which comes from the encounter with Christ contemplated in his light.
     Saint Peter was fascinated by that vision and, saying “it is good that we are here”, let us grasp the reasons of what is a dimension of the Christian life in this world: meditation. Meditation is not the prayer in which we ask for something from God. Instead, it is the prayer used to admire His wonders, to recognize His greatness and His limitless goodness, to praise Him and to thank Him for what He has given to us and for what he assures He will give us.
Contemplation is the prayer that becomes sight. If we set aside time to contemplate Christ, the Father covers us with His light and this light radiates from us on all the others.
If we want the experience of light to remain in us, we must not plant tents for Christ. We must be tents in which He can stay and transfigure us by being part of his Cross and his Resurrection. “It is necessary namely that you at first to be made associate of the suffering thus after a while you may be able to participate of his glory. There He himself will welcome you and his men into imperishable tents. There truly you will not prepare three tends one for Christ, one for  Moses, and one for  of Elijah, but only one tent for the Father, the Son  and the Holy Spirit and the tent you will prepare is you. Then God will be all things in us all (Cor. 15); when, as we read in Apocalypse, the tent of God will be by men, and they will be (Apoc. 21) his people and he will be God-with them (Apoc. 21. 3)” (Peter the Venerable, Sermon pour la Transfiguration )

  • The Samaritan woman

The liturgy of Lent brightens the figure of Jesus so that every Christian is confronted by His presence and can follow Him. The Roman rite does it with the solemnity of transfiguration; the Ambrosian liturgy proposes the daily life of the Samaritan woman who goes to the well to draw water. The previous Sunday it had invited us to meditate the “littleness’ of Zacchaeus.
To meet the Publican, Christ “had” to go through Jericho; to meet the Samaritan woman, he “had” to go through Samaria. That was due not to the geography of the Holy Land but to the geography of charity that has roads required by the Way of the Cross.
To go to Jerusalem where the Cross was waiting for Him, Jesus was “forced” to go through the region that divided Galilee from Judea, a land inhabited by people that the other Jews considered infidels and traitors because they did not want to make sacrifices in Jerusalem, had built a Temple in Gerizim and had not accepted Nehemiah’s reform.
Jesus loved the Samaritan people. He healed one of them who was a leper and the only one among the other ten lepers who came back to give Him thanks. It was a Samaritan man who had helped the man robbed and wounded by thieves. It is a Samaritan woman He waits for at Jacob’s well.  Samaritan is Jesus (for this and the two sentences, see Primo Mazzolari “The Samaritan woman”, Brescia 1943). In fact, one day his countrymen had said to Him “Are we not right to say that you are a Samaritan?” (John 8:53)  Jesus had transformed this accusation in a synonym of “charitable man”.
All of us are called to live this period of Lent announcing the gospel of love with the concreteness of the Samaritan, who is a good man because he was compassionate and willing to enter in a brotherly relationship with the needy. In a love that opens to the other every man can find complete realization and give meaning to life.
This is particularly valid for the Consecrated Virgins called to draw from Christ’s heart the love true and pure that quenches thirst and transfigures.
The consecrated virgins, like the good Samaritans, are called to transfigure the earth with a charity that cannot be bought. It is a charity that can only be asked for, received and shared.
In their prayer let these women, totally dedicated to Christ, say “Groom of salvation, hope to the ones who praise You, Christ God, grant us to find in our union with You without sin, like the virgins, the everlasting crown” to share in the humble service to our neighbor. ( Romanus Melodus, Hymns, Turin 2002, page 318). These consecrated women, on the one hand, «show the love of the Bride Church for the Eucharist also in the prayer of adoration of the Eucharistic Body of the Lord», on the other hand, as good Samaritans «draw from Christ the active charity towards the members of his Mystical body «(Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction on the Ordo Virginum, Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, No. 32).
Patristic Reading
Saint Augustine of Hippo, “Tractate 15 (John 4:1-42)”

  1. And there came a woman. Figure of the Church not yet justified, but now about to be justified: for this is the subject of the discourse. She comes ignorant, she finds Him, and there is a dealing with her. Let us see what, and wherefore. There comes a woman of Samaria to draw water. The Samaritans did not belong to the nation of the Jews: they were foreigners, though they inhabited neighboring lands. It would take a long time to relate the origin of the Samaritans; that we may not be detained by long discourse of this, and leave necessary matters unsaid, suffice to say, then, that we regard the Samaritans as aliens. And, lest you should think that I have said this with more boldness than truth, hear the Lord Jesus Himself, what He said of that Samaritan, one of the ten lepers whom He had cleansed, who alone returned to give thanks: Were there not ten cleansed? And where are the nine? There was not another to give glory to God, save this stranger. Luke 17:17 It is pertinent to the image of the reality, that this woman, who bore the type of the Church, comes of strangers: for the Church was to come of the Gentiles, an alien from the race of the Jews. In that woman, then, let us hear ourselves, and in her acknowledge ourselves, and in her give thanks to God for ourselves. For she was the figure, not the reality; for she both first showed forth the figure and became the reality. For she believed on Him who, of her, set the figure before us. She comes, then, to draw water. Had simply come to draw water, as people are wont to do, be they men or women.
  2. Jesus says unto her, Give me to drink. For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy meat. Then says the Samaritan woman unto Him, How is it that you, being a Jew, ask drink of me, who am a Samaritan woman? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. You see that they were aliens: indeed, the Jews would not use their vessels. And as the woman brought with her a vessel with which to draw the water, it made her wonder that a Jew sought drink of her—a thing which the Jews were not accustomed to do. But He who was asking drink was thirsting for the faith of the woman herself.
  3. Nevertheless, let us not overlook the fact that it is something spiritual that the Lord was promising. What means, Whoso shall drink of this water shall thirst again? It is true as to this water; it is true as to what the water signified. Since the water in the well is the pleasure of the world in its dark depth: from this men draw it with the vessel of lusts. Stooping forward, they let down the lust to reach the pleasure fetched from the depth of the well, and enjoy the pleasure and the preceding lust let down to fetch it. For he who has not dispatched his lust in advance cannot get to the pleasure. Consider lust, then, as the vessel; and pleasure as the water from the depth of the well: when one has got at the pleasure of this world, it is meat to him, it is drink, it is a bath, a show, an amour; can it be that he will not thirst again? Therefore, Whoso shall drink of this water, says He, will thirst again; but if he shall receive water of me, he shall never thirst. We shall be satisfied, it says, with the good things of Your house. Of what water, then, is He to give, but of that of which it is said, With You is the fountain of life? For how shall they thirst, who shall be drunk with the fatness of Your house?
  4. What He was promising them was a certain feeding and abundant fullness of the Holy Spirit: but the woman did not yet understand; and not understanding, how did she answer? The woman says unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Want forced her to labor, and her weakness was pleading against the toil. Would that she heard the invitation, Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you! Matthew 11:28 This is, in fact, what Jesus was saying to her, that she might no longer labor: but she did not yet understand.
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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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