The Transfiguration of Christ transfigures the human gaze making it capable of seeing the presence of God in the flesh of the Crucifix.

Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, February 25, 2024. Second Sunday of lent

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Mons. Francesco Follo

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 02.22.2024).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, February 25, 2024. Second Sunday of lent

1) Temptation and Transfiguration.

On the first Sunday of Lent, we have contemplated Christ overcoming the test of hunger. It was not just a corporal hunger. Like every human being Jesus had three hungers:

  1. hunger for life, which tempts man to have and to acquire a disproportionate quantity of material goods. This is why the devil asked him to turn stones into bread;
  2. hunger for human relationships, which can be of friendship or power. The devil tempts Christ to satisfy this hunger by offering him power;
  3. hunger for omnipotence. This hunger pushes us to stifle the desire of God and the yearning for boundless infinity and freedom. It induces the temptation to design one’s own existence according to the human criteria of ease, success, power, and appearance, and to yield to the worship of the Liar (the devil) instead of to the adoration of the true providential Love.

The Messiah defeated the temptation of these three hungers using, as a criterion of discernment, the fidelity to the project of God to which he fully adhered and of which He is the Word made flesh to redeem us.

Let us imitate the example of Christ “using” the Word of God as the instrument available to understand the will of God, and to overcome the temptation of the three hungers: the hunger of life, the hunger of love and power, and the hunger of relationships and of God. “When you are caught by the pangs of hunger – and we can also add of temptation – let the Word of God become your bread of life, let Christ be your Bread of Life” (St. Augustine of Hippo)

From the desert – the place of test, of rebellion and where the tempter and accuser lives (First Sunday of Lent) – let us go to the mountain of the transfiguration, the place of God’s manifestation, his revelation, and his holiness. This is the path that the second Sunday of Lent opens before us.

Today, from the desert, which recalls that human life is an exodus and a return home that passes through the desert, the place of trial and encounter with God, we arrive at Mount Tabor, the place of transfiguration. There, the shining truth of Christ is revealed to allow those who follow him to arrive at Easter not in spite of the Cross but through the Cross.

Jesus, in fact, tells us: “If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, take his cross and follow me” (Lk 9:23). He tells us that, to arrive with him to the light and joy of the resurrection and to the victory of life, love, and good, we too must take the cross every day, as a beautiful page of theImitation of Christ exhorts “Take therefore your cross and follow Jesus; thus, you will enter eternal life. He preceded you carrying his cross (Jn 19:17) and died for you so that you too may carry your cross and wish to be crucified. In fact, if you will be dead with him, with him and like him you will live. If you have been a companion in suffering, you will also be his companion in glory “(L. 2, paragraph 12, No. 2).

Therefore, let us meditate together the facts presented by these two Sundays because they anticipate the paschal mystery. The struggle of Jesus with the tempter anticipates 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 who shares with us even temptation. On the other, we contemplate him as Son of God who deifies our humanity.

2) Exodus of Transfiguration.

Today, the exodus, the path of liberation that we are called to fulfill, is the one of contemplation. Through contemplation, prayer becomes gaze, and our heart, which is the “center” of our soul, opens up to the light of Christ’s love.

In this way, we can understand the journey that the liturgy of this Sunday indicates to us: that of a pilgrim who carries out the exodus that leads him to the Promised Land, eternal Life with Christ.

It is a journey full of nostalgia, precariousness, and weakness, but also full of the hope of those who have the heart wounded by the beloved. It is full of light because “the ‘brightness’ that characterizes the extraordinary event of the transfiguration symbolizes its purpose: to illuminate the minds and hearts of the disciples so that they can clearly understand who their Master is. It is a flash of light that suddenly opens itself on the mystery of Jesus, and illuminates his whole person and his whole life “(Pope Francis).

It is true that to follow the Lord is to be crucified with Him. It is true that at every step the wounds of pain pierce our heart. Evil is true, sin is true, death is true. But the Transfiguration of everything is also true, and the beauty that surpasses and gives meaning to everything is true: “In the passion of Christ … the experience of beauty receives a new depth, a new realism. The One who is “Beauty in himself “ let himself be struck on his face, covered with spits, crowned with thorns … But in that disfigured face appears the authentic extreme Beauty of the Love that loves” to the end ” showing itself stronger than any lie and violence.

An example of how to grasp this transfigured beauty comes to us from the consecrated virgins. In a special way these women testify to three specific aspects of the Christian.

The first is to give themselves in complete abandonment to Christ because they lovingly trust his Love, “who does not hesitate to undress from external beauty to announce the Truth of Beauty” (Joseph Ratzinger). With their consecrated virginity, these women announce precisely the crucified beauty, the transfigured beauty, his beauty which is our true beauty.

The second is that of witnessing, in their life lived as virgin, the need to descend from the Mount to return to the evangelizing mission of the Lord, a mission that passes through the Cross and proclaims the Resurrection that is nothing else but the Transfiguration made eternal in the Humanity of the Lord.

The third is to show that listening is the main dimension of the disciple of Christ. Today’s Gospel tells: “This is my beloved Son: listen to him!” (Mk 9: 7).

In a world that has the habit of speaking so many words (it would be better saying: to chat), these women are constantly listening to the Word and, following the example of the Virgin Mary, become “virgins of listening and mothers of the Word”.

The Father asks each of us to be listener of the Word, whose words are words of life because, through the Cross, they purify from every dead work and unite to God and to the brothers.

This Word needs a place (our heart). It needs to go deep in it and to die there like a seed, to put root, to grow, to sprout and to resist the storms and bad weather like a house built on the Rock.

For it to be heard, this Word needs attention but also silence. Inner and outer silence are necessary for this word to be heard. This is a particularly difficult point for us in our time. In fact, ours is an age in which meditation is not encouraged; on the contrary, sometimes, one gets the impression that there is a fear of detaching himself, even for a moment, from the river of words and images that mark and fill the days.

The secluded life of the consecrated virgins shows how important it is to educate ourselves to the value of silence because with it we accept the Word of God in our personal and ecclesial life, valuing meditation and inner calm. Without silence one does not hear, one does not listen, one does not receive the Word and what it says. This observation of St. Augustine is always valid: Verba crescente, verba deficiunt – “When the Word of God grows, the words of man become less” (cf. Sermo 288: PL 38.1307; Sermo 120.2: PL38, 677).

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