VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters,
Here in the Apostolic Palace yesterday we concluded the customary retreat that is held in the Vatican at the beginning of Lent. My coworkers in the Roman Curia and I have spent the days in recollection and intense prayer, reflecting on the priestly vocation in sync with the Year for Priests that the Church is celebrating. I thank those who were near to us spiritually.
On this second Sunday of Lent the liturgy is dominated by the event of the Transfiguration, which in St. Luke’s Gospel immediately follows the Master’s invitation: “If anyone wants to follow me, he must renounce himself, take up his cross every day and follow me!” (Luke 9:23). This extraordinary event is an encouragement in following Jesus.
Luke does not speak of transfiguration but describes what happened through two elements: the countenance of Jesus that changes and his vestments, which become dazzling white in the presence of Moses and Elijah, symbol of the Law and the Prophets. The three disciples who witness the scene are heavy with sleep: It is the attitude of those who, although spectators of divine prodigies, do not understand them. Only the struggle against the torpor that assails them allows Peter, James and John to “see” Jesus’ glory. The pace is driving: as Moses and Elijah depart from Jesus, Peter speaks, and while he is speaking, a cloud covers him and the other disciples with its shadow; it is a cloud that, although it conceals also reveals God’s glory, as happened for the people of Israel on pilgrimage through the desert. The eyes can no longer see, but the ears can hear the voice that comes from the cloud: “This is my Son, my chosen one; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).
The disciples are no longer before a transfigured face, nor before a dazzling garment, nor a cloud that reveals the divine presence. Before their eyes there is “only Jesus” (9:36). Jesus is alone before his Father as he prays, but at the same time, Jesus is everything that is given to the disciples of all times: It is what must suffice on the journey. He is the only voice to listen to, the only one to follow, he who, going up to Jerusalem, will give his life and one day “will transfigure our miserable body to conform it to his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
“Master, it is good for us to be here” (John 9:33): These are Peter’s ecstatic words, which often resemble our desire before the Lord’s consolations. But the Transfiguration reminds us that the joys sown by God in our life are not the destination, but they are lights that he gives us on the earthly pilgrimage, so that “only Jesus” is our Law and his Word the criterion that guides our existence.
During this time of Lent I invite everyone to meditate assiduously on the Gospel. Furthermore, I hope in this Year of the Priest that pastors “are truly filled by the Word of God, that they know it in truth, that they love it to the point that it really gives them life and forms their thought” (Homily for the Chrism Mass, April 9, 2009). May the Virgin Mary help us to live with intensity our moments of encounter with the Lord so that we can follow him every day with joy. To her we turn our gaze, invoking upon her with the prayer of the Angelus.
[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]
I heard with deep sadness the tragic news of the recent killings of some Christians in the city of Mosul and I followed with much concern the other episodes of violence, perpetrated in the martyred land of Iraq, which have harmed defenseless persons of various religious affiliations. In these days of intense recollection I often prayed for all the victims of those attacks and today I would like to join myself spiritually in prayer for peace and the restoration of security promoted by the council of bishops at Nineveh. I am affectionately near to the Christians communities of the whole country. Do not weary of being a ferment for good for the homeland to which, for centuries, you have rightfully belonged!
In the delicate political phase that Iraq is passing through I call upon the civil authorities that they do everything possible to restore security to the population and, especially to the most vulnerable religious minorities. It is my wish that they do not given in to the temptation to allow the temporary and special interests prevail over the safety and the fundamental rights of every citizen. Finally, as I greet the Iraqis present here in the piazza, I exhort the international community to do its best to give the Iraqis a future of reconciliation and justice, while I ask with confidence from God almighty the precious gift of peace.
My thought goes out also to Chile and the populations affected by the earthquake, which caused numerous losses of human life and much damage. I pray for the victims and am spiritually near to the persons tried by so grave a calamity; for them I implore from God relief from suffering and courage in these adversities. I am certain that they will not lack the solidarity of many, especially of ecclesial organizations.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[In English he said:]
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus prayer, especially the group of priests from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. On this Second Sunday of Lent the voice of our Heavenly Father instructs us to listen to Jesus, the beloved Son of God. May our Lenten journey continue to dispose our hearts to Christ and to his saving truth. Upon all of you I invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings of strength and peace!