The Vatican

Pope Francis: "Lent is a journey of personal transfiguration".

Pope Francis on Friday morning launched his message for Lent 2023. In it, he focused on the passage about the Transfiguration of the Lord, narrated by Matthew, Luke and Mark. "In this event," the Pope said, "we see the response that the Lord gave to his disciples when they manifested incomprehension toward him."

Paloma López Campos-February 17, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

A crown of thorns at a church in Dunkirk (OSV News photo/CNS file, Bob Roller).

 Pope Francis invited in his message for the Lent 2023 to contemplate the passage of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This episode shows Christ's response to the incomprehension of the disciples. In fact, it is preceded by "a real confrontation between the Master and Simon Peter, who, after professing his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, rejected his proclamation of the passion and the cross".

The passage of the Transfiguration is read every year on the second Sunday of Lent. This is a liturgical season during which "the Lord takes us to himself and leads us to a place apart". The Pope recalled in his message that "even when our daily commitments oblige us to remain where we usually are, living an often repetitive and sometimes boring daily life, during Lent we are invited to "climb a high mountain" together with Jesus, to live with the Holy People of God a particular experience of asceticism".

Lenten ascesis

This experience of asceticism, Francis continued, "is a commitment, always animated by grace, to overcome our lack of faith and our reluctance to follow Jesus on the way of the cross". It is a necessary path "to deepen our knowledge of the Master, to fully understand and accept the mystery of divine salvation, realized in the total gift of self out of love".

The Pope also mentioned the relationship between this ascent and the synodal experience. Thus, he said that "it is necessary to set out on a journey, a journey uphill, which requires effort, sacrifice and concentration, like a mountain hike. These requirements are also important for the synodal journey which, as Church, we have committed ourselves to undertake".

Sharing life experience

Francis invited the faithful to see in the passage of the Transfiguration a symbol of shared experience. "In the "retreat" on Mount Tabor, Jesus took with him three disciples, chosen to be witnesses of a unique event. He wanted that experience of grace not to be solitary, but shared, as is, after all, our whole life of faith."

Again, the Pope took the opportunity to apply these same ideas to the Synodal Way that the Church is living. He pointed out that "analogously to the ascent of Jesus and his disciples to Mount Tabor, we can affirm that our Lenten journey is "synodal" because we walk it together along the same path, disciples of the one Master. We know, in fact, that He himself is the Camino And so, both in the liturgical journey and in that of the Synod, the Church does nothing but enter ever more fully and profoundly into the mystery of Christ the Savior".

Synodal Way and Lent

On Mount Tabor, the hopes that appear throughout the Old Testament are fulfilled. The Pope said that "the newness of Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and the promises; it is inseparable from God's history with his people and reveals its profound meaning. In a similar way, the synodal journey is rooted in the tradition of the Church and, at the same time, open to novelty. Tradition is a source of inspiration to seek new paths, avoiding the opposite temptations of immobility and improvised experimentation".

Francis indicated that this liturgical season has a very concrete objective: "the Lenten ascetical journey, like the synodal journey, has as its goal a personal and ecclesial transfiguration. A transformation that, in both cases, finds its model in that of Jesus and is realized through the grace of his paschal mystery".

Pathways to personal transformation

With the aim of helping in that change that must occur both within ourselves and in the Church, the Holy Father proposed two ways "to ascend together with Jesus and arrive with Him at the goal".

The first of these is related to the "imperative that God the Father addressed to the disciples on Tabor, as they contemplated Jesus transfigured. The voice that was heard from the cloud said: "Listen to him". Therefore, the first indication is very clear: listen to Jesus. Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to the One who speaks to us".

To listen to Jesus, we must go to the liturgy, but "if we cannot always participate in the Mass, let us meditate on the daily biblical readings, even with the help of the internet. On the other hand, the Pope indicated, "listening to Christ also involves listening to our brothers and sisters in the Church; that mutual listening which in some phases is the main objective, and which, in any case, is always indispensable in the method and style of a synodal Church".

The second key offered by Francis was that of "not taking refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events, of suggestive experiences, for fear of facing reality with its daily hardships, its difficulties and its contradictions. The light that Jesus shows to the disciples is a foretaste of the Easter glory and we must go towards it, following "Him alone".

The Pope concluded his message by asking "that the Holy Spirit may encourage us during this Lenten season in our climb with Jesus, so that we may experience his divine radiance and thus, strengthened in faith, we may continue together on the way with him, the glory of his people and the light of the nations."

Poster for Lent 2023 by the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development
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