Pope Francis takes his inspiration from the Gospel account of the Transfiguration, proclaimed each year on the Second Sunday of Lent, he said: “During this liturgical season, the Lord takes us with him to a place apart. While our ordinary commitments compel us to remain in our usual places and our often repetitive and sometimes boring routines, during Lent we are invited to ascend “a high mountain” in the company of Jesus and to live a particular experience of spiritual discipline – ascesis – as God’s holy people.”
He pointed out: “Lenten penance is a commitment, sustained by grace, to overcome our lack of faith and our resistance to following Jesus on the way of the cross…. We need to set out on the journey, an uphill path that, like a mountain trek, requires effort, sacrifice and concentration. These requisites are also important for the synodal journey to which, as a Church, we are committed to making. We can benefit greatly from reflecting on the relationship between Lenten penance and the synodal experience.”
Like the journey of the disciples up Mount Tabor, Pope Francis acknowledges that the synodal process can seem arduous and lead to discouragement. Yet, he says “what awaits us at the end is undoubtedly something wondrous and amazing, which will help us to understand better God’s will and our mission in the world.”
In order to reach our goal of personal and ecclesial transformation or conversion, Pope Francis proposes two paths inspired by the Transfiguration of Jesus.
“The first path has to do – The Pope said – with the command that God the Father addresses to the disciples on Mount Tabor as they contemplate Jesus transfigured. The voice from the cloud says: “Listen to him” (Mt 17:5). The first proposal, then, is very clear: we need to listen to Jesus. Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to him as he speaks to us. And how does he speak to us? First, in the word of God, which the Church offers us in the liturgy.”
He continued: “ In addition to the Scriptures, the Lord speaks to us through our brothers and sisters, especially in the faces and the stories of those who are in need. Let me say something else, which is quite important for the synodal process: listening to Christ often takes place in listening to our brothers and sisters in the Church. Such mutual listening in some phases is the primary goal, but it remains always indispensable in the method and style of a synodal Church.”
Pope Francis said that the second proposal for this Lent is “not take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events and dramatic experiences, out of fear of facing reality and its daily struggles, its hardships and contradictions. The light that Jesus shows the disciples is an anticipation of Easter glory, and that must be the goal of our own journey, as we follow “him alone”.
Finally, the Pope underlines:” Lent leads to Easter: the ‘retreat’ is not an end in itself, but a means of preparing us to experience the Lord’s passion and cross with faith, hope and love, and thus to arrive at the resurrection. Also on the synodal journey, when God gives us the grace of certain powerful experiences of communion, we should not imagine that we have arrived – for there too, the Lord repeats to us: “Rise, and do not be afraid”. Let us go down, then, to the plain, and may the grace we have experienced strengthen us to be “artisans of synodality” in the ordinary life of our communities.”
(Photo: Pope Francis in Juba – South Sudan. Vatican Media)