My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
First of all, I wanted to share with you that this week — earlier this week — I had the privilege to concelebrate Mass with our Holy Father Pope Francis in his trip to Mexico, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico with a good number of the U.S. Bishops and also with the bishops from Mexico.
It was a beautiful, joyful, liturgical celebration of life and hope. And I was thinking that it was really one of those moments that you can really see that the Church is a beautiful family. So many thousands of people. There were probably about 300,000 people attending the Mass.
So many children and families traveling from all over Mexico and the United States to be with our Holy Father Pope Francis. And I had the blessing also of talking to him for a few minutes after Mass when he greeted each one of the bishops that was there. And of course, I assured him of our love and prayers for him and his ministry in the universal Church.
As I was attending the mass and being there with so many people and with our Holy Father Pope Francis, I was really feeling the beauty of, as I said, God’s family and the love of God for each one of us.
The Holy Father this morning, in Rome, he said that his apostolic visit to Mexico was an experience of transfiguration. And then he added, “The Lord has shown us the light of his glory, through the body of the Church. The body of his holy people.” And as he was talking to his trip to Mexico, “his holy people who live in that land.”
You know, this has always been the Church’s experience in this continent, in the American continent — ever since the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe first visited our people so long ago. Our Blessed Mother came as the mother of mercy and she gave us the gift of faith, the gift of Jesus. The gift of knowing God’s closeness, his desire to share in our humanity.
And this is the lesson, my dear brothers and sisters, that we find in our readings from Sacred Scripture today, for this second Sunday of Lent.
Our Gospel, as we just heard, is the glorious story of the Transfiguration. And this story tells us the great truth that our God is not someone far away, way up in the sky. No! Our God has come down to us. He meets with us on the mountain and in our lives, personally. Our God has a name, he has face, a human face. Our God is a divine person!
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So the Transfiguration is a beautiful moment in history when God reveals his face. We all want to know God. This is the universal longing of every man and every woman. We all want to know the One who made us, to know who he is, what he is like.
And in the Transfiguration we meet him, we meet God. The Gospel tells us — “his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.” It is a beautiful amazing scene. That’s why the apostles — St. Peter and the other two apostles — were so surprised. Jesus is revealed as the light of God, the glory of God. In his face we can see the face of God. And in his eyes, we can see the mystery of God’s love for us. For each one of us.
And in the Gospel, a cloud comes down on the mountain where Jesus and the apostles are. And the voice of God speaks from out of that cloud. This voice is speaking to you and to me, speaking to every man and woman in every time and place: “This is my chosen Son, listen to him.”
My dear brothers and sisters, this is the amazing reality of Christianity, the beautiful truth of our Catholic faith. God has a face, the face of his chosen Son. And God speaks to us through his Son.
So our religion is not a religion of words or rituals and customs. Our religion is a relationship of love with a divine Person. With the living God who has shown us his human face.
We need to reflect on this beautiful reality of our faith. It is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It is about the person, the second person of the Trinity, that took on human nature — perfect God and perfect man.
And then, the challenge for us is how to relate to Jesus. How to become friends with Jesus. Because that’s our faith, a personal encounter with Jesus.
So I’m sure that you noticed, that this moment of the Transfiguration took place when Jesus and his disciples were up on the mountain praying.
The Gospel says, “Jesus took Peter, John, and Jamesand went up the mountain to pray. When he was praying his face changed in appearance. …”
Jesus was praying! We can never forget that. He was setting an example for us. In our Christian lives, there is nothing more important than prayer.
Jesus prayed all the time. He began his days with prayer and ended his days with prayer. Sometimes we hear that he was praying deep into the night. He prayed before making decisions and before doing his works of mercy and healing.
Prayer, my dear brothers and sisters, is our beautiful privilege. We can talk to God, he is listening to us. Who could imagine it is possible to talk to God as friends, as children talking to our Father. But we can! We can speak to God and hear his voice in our hearts.
And that’s the secret to grow in friendship with Jesus Christ. To get to know him and to find a way, with the grace of God, to try to imitate him.
I’m sure you noticed that you noticed that prayer — talking to God and listening to God — in the first reading of today’s Mass. In that reading, we heard Abraham and God talking together normally, back and forth. Just talking, having a conversation. Abraham asking God questions and God responding with beautiful promises.
Making a covenant — God making a covenant with Abraham.
This is what it means to pray. It means having the confidence, the courage to talk to God and to ask him for light and guidance. It means having faith, trusting in God’s promises, his plan for our lives, as Abraham did.
That’s why this Lent, I’ve especially been talking and reflecting on the importance of prayer in our Christian lives. Because it’s so important. And Lent, this Lenten season that we have every year, it’s traditionally a special time for prayer and fasting and almsgiving. And all those practices go together. So let’s try to make a new effort to pray during this season of Lent, to especially reflect on how we can intensify our prayer life.
In a sense, we need to keep following Jesus “up the mountain” to pray. Just like the disciples in the Gospel. Because, my brothers and sisters, when we pray, we seek God’s face and we listen for his voice in the Gospel, in the Sacred Scriptures, in our relationships with one another.
Because prayer, as we contemplate in today’s passage of the Gospel, is not just being with God. The disciples were so happy that they wanted to stay there.
St. Peter is so amazed by what he has seen in the Transfiguration that he wants to stay there and build “three tents” — three little places — shrines— to be in the presence of God forever.
But Jesus says “no.” Jesus says we need to follow him back down the mountain and continue our encounter with God in the world. In our daily lives.
So the transfiguration shows us the face of God in Jesus Christ. And Jesus teaches us to see the face of God in the people we meet in the world. Because we are all made in the image of God.
When we follow Jesus, when we listen to him and learn from his example, more and more we gain “the mind of Christ.” We try to imitate him, as a I said before. And what do we see there? Love and mercy and service.
Jesus teaches us that we need to put our prayer into action — through works of mercy and works of peace and love; especially for our neighbors who are suffering injustice or sickness or poverty.
So you see, prayer is the key. When you get close to Jesus — talking to him, listening to him — then we can really love one another. And go out and listen to people, and talk to them, and help them and support them, and share with them the beauty in the face — merciful face of God.
So this week, as we continue on our Lenten journey, let us try to pray more. Let us try to really seek the face of God when we pray and seek to serve God in our neighbors.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary, Mother of Mercy, to help us always to seek the face of God and to show his merciful face to others, to our brothers and sisters.
1. Readings (Second Sunday of Lent, Year C): Gen. 15:5-12, 17-18; Ps. 27:1, 7-9, 13-14; Phil. 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36.