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Missionary reflection  on Sunday Liturgy

Every week EUNTES.NET offers to lay, religious people and priests an itinerary of reflections on the Sunday Liturgy in a missionary prespective. These are elements for a missionary meditation, individual or in community, on the Word of God , which constantly and surprisingly continues to enlighten, strengthen and sustain the missionary journey of the Church, for the life of the World

The ‘transfigured’ Face does not want ‘disfigured’ faces
II Sunday of Lent
Year A - Sunday 16.3.2014


Genesis  12:1-4a
Psalm  32
2 Timothy  1:8b-10
Matthew  17:1-9

Today’s entrance antiphon:

Seek his face. I do seek your face, O Lord. Do not hide your face from me(Ps 27:8-9).

 The Transfiguration of Jesus is a new step in the journey to discover the identity of Jesus and his mission. Last Sunday, that identity was revealed in the episode of the Temptations. On the second Sunday of Lent there is another habitual appointment: the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor (Gospel). The event occurs six days later “(v. 1), that is, after the encounter at Caesarea Philippi (with the profession of faith of Peter, the promise of his leadership, the first announcement of the passion: Mt 16:13-28). Each of these events adds important features in the composition of the true face of Christ, as we pray in the entrance antiphon makes: Seek his face. I do seek your face, O Lord. Do not hide your face from me(Ps 27:8-9).

response to this urgent appeal comes from a high mountain(v. 1), where Jesus was transfigured in front of three chosen disciples: His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light” (v. 2). The light does not come from outside, but comes from within the person of Jesus. In fact, Luke, in a parallel text, points out that “Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and while He was praying, his face was changed” (Lk 9:28-29). It is from the relationship with the Father that Jesus is interiorly transformed: his total identification with the Father shines in his face (see Jn 4:34; 14:11).

Jesus does not seek for himself a moment of self-glorification; Jesus wants his disciples to better discover his identity and his mission. To this end, a manifestation of the Holy Trinity is accomplished on the mountain, through three signs: the voice, the light and the cloud. The voice of the Father proclaims Jesus as his Son, the beloved. Listen to him(v. 5); the light comes from the body of the Son Jesus; the cloud is the symbol of the presence of the Spirit. Precisely in that context of glory, which is the anticipation of his Passover, Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah of “his departure, which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Lk 9:31). Prayer, revelation and contemplation of the Trinity, passion and glorification…: now the disciples are able to understand more about the personality of their Master. And here an invitation to each one of us: that we may find a time  -possibly quite long-  to contemplate the attractive face of Jesus, until we may say, as Peter did: “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here” (v. 4).

The Transfiguration occurred while Jesus was praying: his face was changed” (Lk 9:28-29). True prayer is never escapism. For Jesus, prayer was a moment of strong identification with the Father and His plan of salvation. Prayer has the capacity to transform the life of the Christian;

it is the unique basic experience of the mission. Prayer has its most real expression when it flows into the service of others in need. This is the missionary dimension of prayer

that Pope Benedict XVI underlined in a profound Lenten catechesis. (*)

The proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus necessarily implies a strong commitment to the defence and promotion of the most vulnerable people, whose human dignity is often scarred and disfigured by so many forms of violence, exploitation, neglect, hunger, disease, ignorance...

                                (See the Latin-American bishops, in the Puebla document of 1979; No. 31-43).

Any defacement of human dignity is contrary to the plan of God, the Father of Life! On this vocation to life and to grace rests the dignity of every human person, whose face must not suffer disfigurement for any reason whatsoever. Wherever there is a defaced or disfigured human face,

the presence of the Church and the missionaries of the Gospel is imperative and urgent! The attractive face of Jesus in histransfiguration’ does not want some brothers and sisters to have ‘disfigured faces’. That is why missionary work comes close to people who suffer, touching and healing the wounds  -both in body and soul-  of those who are in pain, as Pope Francis teaches us constantly.

By a happy coincidence, on March 15th we remember the ‘birthday’ of Saint Daniel Comboni (1831-1881), an Italian missionary bishop in central Africa. He is the founder of the “Comboni Missionaries”, a modest missionary Institute, to which Fr. Rocco and I belong. Please, allow me to spend a few words on this
missionary saint who struggled against slavery and any other form of disfiguration of human dignity. “Africa or death!”- “Save Africa by Africans!” were his mottos. He spent his life making “common cause” for the sake of the African Continent. By contemplating the transfigured face of Christ and His pierced Heart, Daniel Comboni found the strength to take care of African people disfigured by violence, slavery, oppression…, curing their wounds, assuring them dignity, education and freedom.

Thanks to the work of generous evangelizers  -men and women, local and foreign-  many African people have been transformed by Baptism into people of God; and some of them have become shining faces of Jesus, who are growing among African Christians: lay people, nuns, priests, catechists, bishops, martyrs, blessed, saints… Brothers and sisters, let us be a part of missionary work. Because the transfigured Face of Christ does not want disfigured human faces.

The Pope’s words

 (*)  “Prayer is a guarantee of openness to others: whoever frees himself for God and his needs simultaneously opens himself to the other, to the brother or sister who knocks at the door of his heart and asks to be heard, asks for attention, forgiveness, at times correction, but always in fraternal charity. True prayer is never self-centred, it is always centred on the other. As such, it opens the person praying to the ecstasy of charity, to the capacity to go out of oneself to draw close to the other in humble, neighbourly service. True prayer is the driving force of the world since it keeps it open to God. For this reason without prayer there is no hope but only illusion. In fact, it is not God’s presence that alienates man but his absence… Speaking with God, dwelling in his presence, letting oneself be illuminated and purified by his Word introduces us, instead, into the heart of reality, into the very motor of becoming cosmic; it introduces us, so to speak, to the beating heart of the universe.”

Benedict XVI

Homily of Ash Wednesday, 06.02.2008

 In the steps of Missionaries

- 15/3: The birth-day of St. Daniel Comboni (1831-1881): he was born in Limone on Lake Garda (Prov. of Brescia) and died in Khartoum (Sudan) as the first Vicar Apostolic (Bishop) of Central Africa.
- 17/3: St. Patrick (385-461), born in England, he was the great missionary and evangeliser to Ireland. He was the Bishop of Armagh and is patron of Ireland.
- 18/3: St. Cyril (+386), Bishop of Jerusalem and famous for his catecheses; he suffered frequent persecution from the Arians.
- 19/3: St. Joseph, the “just man” (Mt 1:19), husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus. He is Patron of the Universal Church.
- 20/3: Bl. Francis Palau y Quer (1811-1872), member of the Discalced Carmelites; he suffered frequent persecution, was a Founder and preached missions to the people.
- 21/3: International Day (UN) for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
- 22/3: World Water Day, instituted by UN in 1993.
Compiled by Fr. Romeo.Ballan, MCCJ – Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. Henry Redaelli, MCCJ
Website: “The Word for Mission