From the Library in the Apostolic Palace – instead of his habitual window in the papal apartments, to protect him from the coronavirus threat – Pope Francis on Sunday in the Angelus prayer expressed his “great apprehension” over the “inhuman situation” of Syrian refugees, as well as his “closeness” to sufferers of COVID-19 and their caregivers.

Full text of the Pope’s catechesis

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The Gospel of this second Sunday of Lent (Mt 17: 9-9) presents the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. He takes Peter, James and John with Him and climbs a high mountain, a symbol of closeness to God, to give them a fuller understanding of the mystery of His person, who will have to suffer, die and then rise again.

In fact, Jesus had started talking to them about the suffering, death and resurrection that awaited Him, but they could not accept that prospect. For this reason, on reaching the top of the mountain, Jesus immerses Himself into prayer and transfigures before the three disciples: “His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light” (v. 2).

Through the wonderful event of the Transfiguration, the three disciples are called to recognize in Jesus, the Son of God shining with glory.

Thus, they advance in the knowledge of their Master, realizing that the human aspect does not express His whole reality; in their eyes, the afterlife and divine dimension of Jesus is revealed.

And from above, a voice resounds that says: “This is my Son, my beloved […]. Listen to Him “(v. 5).

It is the heavenly Father who confirms the “investiture” of Jesus already made on the day of His Baptism in the Jordan and invites the disciples to listen and follow Him.

It should be emphasized that, in the midst of the group of the Twelve, Jesus chooses to take Peter, James and John with Him to Mount. He reserves for them the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration. Yet Peter, in the hour of trial, will deny Him; and the two brothers, James and John, will ask to have the first places in His Kingdom (Mt 20,20-23).

However, Jesus does not choose according to our criteria, but according to His plan of love.

It is a free, unconditional choice, a free initiative, a divine friendship that asks for nothing in return.

And as He called those three disciples, today also, He calls some to be close to him, in order to bear witness.

Being witnesses is a gift that we have not deserved: we feel inadequate, but we cannot hold back with our inability being our excuse.

We have not been to Mount Tabor, we have not seen with our eyes the face of Jesus shining like the sun. However, the Word of Salvation has also been given to us, faith has been given and we have experienced, in different ways, the joy of meeting with Jesus.

Jesus too says to us: “Stand up and do not be afraid” (Mt 17, 7).

In this world, marked by selfishness and greed, the light of God is clouded by everyday concerns. We often say: I don’t have time to pray, I am not able to carry out a service in the parish, to respond to the requests of others … But we must not forget that Baptism and Confirmation we received made us witnesses, not because of our ability, but by the gift of the Spirit.

In the propitious time of Lent, may the Virgin Mary obtain for us docility to the Spirit, which is indispensable for resolutely walking on the path of conversion.

Full text of the Pope’s greeting

Dear brothers and sisters,

I greet all of you who are following this moment of prayer. I greet in particular the participants in the training course “Animators of a new way of communicating”; the faithful of Torrent, in Spain; the group from Corato; the young people of Coverciano and the children of the First Communion of Monteodorisio.

I greet associations and groups that engage in solidarity with the people of Syria and especially with the inhabitants of northwest Syria, forced to flee from the recent developments of the war.

I renew my great apprehension regarding the inhuman situation of these defenseless people, including many children, who are risking their lives. We must not look away from this humanitarian crisis, but give it priority over any other interest.

I am close with prayers to people who suffer from the current coronavirus epidemic and to all those who are giving care. I remembered them a lot in these days of my retreat.

I join my brother bishops in encouraging the faithful to live this difficult moment with the strength of faith, the certainty of hope and the fervor of charity. The season of Lent helps us to give an evangelical sense also to this moment of trial.

I wish you all a good Sunday. Please don’t forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!

(Source: ZENIT; translation: Deborah Castellano Lubov)

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.