VATICAN CITY – On Sunday Pope Francis said Jesus never leaves his followers alone, but always prepares them for the trials they will face, just as he did during his transfiguration, which helped his disciples to understand and cope with his Passion and death.
“In the transfiguration, Jesus makes himself seen as he is in heaven, glorious, luminous, triumphant,” the pope said Feb. 25. Jesus did this, he said, “to prepare for the scandal of the cross, because the disciples couldn’t understand that Jesus could die as a criminal.”
At the time, Jesus’ disciples thought of him as an earthly authority who always triumphs, however, the faith Jesus gives is different: “he triumphs in the humiliation of the cross.”
“Jesus makes seen what will come after the cross, what awaits all of us,” he said, explaining that Jesus always prepares each person for the trials they will face, and gives them the strength “to go forward in trials and overcome them with his strength.”
Francis marked the Second Sunday of Lent by celebrating Mass at the Roman parish of San Gelasio I Papa in Rome’s Ponte Mammolo neighborhood. The parish is home to some 250 poor in the area, and every Thursday offers breakfast and lunch to some 50 people who come to their soup kitchen.
After arriving around 4 p.m., Francis met with children and young people, families, elderly and parishioners who are sick, as well as those who work in the parish’s Caritas program. After meeting with each group, the pope met privately with two youth from Gambia, ages 18 and 25, who are housed by the parish. He then heard the confessions of several parishioners before starting Mass.
In his brief, off-the-cuff homily, the pope said that in the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, which recounts the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, God sends a clear message when he says “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.”
“There is no moment of life which cannot be lived fully listening to Jesus,” he said, and urged parishioners to continue Lent remembering “the glory of Jesus, who is present to give us strength,” and listening to Jesus, “who always speaks to us.”
“In daily life when we have problems, let us ask ourselves: what does Jesus want of me today?” he said, noting that at the wedding feast in Cana, Mary also gave a very specific piece of advice: “do what he tells you. This is the sure way. Listen and do what Jesus says.”
Before Mass, when he first arrived at the parish, Francis stopped to greet the parishioners waiting outside in the rain. Jesting about the weather, he said, “when did you arrive? You got wet, eh?”
He thanked them for having the patience to endure the bad weather, and told them that life is often like the weather: “sometimes there is sun, other times there is rain…know that in life there are good times and bad.”
A Christian, he said, must always move forward with courage. “There will be storms, (but) go forward, Jesus guides us,” he said, adding that “this is what a Christian must do, go forward in good times and in bad.”
In his meeting with elderly parishioners, Francis thanked them for everything they do for both the Church and the world, saying their witness of faith and love “is like keeping the fire (going): you are the embers of the world.”
“You are aware that you have a mission, to carry forward that hidden fire. You are the embers of the Church,” he said, and urged them to talk and listen to young people. Thought it’s not always easy, “they need your experience.”