Lettera Madre Easter 2016
“The Lord let his face shine upon you,
and give you peace”
My dear Sisters,
At this sacred time of the year, we feel a deep sense of gratitude springing both from sorrow and from joy.
During these past few weeks, the melody and words of the following hymn keep coming to mind: “We behold the splendour of God Shining on the face of Jesus”.
This image led to reflecting further: why some faces remain in our memory – for whatever reason. When we meet someone for the first time, we study that person’s face. In fact, it is possible to read into a facial expression, without words, even picking up sadness or joy. The Bible is rich with occurrences where ‘beholding the face’ of another is significant and the Psalms in particular, draw our attention to ‘seeking the face of God’. At this liturgical time of the year, as we make the journey through Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, let us ponder on a few interconnected moments, which are particularly moving and are life-changing for those involved.
At the beginning of Lent, the Church drew attention to staying with the Lord, calling us ‘to listen’ and ‘to change’. Being present on Monte Calvario the day before Lent and trying to get into the spirit of Antonio Rosmini, reminds me that even a short visit to the mountains can bring with it an indescribable and life-changing experience.
Very soon into our Lenten journey, we heard the account of the ‘Transfiguration’ where Jesus took Peter, James and John, and “led them up a high mountain”. Here “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as dazzling as light. Listen to him!” The disciples were overcome by this experience and “fell on their faces”. (Matt, 17) In asking ‘What is meaning of the transfiguration?’ Benedict XVI answers: it “is a revelation of the Person of Jesus, of his profound reality. … This event prepared the disciples for the Paschal Mystery of Jesus: to endure the terrible trial of the Passion and also to understand properly the luminous event of the Resurrection… It is precisely in Jesus that God reveals himself and reveals his face to the Apostles. Thus, those who wish to know God must contemplate the face of Jesus, his face transfigured: Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father’s holiness and mercy”. (20 Mar 2011)
In his final Angelus address, Benedict XVI underlines that Jesus is transfigured while he prays; experiencing a profound relationship with the Father … on a high mountain in the company of the disciples. He continues, “The Christian life… consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love”. And he emphasizes: “this word of God (is) addressed to me in particular at this moment of my life. Thank you! The Lord is calling me “to scale the mountain”, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation.” (24 February 2013)
What is the Lord saying to me today?
We move to the second vivid scene: Peter’s denial of Jesus, even though he had witnessed the transfigured Lord and later promised, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and to death”. (Lk 22, 33) When Jesus is arrested and taken away, Peter follows him ‘at a distance’. Straightaway after his three-fold denial, Jesus meets him face to face: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:61). Faced with his betrayal, he ‘remembered’ what Jesus had predicted and immediately escaped, “And he went out and wept bitterly.”
Peter saw something in the face of Jesus that pierced his heart. In that glance he saw the depth of his own failure as well as the depth of Jesus’ compassion and forgiveness.
Pope Francis comments: “That earlier enthusiasm about following Jesus had turned to grief, because he had sinned: He denied that he knew Jesus. That look (by Jesus) changed Peter’s heart, more than before. The first change was been given a new name and a new vocation. That second look was a gaze that changed his heart and it’s a change of conversion to love.”
“What look is Jesus giving me today? How is Jesus looking at me? With a call? With a pardon? With a mission? But on the path He created, all of us are being looked at by Jesus. He always looks at us with love”. (22 May 2015)
The third moment concerns Mary Magdalen. Mary appears in each of the Gospels in the events surrounding the Resurrection: all four evangelists name her as one of the women who went to the tomb to care for the body of Jesus. Mary Magdalene’s life changed profoundly after she recognized her need of Jesus’ healing. Her loving attention to him, including being present at his crucifixion, shows her single-minded faithfulness. John tells us that Mary is standing outside, near the tomb weeping and again she expresses her distress to the angels: “they have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him”. Mary is looking for Jesus: she believes he is alive. “She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” (Jn 20, 13-14).
Jesus gently responds to her sadness, asking first, “Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” and then reveals himself to her by calling, “Mary!” Mary then comes face to face with Jesus “She turned then and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (Jn, 20:16)
“The story of Mary of Magdala reminds everyone of a fundamental truth. She is a disciple of Christ who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him, and has followed him closely, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love, which is stronger than sin and death”. (Benedict XVI, 23 July 2006)
Resurrection is a time of joyful transformation for each of us. “Every morning I am given to understand something of the mystery, to breathe the Risen Christ, to meet something of the Resurrection here, in every humble sunrise. How it reveals to me the surprising freshness of
life, when I begin something new, when He helps me to go ahead without despairing, and live a life fully awake. He precedes me along ways of peace. (Ermes M. Ronchi)
What is my reaction when I come face to face with the Risen Lord?
Our faith is always in the Providence of God, no matter what happens in the world or in our lives. This means “believing in God, believing that he truly loves us, that he is alive, that he is mysteriously capable of intervening, that he does not abandon us and that he brings good out of evil by his power and his infinite creativity. It means believing that he marches triumphantly in history with those who “are called and chosen and faithful” (Rev 17:14). The kingdom is here, it returns, it struggles to flourish anew. Christ’s resurrection everywhere calls forth seeds of that new world; even if they are cut back, they grow again, for the resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of this history, for Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope! (Evangelii Gaudium 278)
My wish for all of us this Easter is ‘to be a reflection’ of the sentiments contained in the words of the hymn, which continues:
…We behold the splendour of God Shining on the face of the Son.
And Oh how his beauty transforms us,
The wonder of presence abiding…
Transparent hearts give reflection of Tabor’s light within.
May this Easter-tide be a time of joyful transformation for our families, our communities and among all nations.
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