Transfigured joy

Solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It is a feast of the Lord which we celebrate every year on August 6. Since this year it falls on a Sunday, it takes precedence in the liturgical calendar of the Church.

On August 6, 1978, Blessed Pope Paul VI died in Rome. He was a man of deep spirituality to whom the Lord entrusted the responsibility to lead his Church during the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council. During the pontificate of Paul VI, the Church continued resolutely down the path of dialogue with modernity, following the course set by his predecessors, embraced by the Council and continued with the same courage by his successors down to Pope Francis.

Paul VI occupied the see of Peter during very turbulent times in the history of the world. He had to prophetically defend the truth about the human person in the midst of criticism from without and within the Church. It is very noteworthy that in the face of so many difficulties, suffering from many ailments and sickness, suffering personally because of the assassination of old friends from his youth at the hands of communists he published during the holy year of 1975 an apostolic exhortation with a call to Christian joy.

“The invitation given by God the Father to share fully in the joy of Abraham, in the everlasting feast of the nuptials of the Lamb, is a universal convocation. Everyone, provided he makes himself attentive and available, can perceive this invitation in the depths of his heart, especially in this Holy Year when the Church opens more abundantly to all the riches of God’s mercy. “The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.”

We cannot think of the People of God in an abstract way. Our gaze rests first of all on the world of children. As long as they find in the love of those close to them the security which they need, they have a capacity for welcoming, for wonderment, for confidence and for spontaneous giving. They are apt subjects for Gospel joy. Whoever wishes to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus tells us, must first study children.

We include also all those who are deeply involved in family, professional and social responsibility. The burden of their charges, in a fast-moving world, too often prevents them from enjoying daily joys. Nevertheless such joys do exist. The Holy Spirit wants to help these people rediscover these joys, to purify them, to share them.

We think of the world of the suffering, we think of all those who have reached the evening of their lives. God’s joy is knocking at the door of their physical and moral sufferings, not indeed with irony, but to achieve therein His paradoxical work of transfiguration.

Our heart and mind turn also to all those who live beyond the visible sphere of the People of God. By bringing their lives into harmony with the innermost appeal of their conscience, which is the echo of God’s voice, they are on the road to joy…

Yes, it is the immense love of God which is summoning towards the heavenly City those who are coming in this Holy Year from the different points of the compass, whether they be near or still far off. And because all those who are summoned—all of us in fact—remain to some extent sinners, we must today cease to harden our hearts, in order to listen to the voice of the Lord and accept the offer of the great pardon, as Jeremiah announced it: “I will cleanse them of every sin they have committed against me; the sins by which they offended me and apostatized from me, all these I will forgive. And Jerusalem shall be my theme of joy, my honor and my boast before all the nations of the earth.” And just as this promise of pardon, and many others, find their definite meaning in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus, the Suffering Servant, it is He, and He alone, who can say to us, in this crucial moment of mankind’s life: “Repent, and believe the Good News.” The Lord wishes above all to make us understand that the conversion demanded of us is in no way a backward step, as sin is. It is rather a setting out, an advancement in true freedom and in joy. It is the response to an invitation coming from Him—an invitation that is loving, respectful and pressing at the same time: “Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls!”

In fact, what burden is more crushing than that of sin? What distress more lonely than that of the prodigal son, described by the evangelist Saint Luke? On the other hand, what meeting is more overwhelming than that of the Father, patient and merciful, and the son returned to life? “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.” And who is without sin, apart from Christ and His Immaculate Mother? Thus, by its invitation to return to the Father by repentance, the Holy Year—a promise of jubilation for all the people—is also a call to rediscover the meaning and the practice of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Following the line of the best spiritual tradition, we remind the faithful and their pastors that the confessing of grave sins is necessary and that frequent confession remains a privileged source of holiness, peace and joy.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid