Vatican City — On Sunday Pope Francis said Lent is a time to really contemplate the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us on the Cross, which is more than just a devotional symbol, but an exhortation to imitate the love of Christ.
“The Christian Cross is not a furnishing for the house or an ornament to wear, but a call to the love with which Jesus sacrificed himself to save humanity from evil and from sin,” the Pope said March 12.
As Lent moves forward, he encouraged Christians to “contemplate with devotion” the image of the Jesus crucified on the Cross, which is “the symbol of our Christian faith, it’s the emblem of Jesus, died and risen for us.”
“Let us make sure that the Cross marks the stages of our Lenten journey in order to increasingly understand the severity of sin and the value of the sacrifice with which the Redeemer has saved us,” he said.
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus address, which he focused on today’s Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the scene of the Transfiguration.
Speaking from the window of the papal apartments in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, Francis noted how in the passage, Matthew points out that Jesus’ face “shown like the sun and his garments became white as light.”
The “brightness” that characterizes the Transfiguration, he said, symbolizes the event’s ultimate aim, which is “to illuminate the minds and hearts of the disciples so that they are able to clearly understand who their master is.”
“It’s a flash of light that opens unexpectedly opens the mystery of Jesus and illuminates his entire person and his story,” he said.
Since they are already drawing near to Jerusalem, where Jesus will undergo his violent Passion and death, the Lord wants to prepare them for “this scandal that’s too strong for their faith and, at the same time, announce his resurrection, manifesting himself as the Messiah,” the Pope said.
By revealing himself in the way that he did to Peter, James and John, Jesus shows that he is a Messiah different than what was commonly expected at the time: he’s not “a powerful and glorious king, but a humble and disarmed servant; not a gentleman with great wealth, a sign of blessing, but a poor man who has not place to rest his head; not a patriarch with numerous descendants, but a homeless bachelor without a nest.”
“It’s truly a revelation of God upside down,” Pope Francis said, explaining that “the most disconcerting sign of this scandalous reversal is the Cross.”
However, it’s precisely through the Cross that Jesus will achieve “the glorious resurrection,” he said, noting that by transfiguring himself, Jesus wanted to show his disciples his glory not to help them avoid the Cross, but to “indicate where the Cross leads.”
“Whoever dies with Christ, will rise with Christ. Whoever fights together with him, will triumph with him,” the Pope said. “This is the message of hope that the Cross of Jesus contains.”
Mary, he said, was someone who knew how to contemplate this glory of Jesus that was masked by his humanity. He prayed that she would help Christians “to be with him in silent prayer, to allow ourselves to be illuminated by his presence, to carry in our heart, through the darkest of nights, a reflection of his glory.”
After leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer, Francis offered special prayers for the victims of a March 8 fire at a safe house for girls in Guatemala.
“Brothers and sisters, I express my closeness to the people of Guatemala who live in mourning due to the grave and sad news of the fire that erupted inside the Virgin of the Assumption Safe House, causing victims and wounded among the girls who lived there,” he said.
The fire occurred March 8 after a group of girls and teenagers rioted to protest what they alleged was physical and sexual abuse at the facilities. Authorities said that some of the children set fire to mattresses and the fire then spread to the rest of the facility.
The center, located in the San Antonio area of the town of San José Pinula, was created to provide protection for about 400 girls and teenagers abandoned and at risk. However, it currently houses close to 750 children, including those in trouble with the law.
According to State officials, the girls who died in the fire were unable to get out because they were locked in a room, apparently as a punishment. The previous night, some 60 children escaped from the center.
In his address, Pope Francis prayed that the Lord would “welcome their souls, heal the wounded, console their grieving families and the entire nation.”
He also invited faithful to pray with him “for all boys and girls who are victims of violence, mistreatment, exploitation and wars.”
“This is a plague,” he said. “This is a hidden cry that must be heard by all of us and which we can’t continue to pretend not to see or to hear.”