With the backdrop of the Library of the Apostolic Palace, rather than the window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis offered a reflection on the Gospel of the Transfiguration.
The pope was speaking from indoors via livestream due to measures implemented to contain the spread of coronavirus. Nevertheless, after the recitation of the midday prayer, Pope Francis surprised the handful of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square by appearing at the window of the Apostolic Palace; there he waved and blessed those who had previously watched him from the screens, many with protective medical masks.
In his address, Pope Francis emphasized that Our Lord’s choice of Peter, James, and John to witness the Transfiguration was not made according to human criteria: Peter, in fact, would deny Jesus during the Passion; and the brothers James and John ambitiously sought the first place in Jesus’ kingdom.
Instead, Jesus chose them “according to His plan of love.” It is “a free, unconditional choice,” the pope said, “a free initiative, a divine friendship that asks for nothing in return.”
We are called in the same way, the pope said, to be witnesses of Jesus. That is, our calling is a gift that we have not deserved; and although “we may feel inadequate… we cannot back out with the excuse of our incapacity.”
The pope’s personal motto, in fact, speaks of this truth.
Miserando atque eligendo, [by mercifully choosing]: The motto of Pope Francis is taken from a passage from Venerable Bede, Homily 21 (CCL 122, 149-151), on the Feast of Matthew, which reads: Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, ‘Sequere me.’ [Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, ‘follow me’.]
This homily is a tribute to Divine Mercy and is read during the Liturgy of the Hours on the Feast of St Matthew.
This has particular significance in the life and spirituality of the pope. It was on the Feast of St Matthew in 1953 that the young Jorge Bergoglio experienced, at the age of 17, in a very special way, the loving presence of God in his life. Following confession, he felt his heart touched and he sensed the descent of the Mercy of God, who with a gaze of tender love, called him to religious life, following the example of St Ignatius of Loyola.
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In the reflection on the Angelus, the pope added that although we have not seen “with our own eyes the face of Jesus shining like the sun,” we must nonetheless be prepared to bear witness to Christ.
Despite the burdens and worries of everyday life, the pope said, “we must not forget that the Baptism and Confirmation we have received have made us witnesses, not because of our capacity, but as a result of the gift of the Spirit.”
The pope concluded his reflection with the prayer that “in the favorable time of Lent, the Virgin Mary might obtain for us that docility to the Spirit which is indispensable for setting out resolutely on the path of conversion.”
He also prayed for all those being affected by the coronavirus.