02/17/2023, 15.40
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Pope: Lenten penance, the path to synodality

Francis released his message for the journey that prepares for Easter, a “time of grace” to experience listening to Jesus, together, not alone, like the disciples in the Gospel episode of the Transfiguration. The model for the synod must avoid “opposed temptations of immobility and improvised experimentation.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Lent is not an end in itself, to be experienced alone, but a time to listen to Jesus with others; hence, it offers a valuable indication of the synodal journey that the Church is undertaking, writes Pope Francis in his message for Lent 2023, which the Vatican Press Office released today.

Titled "Lenten penance and the Synodal journey,” the message includes an online path created by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development which, starting on Ash Wednesday, will post new content online every week.

Francis's reflection is guided by the Gospel passage about Jesus’s transfiguration on Mount Tabor. “There we see the Lord’s response to the failure of his disciples to understand him,” the pontiff said. The reference is to Jesus’s harsh rebuke to Peter, who after professing his faith rejected his proclamation of the passion and the cross.

The pope goes on to explain the link between Lent and the Synod. “To deepen our knowledge of the Master, to fully understand and embrace the mystery of his salvation, accomplished in total self-giving inspired by love, we must allow ourselves to be taken aside by him and to detach ourselves from mediocrity and vanity. We need to set out on the journey, an uphill path that, like a mountain trek, requires effort, sacrifice and concentration. These requisites are also important for the synodal journey to which, as a Church, we are committed to making.”

He stresses how at the “retreat” on Mount Tabor, Jesus took three disciples with him. “He wants that experience of grace to be shared, not solitary, just as our whole life of faith is an experience that is shared. For it is in togetherness that we follow Jesus.”

At the end of the ascent, while they are on the high mountain with Jesus, the three disciples are granted the “grace of seeing him in his glory, resplendent in supernatural light. That light did not come from without, but radiated from the Lord himself.”

“So too, the synodal process may often seem arduous, and at times we may become discouraged. Yet what awaits us at the end is undoubtedly something wondrous and amazing, which will help us to understand better God’s will and our mission in the service of his kingdom.”

Next to the transfigured Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared, embodying the Law and the Prophets. “In a similar way, the synodal journey is rooted in the Church’s tradition and at the same time open to newness. Tradition is a source of inspiration for seeking new paths and for avoiding the opposed temptations of immobility and improvised experimentation.”

Indeed, in light of this "transfiguration, both personal and ecclesial" that accomplishes the mystery of Easter, the pope suggests "two paths" to follow this Lent as part of the synodal journey.

The first path stems from the call – “Listen to him (Mt 17:5)" – that God the Father addresses to the disciples on Mount Tabor. ”Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to him as he speaks to us.” From this comes the call to listen diligently to God’s Word; hence, Francis suggests: “let us study its daily biblical readings, even with the help of the internet.”

Yet Jesus also speaks to us through our brothers and sisters, in the faces and stories of those who need help. As Francis notes, “listening to our brothers and sisters in the Church. Such mutual listening in some phases is the primary goal, but it remains always indispensable in the method and style of a synodal Church.”

The other call from Jesus, at the end of the extraordinary experience of the Transfiguration, is: “Rise, and do not be afraid.” (Mt 17,6-8). For Francis, this means not to “take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events and dramatic experiences, out of fear of facing reality and its daily struggles, its hardships and contradictions. [. . . ] Lent leads to Easter: the ‘retreat’ is not an end in itself, but a means of preparing us to experience the Lord’s passion and cross with faith, hope and love, and thus to arrive at the resurrection.”

Lastly, “on the synodal journey, when God gives us the grace of certain powerful experiences of communion, we should not imagine that we have arrived – for there too, the Lord repeats to us: ‘Rise, and do not be afraid,’ Let us go down, then, to the plain, and may the grace we have experienced strengthen us to be ‘artisans of synodality’ in the ordinary life of our communities.”

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