On Sunday 25 February, the Second Sunday of Lent, the pastoral letter written by Mgr. Charles J. Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and Mgr. Mario Cauchi, Bishop of Gozo, was read in all the Churches of Malta and Gozo. The subject matter of this pastoral letter is cherishing what is beautiful and good.
The focus point of this year’s pastoral letter rests on the experience of the Transfiguration of Jesus. When one reads intently this pastoral document one notices and appreciates the trasfigurative effect of prayer. In fact, the bishops say: “In the prayer of the Church, the experience of the Transfiguration overcomes the fear and the scandal of the cross in the hearts of the disciples. As he prays on the mountain, Jesus appears in all his splendour, in his glory as the Son of God made man. On Mount Tabor, Jesus appears as the Good Shepherd that draws people to him because of his intimate beauty”.
But how does Jesus draw us to his intimate beauty? It is wise to resort to what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes in Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration: “Jesus’ garment of white light at the Transfiguration speaks of our future as well.” Then, our spiritual shepherds aptly comment: “By virtue of our Baptism, we have put on the garment of light with Christ and thus we too became light”. But what kind of light does Christ have and emanate from Himself on us?
Christ’s light is good, right and true. The bishops purposely quote from Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true, and try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph 5, 8-11).
Christ’s light is kind, tender-hearted and forgiving. The same letter to the Ephesians says: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph 4, 30-32; 5,1-2).
Does our society and the Church herself need Christ’s light? By reading carefully our bishops’ reflection one certainly arrives at the conclusion that yes both our society and the Church are in dire need of Christ’s light. Take, for instance, the Church herself. Thus, write the bishops: “This Easter, especially during the beautiful liturgy of the Holy Vigil, the light of Christ that will originate from the Paschal candle, will be passed on from one candle to the next. This little candle will remind us of this call to be children of light”.
And what happens when we, as Church, are lit by Christ’s light? We start sharing it wherever the Holy Spirit leads us. “Our flame might be small, but it can give solace and respite in every environment where darkness reigns, where there is despair, where there is sadness. As we meditate on the beauty of Jesus on Mount Tabor, our message must fill each and everyone one of us with great courage, with renewed hope. This is what makes us disciples of the Lord. Indeed, Pope Francis writes in The Joy of the Gospel, ‘Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey’ (127)”.
While celebrating our Mediterranean cultural heritage thanks to the promotion of Valletta as a European Capital of Culture, let us, as our bishops caringly exhort us, “discern in the light of the Transfiguration, the call we have received to cherish beauty and goodness in our lives”. Let us let Christ’s beauty and goodness transfigure us to the point where we become not only its recipients but also its promoters by the way we behave with others.