Today’s Gospel passage opens with this precious annotation: Jesus was in a quiet place deep in prayer. It cannot leave us indifferent to know that the Son of God also needed to withdraw, often and in solitary places to pray. Jesus prayed fervently: this is one of the real reasons and examples that helps us to sustain our prayer, even in the face of the thousand efforts and the many obstacles that our prayer may encounter. Luke the Evangelist generously highlights Jesus’ need to remain in dialogue with the Father for long periods of time. This prayer time kept Jesus in truth, freedom and obedience. It is always surprising to see Jesus wisely extricate Himself from subterfuges and attempts to deceive Him: the “face-to-face” encounter with the Father in prayer made the truth shine out.
We are all fascinated by the freedom of Jesus in the face of flattery from people and the easy deceptions of human consent: Jesus overcame temptations precisely because He prayed. We are often struck by the radical nature of Jesus in adhering to the Will of the Father, even unto death, giving Himself for us on the Cross. It is only the intimate relationship of love with the Father, cultivated by prayer and the human will of Jesus, inseparably united with the Divine Will. The event of the Transfiguration took place during prayer: “while He was praying, His face changed in appearance” (Lk 9:29). Tabor was certainly a singular and extraordinary event: decisive for understanding the Mystery of Jesus and would in fact, support the disciples in the dark hours of Calvary. This glorious event happened in and through prayer! It is easy to think, then, that, after prayer, the Face of Jesus was always particularly beautiful, luminous, radiating the love of the Father. It is not surprising, therefore, that the request, “Lord, teach us to pray”, surfaced spontaneously on the lips of the Twelve immediately after seeing Jesus pray. Who amongst us does not aspire to true Beauty? Which of us, that is, does not want to be an authentic person, mature, free, and tenacious in truth and all that is good? We cannot, however, live only from desires, or from simple charm: it is necessary to transform desires and charm into conscious decisions and concrete life choices. Jesus is Jesus, Lord and God, thanks to His intimate relationship with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Saints are holy because of their intimate relationship with the Father in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. Do you want to achieve the fullness and beauty of your life? There is only one path and that is the building up and developing of our relationship with the Father, through Jesus in the life-giving unity of the Spirit. This is what prayer does for us! When you pray, say: “Father”. St. Francis of Assisi had entered so much into this dynamic of love, that at merely saying the word “Father” he felt that he was melting inside and let out a “grateful cry”, to the point that a whole night of prayer was not enough for him to complete even a single “Our Father”. His first biographer wrote of him: “Francis did not pray, he became a prayer”.
Praying is not optional; praying is not the activity of a select few, praying is not what remains when we no longer know what to do: indeed, prayer is the texture of our deepest identity. Prayer makes us recognize that we are beloved children of the same heavenly Father, brothers and sisters capable of welcoming and loving each other, making us joyful disciples of Jesus, tenacious in serving the truth, missionaries of the Gospel, and servants of salvation in the longed for holiness of life. In short: prayer transfigures and transforms us; it makes us beautiful, just like Jesus! May I conclude with the beautiful prayer of Pope Francis found in Fratelli Tutti — “The Prayer to the Creator”. O Lord, Father of our human family, You created all human beings equal in dignity: pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter, dialogue, justice and peace. Amen.
* Custody of the Holy Land
By Fr John Luke