Against the majestic surroundings of St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the feast of the Epiphany.
On this the day when the
Church remembers the revelation of Jesus to humanity in the face of a
child, the Pope began the celebration by kissing a statue of the Baby
Jesus which was put pride of place in front of the altar.
heart of the Holy Father’s Homily, was the message that we must never be
blinded by the forces of darkness but instead be transformed by the
light of Christ.
The Pope was referring to the journey the Magi made,
whose path was illuminated by a star which brings them in search of the
great light of the Lord Jesus.
These three wise men, continued Pope
Francis were able to overcome the darkness of King Herod, and his fear
of a fragile child’s birth because they believed in the scriptures.
Holy Father also noted that we as Christians need to be spiritually
astute just like the Magi were. They, he said were able to use a light
of awareness to avoid the danger of Herod’s dark palace on their way
back from visiting the Christ child.
The Pope then went on to
underline the importance of what we can learn from these three Kings
saying, “ they teach us how to defend ourselves against the darkness
that seeks to envelope our lives”, they also teach us not to settle for
“a mediocre life”, but aim for a life that is fascinated by good, truth,
Concluding his Homily, Pope Francis urged Christians to
follow the example of the Magi and search for the great light of Christ
with our little lights.
Below is the English language translation of the Pope's Homily during Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany.
“Lumen requirunt lumine”. These evocative words from a liturgical hymn for the Epiphany speak of the experience of the Magi: following a light, they were searching for the
Light. The star appearing in the sky kindled in their minds and in
their hearts a light that moved them to seek the great Light of Christ.
The Magi followed faithfully that light which filled their hearts, and
they encountered the Lord.
The destiny of every person is
symbolized in this journey of the Magi of the East: our life is a
journey, illuminated by the lights which brighten our way, to find the
fullness of truth and love which we Christians recognize in Jesus, the
Light of the World. Like the Magi, every person has two great “books”
which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage: the book of creation
and the book of sacred Scripture. What is important is that we be
attentive, alert, and listen to God who speaks to us, who always
speaks to us.
As the Psalm says in referring to the Law of the Lord:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps
119:105). Listening to the Gospel, reading it, meditating on it and
making it our spiritual nourishment especially allows us to encounter
the living Jesus, to experience him and his love.
The first reading echoes, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, the call of God to Jerusalem: “Arise, shine!” (Is
60:1). Jerusalem is called to be the city of light which reflects
God’s light to the world and helps humanity to walk in his ways. This
is the vocation and the mission of the People of God in the world. But
Jerusalem can fail to respond to this call of the Lord. The Gospel
tells us that the Magi, when they arrived in Jerusalem, lost sight of
the star for a time. They no longer saw it. Its light was particularly
absent from the palace of King Herod: his dwelling was gloomy, filled
with darkness, suspicion, fear, envy. Herod, in fact, proved himself
distrustful and preoccupied with the birth of a frail Child whom he
thought of as a rival. In realty Jesus came not to overthrow him, a
wretched puppet, but to overthrow the Prince of this world!
Nonetheless, the king and his counsellors sensed that the foundations of
their power were crumbling. They feared that the rules of the game
were being turned upside down, that appearances were being unmasked. A
whole world built on power, on success, possessions and corruption was
being thrown into crisis by a child! Herod went so far as to kill the
children. As Saint Quodvultdeus writes, “You destroy those who are tiny
in body because fear is destroying your heart” (Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655). This was in fact the case: Herod was fearful and on account of this fear, he became insane.
Magi were able to overcome that dangerous moment of darkness before
Herod, because they believed the Scriptures, the words of the prophets
which indicated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And so
they fled the darkness and dreariness of the night of the world. They
resumed their journey towards Bethlehem and there they once more saw the
star, and the gospel tells us that they experienced “a great joy” (Mt 2:10). The very star which could not be seen in that dark, worldly palace.
aspect of the light which guides us on the journey of faith is holy
“cunning”. This holy “cunning” is also a virtue. It consists of a
spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and avoid it.
The Magi used this light of “cunning” when, on the way back, they
decided not to pass by the gloomy palace of Herod, but to take another
route. These wise men from the East teach us how not to fall into the
snares of darkness and how to defend ourselves from the shadows which
seek to envelop our life. By this holy “cunning”, the Magi guarded the
faith. We too need to guard the faith, guard it from darkness. Many
times, however, it is a darkness under the guise of light. This is
because the devil, as saint Paul, says, disguises himself at times as an
angel of light. And this is where a holy “cunning” is necessary in
order to protect the faith, guarding it from those alarmist voices that
exclaim: “Listen, today we must do this, or that...”. Faith though, is a
grace, it is a gift. We are entrusted with the task of guarding it, by
means of this holy “cunning” and by prayer, love, charity. We need to
welcome the light of God into our hearts and, at the same time, to
cultivate that spiritual cunning which is able to combine simplicity
with astuteness, as Jesus told his disciples: “Be wise as serpents and
innocent as doves” (Mt 10:16).
On the feast of the
Epiphany, as we recall Jesus’ manifestation to humanity in the face of a
Child, may we sense the Magi at our side, as wise companions on the
way. Their example helps us to lift our gaze towards the star and to
follow the great desires of our heart. They teach us not to be content
with a life of mediocrity, of “playing it safe”, but to let ourselves be
attracted always by what is good, true and beautiful… by God, who is
all of this, and so much more! And they teach us not to be deceived by
appearances, by what the world considers great, wise and powerful. We
must not stop at that. It is necessary to guard the faith. Today this
is of vital importance: to keep the faith. We must press on further,
beyond the darkness, beyond the voices that raise alarm, beyond
worldliness, beyond so many forms of modernity that exist today. We must
press on towards Bethlehem, where, in the simplicity of a dwelling on
the outskirts, beside a mother and father full of love and of faith,
there shines forth the Sun from on high, the King of the universe. By
the example of the Magi, with our little lights, may we seek the Light
and keep the faith. May it be so.