Monday, January 06, 2014

Pope: the Magi teach us to follow "the Light" and use "holy cunning" to keep the faith

The Magi, who followed "a light" to find "the Light", told us "not settle for an ordinary life, one of 'coasting'." Instead, they called on us to experience "the joy of evangelising" and "of being drawn by what is good, true, and beautiful . . . by God, who is all this ever more". 

Speaking today during the Mass in St Peter's Basilica and the Angelus before more than 100,000 people in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis, in his reflections, said that Epiphany means not being fooled by appearances or following the path of power, but having instead the "holy cunning" that allows one to keep the faith.

"Today," he said before the Angelus prayer, "we celebrate Epiphany, the 'Lord's manifestation'. This Solemnity is linked to the biblical story of the Magi who came from the East to Bethlehem to pay homage to the King of the Jews, an episode Pope Benedict beautifully commented in his book on Jesus' childhood. That was in fact Christ's first 'manifestation' to the Gentiles. Thus, Epiphany emphasises the universality of the salvation Jesus brought. As today's liturgy says, 'All the peoples of the earth will adore you, O Lord!'"

During the Mass, the Holy Father noted that the Magi "followed faithfully that light that filled their hearts" and "encountered the Lord." Hence, "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 of love which we Christians recognize in Jesus, the Light of the World."

"The Gospel tells us that the Magi, when they arrived in Jerusalem, lost sight of the star for a time. Its light was particularly absent from the palace of King Herod: that dwelling was gloomy, filled with darkness, suspicion, fear. Herod, in fact, proved himself distrustful and preoccupied with the birth of a frail Child whom he thought of as a rival. In reality, 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 and on possessions was being thrown into crisis by a Child! Herod went so far as to kill the children. 

As Saint Quodvultdeus wrote, 'You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart.' And thus, he was afraid and because of this fear he went mad." 

Although the "darkness of worldliness" obscured the view of the star for a while, far from that negative influence the Magi found the light and the way to Bethlehem. Thus, the Pope stressed an aspect of what the Wise Men from the East did when they went home, namely the "holy cunning" that led them away from Herod's trap.

"One aspect of the light which guides us in the journey of faith is holy 'cunning', that spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and to 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 that seek to envelop our life."

"With such 'holy cunning', they kept the faith. We too should shield the faith. Shield it from that darkness, one that is often disguised as light, right? Because the devil, as St. Paul said, dresses up as an angel of light, sometimes. This is where 'holy cunning' is necessary, to shield the faith, shield it from the siren calls that say: Look, today we have to do this, that . . .' Faith is a grace, a gift. It is up to us to shield this 'holy cunning' through prayer, love, and charity. We need to welcome the light of God into our hearts and, at the same time, 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'." 

"In fact," the pope said during the Angelus, "this festivity shows a double movement: on the one hand, the movement of God towards the world, towards humanity, i.e. the whole history of salvation, which culminates in Jesus; on the other hand, humanity's movement towards God - think about religions, the quest for truth, the nations' journey towards peace, justice, and freedom. This double movement is driven by mutual attraction. On God's part, it is love for us: we are his children; he loves us, and wants to free us from evil, disease, death, and bring us into his home, his Kingdom. 'God, by his sheer grace, draws us to himself and makes us one with him.' For our part, there is also love and desire: Goodness draws us; truth draws us; life, happiness, beauty . . . . Jesus is the meeting point of this mutual attraction and this dual movement. He is God and man. But the initiative is God's."

"God's love comes before ours! Jesus is God who became man, was incarnate, and was born for us. The new star that appeared to the Magi was the sign of Christ's birth. Had they not seen the star, those men would not have left. Light goes before us; truth goes before us; beauty goes before us. God goes before us: he is grace. And this grace appeared in Jesus. He is the epiphany, the manifestation of God's love. The whole Church is in this movement of God towards the world: The gospel is its joy; it reflects Christ's light. The Church is the people of those who experienced this attraction and carry it within, in the heart and in life."

"We ask God, on behalf of the whole Church, for the joy of evangelising, because it was 'sent by Christ to reveal and to communicate the love of God to all men and nations'. May the Virgin Mary help us all be disciples-missionaries, little stars that reflect her light. Let us pray that hearts shall open to welcome the announcement, and that all men come to be "co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.'"

After the Angelus, the pope turned his thoughts to "the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches that celebrate Christmas tomorrow. May the peace God gave humanity with the birth of Jesus, the Word Incarnate, strengthen in everyone faith, hope, and charity, and give comfort to Christian communities at a time of trial."

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