Epiphany



Pope Francis       06.01.14 Eucharistic Celebration, Vatican Basilica       Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Year A     Isaiah 60: 1-6,        Matthew 2: 1-12


Pope Francis 01.06.14 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.

The 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.

One 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.



Pope Francis      06.01.17 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica   Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Year A       Matthew 2: 1-12

Pope Francis Homily about Epiphany 06.01.17

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have observed his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2).

With these words, the Magi, come from afar, tell us the reason for their long journey: they came to worship the new-born King. To see and to worship. These two actions stand out in the Gospel account. We saw a star and we want to worship.

These men saw a star that made them set out. The discovery of something unusual in the heavens sparked a whole series of events. The star did not shine just for them, nor did they have special DNA to be able to see it. As one of the Church Fathers rightly noted, the Magi did not set out because they had seen the star, but they saw the star because they had already set out” (cf. Saint John Chrysostom). Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness. They were open to something new.

The Magi thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland. They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have not let their hearts be anesthetized.

A holy longing for God wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present. A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life. A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom. That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.

This same longing led the elderly Simeon to go up each day to the Temple, certain that his life would not end before he had held the Saviour in his arms. This longing led the Prodigal Son to abandon his self-destructive lifestyle and to seek his father’s embrace. This was the longing felt by the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in order to seek out the one that was lost. Mary Magdalene experienced the same longing on that Sunday morning when she ran to the tomb and met her risen Master. Longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change. Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need. Longing for God has its roots in the past yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future. Believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did, in the most distant corners of history, for they know that there the Lord awaits them. They go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to places not yet evangelized, to encounter their Lord. Nor do they do this out of a sense of superiority, but rather as beggars who cannot ignore the eyes of those who for whom the Good News is still uncharted territory.

An entirely different attitude reigned in the palace of Herod, a short distance from Bethlehem, where no one realized what was taking place. As the Magi made their way, Jerusalem slept. It slept in collusion with a Herod who, rather than seeking, also slept. He slept, anesthetized by a cauterized conscience. He was bewildered, afraid. It is the bewilderment which, when faced with the newness that revolutionizes history, closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes. The bewilderment of one who sits atop his wealth yet cannot see beyond it. The bewilderment lodged in the hearts of those who want to control everything and everyone. The bewilderment of those immersed in the culture of winning at any cost, in that culture where there is only room for “winners”, whatever the price. A bewilderment born of fear and foreboding before anything that challenges us, calls into question our certainties and our truths, our ways of clinging to the world and this life. And so Herod was afraid, and that fear led him to seek security in crime: “You kill the little ones in their bodies, because fear is killing you in your heart” (Saint Quodvultdeus, Sermon 2 on the Creed: PL 40, 655). You kill the little ones in their bodies, because fear is killing you in your heart.

We want to worship. Those men came from the East to worship, and they came to do so in the place befitting a king: a palace. This is significant. Their quest led them there, for it was fitting that a king should be born in a palace, amid a court and all his subjects. For that is a sign of power, success, a life of achievement. One might well expect a king to be venerated, feared and adulated. True, but not necessarily loved. For those are worldly categories, the paltry idols to which we pay homage: the cult of power, outward appearances and superiority. Idols that promise only sorrow, enslavement, fear.

It was there, in that place, that those men, come from afar, would embark upon their longest journey. There they set out boldly on a more arduous and complicated journey. They had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically. There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved. For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us. To realize that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals. To realize that God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him. To realize that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated, abandoned. That his strength and his power are called mercy. For some of us, how far Jerusalem is from Bethlehem!

Herod is unable to worship because he could not or would not change his own way of looking at things. He did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him. He was unable to worship, because his aim was to make others worship him. Nor could the priests worship, because although they had great knowledge, and knew the prophecies, they were not ready to make the journey or to change their ways.

The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day. But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness. There something new was taking place. The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God. 




   
Pope Francis      06.01.19     Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord  Angelus, St Peter's Square        Isaiah 60: 1-6,      Matthew 2: 1-12

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-francis-angelus-epiphany-jesus.html

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, is the celebration of the manifestation of Jesus, symbolized by light. In the prophetic texts this light is a promise: light is promised. Isaiah, in fact, addresses Jerusalem with these words: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1). The prophet’s invitation — to arise because the light has come — seems surprising, because it occurs in the aftermath of the harsh exile and of the numerous oppressions that the people have experienced.

Today this invitation also resonates for us, who have celebrated the Birth of Jesus, and it encourages us to allow ourselves to be reached by the light of Bethlehem. We too are invited not to stop at the outward signs of the event, but to set out from it once again and to undertake anew the experience of our journey as men and women, and as believers.

The light that the Prophet Isaiah had foretold, is present and encountered in the Gospel. And Jesus, born in Bethlehem, the City of David, has come to bring salvation to those near and far: to everyone. Matthew the Evangelist reveals various ways by which one can encounter Christ and react to his presence. For example, Herod and the scribes of Jerusalem have a hard heart, which obstinately refuses the visit of that Child. This is one possibility: to be closed to the light. They represent those who, even in our day, fear Jesus’ coming and close their heart to brothers and sisters who need help. Herod is afraid of losing power and does not consider the true good of the people, but rather his own personal advantage. The scribes and the chief priests of the people are afraid because they do not know how to look beyond their own certainties; they are thus unable to understand the newness that is in Jesus.

Instead, the experience of the Magi is quite different (cf. Mt 2:1-12). Having come from the East, they represent all the faraway peoples of the traditional Hebrew faith. Yet they allow themselves to be guided by the star and face a long and perilous journey just to arrive at the destination and to know the truth of the Messiah. The Magi were open to ‘novelty’, and history’s greatest and most surprising novelty is revealed to them: God-made-man. The Magi prostrate themselves before Jesus and offer him symbolic gifts: gold, incense and myrrh, because seeking the Lord entails not only perseverance on the journey but also generosity of heart. And lastly, they returned “to their own country” (v. 12); and the Gospel states that they returned “by another road”. Brothers and sisters, each time that a man or woman encounters Jesus, he or she changes paths, returns to life in a different way, returns renewed, “by another road”. They returned “to their own country”, bearing within them the mystery of that humble and poor King; we can imagine that they told everyone about the experience they had had: the salvation offered by God in Christ is for all mankind, near and far. It is not possible to “take possession” of that Child: he is a gift for all.

Let us also have a bit of silence in our heart and allow ourselves to be illuminated by the light of Jesus that comes from Bethlehem. Let us not allow our fears to close our hearts, but let us have the courage to open ourselves to this light that is meek and delicate. Then, like the Magi, we will feel “great joy” (v. 10) that we will be unable to keep to ourselves. May the Virgin Mary — star who guides us to Jesus and Mother who shows Jesus to the Magi and to all those who approach her — support us on this journey.




Pope Francis   06.01.20  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica      Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Year A     Matthew 2: 1-12

Pope Francis: Epiphany - Worship 06.01.20

In the Gospel (Mt 2:1-12), we heard the Magi begin by stating the reason why they have come: “We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (v. 2). Worship is the end and goal of their journey. Indeed, when they arrived in Bethlehem, “they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (v. 11). Once we lose the sense of worship, we lose our direction in the Christian life, which is a journey towards the Lord, not towards ourselves. The Gospel warns us about this risk, for alongside the Magi it presents others who are incapable of worship.

First of all, there is King Herod, who uses the word worship, but only to deceive. He asks the Magi to tell him where the child is to be found, “so that I too may come and adore him” (v. 8). The fact is that Herod worshiped only himself; that is why he wanted to rid himself of the child through a lie. What does this teach us? That when we do not worship God, we end up worshiping ourselves. So too, the Christian life, when it fails to worship the Lord, can become a discreet way of affirming ourselves and our own abilities: Christians who do not know how to worship, who do not know how to pray by worshiping. This is a grave risk: we use God instead of serving him. How many times have we confused the interests of the Gospel with our own? How many times have we cloaked in religiosity the things we find convenient? How many times have we confused God’s power, which is for serving others, with power of this world, which is for serving ourselves!

In addition to Herod, other people in the Gospel are incapable of worship: they are the chief priests and the scribes. They tell Herod with great precision where the Messiah is to be born: in Bethlehem of Judea (cf. v. 5). They know the prophecies and can quote them exactly. They know where to go – they are great theologians, great! – but they do not go there. Here too we can draw a lesson. In the Christian life, it is not enough to be knowledgeable: unless we step out of ourselves, unless we encounter others and worship, we cannot know God. Theology and pastoral effectiveness mean little or nothing unless we bend the knee; unless we kneel down like the Magi, who were not only knowledgeable about planning a journey, but also capable of setting out and bowing down in worship. Once we worship, we come to realize that faith is not simply a set of fine doctrines, but a relationship with a living Person whom we are called to love. It is in encountering Jesus face to face that we come to see him as he is. Through worship, we discover that the Christian life is a love story with God, where what really matters is not our fine ideas but our ability to make him the centre of our lives, as lovers do with those whom they love. This is what the Church ought to be, a worshiper in love with Jesus her spouse.

As we begin the New Year, may we discover anew that faith demands worship. If we can fall on our knees before Jesus, we will overcome the temptation to set off on our own path. For worship involves making an exodus from the greatest form of bondage: slavery to oneself. Worship means putting the Lord at the centre, not ourselves. It is means giving things their rightful place, and giving the first place to God. Worship means making God’s plan more important than our personal time, our entitlements and our spaces. It is to accept the teaching of Scripture: “You shall worship the Lord your God” (Mt 4:10). Your God: worship means realizing that you and God belong together to one another. It means being able to speak to him freely and intimately. It means bringing our lives to him and letting him enter into them. It means letting his consolation come down to earth. Worship means discovering that, in order to pray, it is enough to say: “My Lord and my God!”, and to let ourselves be pervaded by his tender love.

Worship means going to Jesus without a list of petitions, but with one request alone: to abide with him. It is about discovering that joy and peace increase with praise and thanksgiving. In worship, we allow Jesus to heal and change us. In worship, we make it possible for the Lord to transform us by his love, to kindle light amid our darkness, to grant us strength in weakness and courage amid trials. Worship means concentrating on what is essential: ridding ourselves of useless things and addictions that anaesthetize the heart and confound the mind. In worship, we learn to reject what should not be worshiped: the god of money, the god of consumerism, the god of pleasure, the god of success, the god of self. Worship means bending low before the Most High and to discover in his presence that life’s greatness does not consist in having, but in loving. Worship means recognizing that we are all brothers and sisters before the mystery of a love that bridges every distance: it is to encounter goodness at the source; it is to find in the God of closeness the courage to draw near to others. Worship means knowing how to be silent in the presence of the divine Word, and learning to use words that do not wound but console.

Worship is an act of love that changes our lives. It is to do what the Magi did. To bring gold to the Lord and to tell him that nothing is more precious than he is. To offer him incense and to tell him that only in union with him can our lives rise up to heaven. To present him with myrrh, balm for the bruised and wounded, and to promise him that we will aid our marginalized and suffering neighbours, in whom he himself is present. We usually know how to pray – we ask the Lord, we thank him – but the Church must move forward in her prayer of worship; we must grow in worshiping. This is wisdom that we must learn each day. Praying by worshiping: the prayer of worship.

Dear brothers and sisters, today each one of us can ask: “Am I a Christian who worships?” Many Christians pray but they do not worship. Let us ask ourselves this question: Do we find time for worship in our daily schedules and do we make room for worship in our communities? It is up to us, as a Church, to put into practice the words we prayed in today’s Psalm: “All the peoples on earth will worship you, O Lord”. In worshiping, we too will discover, like the Magi, the meaning of our journey. And like the Magi, we too will experience “a great joy” (Mt2:10).