St. Peter's Square
Sunday, 6 January 2019
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today, the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is the feast of the manifestation of Jesus, symbolized by light. In the prophetic texts this light is promised: light is promised. Isaiah, in fact, turns to Jerusalem with these words: "Arise, be clothed with light, for your light is coming, the glory of the Lord shines upon you" (60: 1). The prophet's invitation - to get up because the light comes - seems surprising, because it is placed in the aftermath of the hard exile and the numerous harassment that the people had experienced.
This invitation, today, also resonates for us who have celebrated the Christmas of Jesus and encourages us to let ourselves be reached by the light of Bethlehem. We too are invited not to stop at the outward signs of the event, but to start afresh from it and to take our journey of men and of believers in newness of life.
The light that the prophet Isaiah had foretold in the Gospel is present and met. And Jesus, born in Bethlehem, the city of David, came to bring salvation to his neighbors and those far away: to all. The evangelist Matthew shows different ways in which one can meet Christ and react to his presence. For example, Herod and the scribes of Jerusalem have a hard heart, which persists and refuses the visit of that Child. It is a possibility: to close in the light. They represent those who, even in our day, are afraid of the coming of Jesus and close their hearts to the brothers and sisters who need help. Herod is afraid of losing power and does not think of the true good of the people, but of his personal self-interest. The scribes and the leaders of the people are afraid because they can not look beyond their own certainties, thus failing to grasp the newness that is in Jesus.
On the other hand, the experience of the Magi is very different (see Mt 2: 1-12). Coming from the East, they represent all peoples far from traditional Jewish faith. Yet, they let themselves be guided by the star and face a long and risky journey in order to arrive at the destination and know the truth about the Messiah. The Magi were open to the "novelty", and they revealed the greatest and most surprising novelty in history: God made man. The Magi prostrate themselves before Jesus and offer him symbolic gifts: gold, incense and myrrh; because the search for the Lord implies not only perseverance on the path, but also the generosity of the heart. And finally, they returned "to their country" (v. 12); and says the Gospel that they returned for "another way". Brothers and sisters, every time a man or a woman meets Jesus, he changes his ways, comes back to life in a different way, he is renewed, "by another way". They returned "to their country" carrying within themselves the mystery of that humble and poor King; we can imagine that they told everyone the lived experience: the salvation offered by God in Christ is for all men, near and far. It is not possible to "take possession" of that Child: He is a gift for everyone.
We too, let's make a little silence in our heart and let ourselves be illuminated by the light of Jesus that comes from Bethlehem. We do not allow our fears to close our hearts, but we have the courage to open ourselves to this light that is mild and discreet. Then, like the Magi, we will experience "a very great joy" (verse 10) that we will not be able to keep for ourselves. May the Virgin Mary sustain us on this journey, the star that leads us to Jesus, and the Mother who shows Jesus to the Magi and to all those who approach her.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
For several days forty-nine people rescued in the Mediterranean Sea are on board two NGO ships, looking for a safe haven to land. I address a heartfelt appeal to European leaders to demonstrate their solidarity with these people.
Some Eastern, Catholic and Orthodox Churches, following the Julian calendar, will celebrate Holy Christmas tomorrow. To them I address my cordial and fraternal greetings in the sign of communion among all of us Christians, who recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior. To all of them, Merry Christmas!
The Epiphany is also the Youth Mission Day, which this year invites the very young missionaries to be "athletes of Jesus", to witness the Gospel in the family, at school and in places of leisure.
I extend my cordial greeting to all of you, individual pilgrims, families, parishes and associations, coming from Italy and from different countries. In particular I greet the faithful of Marsala, Peveragno and San Martino in Rio, the boys of the Cresima di Bonate Sotto and the group "Fraterna Domus".
A special greeting to the historical-folkloric procession that promotes the values of the Epiphany and that this year is dedicated to the territory of Abruzzo. I would also like to mention the procession of the Magi that takes place in many cities of Poland with a large participation of families and associations. And I also greet the musicians of the band that I heard playing. Keep on playing the joy of this Epiphany day.
I wish you a good party to all of you. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Good lunch and goodbye!