In today’s Gospel, the story of the Magi, who came from the East to Bethlehem to adore the Messiah, confers on the feast of the Epiphany a universal breadth. And this is the breadth of the Church, which desires that all the peoples of the earth be able to meet Jesus, to experience His merciful love. This is the desire of the Church: that they find the mercy of Jesus, His love.
Jesus has just been born, He still does not know how to speak, and all peoples – represented by the Magi – can already meet Him, recognize Him and adore Him. The Magi say: “We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). Herod heard this as soon as the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. These Magi were prestigious men, of distant regions and different cultures, and they started towards the land of Israel to adore the King that was born. The Church has always seen in them the image of the whole of humanity, and with today’s celebration of the feast of the Epiphany, she wishes to indicate respectfully, to every man and woman of this world, the Child that was born for the salvation of all.
On Christmas Eve Jesus manifested Himself to the shepherds, humble men held in contempt – some say brigands –; they were the first to bring some warmth to that cold cave of Bethlehem. Now the Magi arrive from distant lands, also attracted mysteriously by that Child. The shepherds and the Magi are very different from one another; however, they have one thing in common: the heavens. The shepherds of Bethlehem went immediately to see Jesus, not because they were particularly good, but because they were watching in the night and, raising their eyes to the heavens, they saw a sign, they listened to its message and followed it. So, also, did the Magi: they scrutinized the heavens, they saw a new star, they interpreted the sign, and started out from afar. The shepherds and the Magi teach us that to meet Jesus it is necessary to be able to raise one’s gaze to the heavens, not to be withdrawn in oneself, in one’s egoism, but to have the heart and mind open to the horizon of God, who always surprises us, to be able to receive His messages, and to answer with promptness and generosity.
The Gospel says that, “on seeing the star” the Magi “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10). It is a great consolation for us also to see the star, that is, to feel guided and not abandoned to our fate. And the star is the Gospel, the Word of the Lord, as the Psalm says: “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (119:105). This light leads us to Christ. Without listening to the Gospel, it is impossible to meet Him! In fact, the Magi, following the star, reached the place where Jesus was. And there “they saw the child with Mary his Mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.” (Matthew 2:11). The Magi’s experience exhorts us not to be content with mediocrity, not to “get by” somehow, but to seek the meaning of things, to scrutinize passionately the great mystery of life. And it teaches us not to be scandalized by littleness and poverty, but to recognize the majesty of humility, and to be able to kneel before it.
May the Virgin Mary, who received the Magi at Bethlehem, help us to raise our gaze from ourselves, to let ourselves be guided by the star of the Gospel to meet Jesus, and to be able to abase ourselves to adore Him. Thus we will be able to take to others a ray of His light, and to share with them the joy of the way.
After the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we express our spiritual closeness to brothers and sister of the Christian East, Catholics and Orthodox, many of whom will celebrate the Lord’s Birth tomorrow. To them we send our wishes of peace and goodness, and also a hearty applause as greeting!
We remember also that Epiphany is the World Day of Missionary Childhood. It is the feast of children that, with their prayers and sacrifices, help their neediest contemporaries by becoming missionaries and witnesses of fraternity and sharing.
I give my cordial welcome to you all, individual pilgrims, families, parish groups and Associations from Italy and from different countries. In particular I greet the faithful of Acerra, Modena and Terlizzi; the School of Sacred Art of Florence; and the young people of the Lions Club International Camp.
A special greeting goes to all those who give life to the historic and folkloric procession, dedicated this year to the territory of the Valle dell’Amaseno. I wish to remind also of the procession of Magi taking place in numerous cities of Poland with the wide participation of families and Associations, as well as of the living Nativity scene set up at the Campidoglio by UNITALSI and the Friars Minor, involving persons with disabilities.
I wish you all a happy feast. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and see you soon!