Drawing on the account of the Magi on the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Pope Francis on Saturday urged the faithful to “find God in flesh and bone, in the faces of those we meet each day, and especially in the poor.”
“The Magi teach us that an encounter with God opens us up to a greater reality, which makes us change our way of life and transform our world,” the pope said during his homily at a Mass on Jan. 6 in St. Peter’s Basilica attended by nearly 6,000 people.
In the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, Epiphany (from the Greek word meaning “manifestation”) celebrates the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God. It focuses primarily on this revelation to the three Magi, or Wise Men, but it also focuses on the manifestation of Jesus’ divinity at his baptism in the Jordan River and in his first public miracle at the wedding at Cana.
The 87-year-old pontiff emphasized that the Wise Men’s journey was one of adoration and love, but he noted that “they do not pass their lives staring at their feet, self-absorbed, confined by earthly horizons, plodding ahead in resignation or lamentation.”
Instead, the pope continued, “they lift their heads high and await the light that can illuminate the meaning of their lives, the salvation that dawns from on high.”
For the Magi “the star shining in the heavens” was a call to both lift “their eyes on high” and “lower them to this world.” In this way, the pope continued, they were able to recognize that God is not an abstract concept but instead is humbly manifest “in man, in a little child lying in a manger.”
The adoration of the Christ Child is a moment that “illuminates our life,” Francis noted.
“The Lord Jesus was given to us not to warm our nights but to let rays of light break through the dark shadows that envelop so many situations in our societies,” he said.
“We find the God who comes down to visit us not by basking in some elegant religious theory but by setting out on a journey, seeking the signs of his presence in everyday life, and above all in encountering and touching the flesh of our brothers and sisters.”
The Holy Father called on the faithful to remain in God’s presence and stay faithful to the Church.
“We need this on our journey through life, we need to let ourselves walk in friendship with the Lord, we need his love to sustain us, and the light of his word to guide us, like a star in the night,” Pope Francis said.
At the same time, he continued, “we need to set out on this journey so that our faith will not be reduced to an assemblage of religious devotions or mere outward appearance but will instead become a fire burning within us, making us passionate seekers of the Lord’s face and witnesses to his Gospel.”
Pope Francis added: “We need this in the Church, where, instead of splitting into groups based on our own ideas, we are called to put God back at the center.”
After the Mass, the pope continued to reflect on the Magi’s example when he delivered his Angelus reflection for an estimated 40,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
He said the adoration of God is akin to “finding the path of life again in the simplicity of a silence that nourishes the heart.”
Confronted with this reality, Christians ought to remain in awe at the coming of Christ, for “if we stay in front of baby Jesus and in the company of children we will learn to be amazed and we will start again simpler and better, like the Magi,” Pope Francis said, adding that “we will be able to have new perspectives, creative perspectives when faced with the problems of the world.”
The pope closed his reflection by asking the faithful to reflect on several questions.
“In these days, have we stopped to adore, have we made a little space for Jesus in silence, praying before the crib? Have we dedicated time to the children, to speaking and playing with them?” he asked. “And finally, are we able to see the problems of the world through the eyes of children?”
Following the recitation of the Angelus prayer, Francis marked the anniversary of the seminal meeting in Jerusalem between St. Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964.
Hailed as a turning point in ecumenical relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the historic encounter broke “a wall of incommunicability that for centuries had kept Catholics and Orthodox apart,” the Holy Father observed.