In his homily for the feast of the Epiphany, Pope Francis described how our lives are a continuous search to encounter “the Light” of Jesus, urging that we be “cunning” in our defense against darkness.
“The destiny of every person is symbolized in this journey of the Magi of the East,” the Pope said in his Jan. 6 homily, “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.”
Addressing those gathered inside of St. Peter’s Basilica for the special Mass celebrating the solemnity, Pope Francis stated that in “following a light,” the three kings actually sought “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,” he explained, highlighting how in following this light “faithfully,” the Magi were able to encounter the Lord.
In our own journey searching for this light, the Pope emphasized that like the Magi, “every person has two great ‘books’ which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage.”
These “books,” he revealed, are “the book of creation and the book of sacred Scripture.”
What is most important, noted the Pontiff, “is that we be attentive, alert, and listen to God who speaks to us,” adding that in “listening to the Gospel, reading it, meditating on it and making it our spiritual nourishment especially enables us to encounter the living Jesus, to experience him and his love.”
Turning to the words of Isaiah in the day’s first reading, Pope Francis observed that the prophet’s declaration “Arise, shine!” is an echo of God’s call to the people of Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem,” he stated, “is called to be the city of light which reflects God’s light to the world and helps humanity to walk in his ways,” highlighting how this call is “the vocation and the mission” of the Church.
However, reflecting on how the Magi lost sight of the star while in Jerusalem, the Pontiff noted that “Jerusalem can fail to respond to this call of the Lord.”
The light, observed the Pope, was “particularly absent” in the presence of King Herod, who’s dwelling “was gloomy” and “filled with darkness, suspicion, fear.
“Herod,” continued the Pontiff, “proved himself distrustful and preoccupied with the birth of a frail Child whom he thought of as a rival” when “in realty Jesus came not to overthrow him, a wretched puppet, but to overthrow the Prince of this world!”
“The king and his counsellors sensed that the foundations of their power were crumbling,” explained the Pope, and 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!”
Pope Francis then highlighted that the Magi were able to “overcome” this “dangerous moment of darkness” with the king “because they believed the words of the prophets which indicated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.”
So the wise men “resumed their journey towards Bethlehem and there they once more saw the star and experienced ‘a great joy’” said the Pope, quoting the Gospel of Matthew.
A unique aspect of this light which “guides us in the journey of faith,” he reflected, “is holy ‘cunning,’” which is “that spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and to avoid it.”
Speaking of their return journey from Bethlehem, the Pope recalled that “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.”
The wise men, continued the pontiff, “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.”
“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.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily by reflecting that the Magi are “at our side, as wise companions on the way,” who’s 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,” added the Pope, emphasizing that “we must not stop at that. We must not be content with appearances, with what is on the surface.”
“We must press further, towards Bethlehem,” urged the Pontiff, “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.”