Angelus address by Pope Francis 6 January 2019
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.
Don’t stop, set out again
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.
Return by another road
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.
Be illuminated by the Light
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.
May the splendor of your majesty, O Lord, we pray, shed its light upon our hearts, that we may pass through the shadows of this world and reach the brightness of our eternal home. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
GOSPEL READING: MT 2:1-12