* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we celebrate Epiphany, that is, the “manifestation” of the Lord. This Solemnity is connected with the biblical account of the coming of the Magi from the East to Bethlehem to render homage to the King of the Jews: an episode that Pope Benedict commented on magnificently in his book on Jesus’ infancy. That was, in fact, the first “manifestation” of Christ to the Gentiles. That is why the Epiphany highlights the universal opening of the salvation brought by Jesus. The liturgy of this day acclaims: “All the people on earth adore you, Lord,” because Jesus came for us all, for all peoples, for all!
In fact, this feast makes us see a twofold movement: on one hand, God’s movement towards the world, towards humanity — the whole history of salvation, which culminates in Jesus –; and on the other hand the movement of men towards God — we think of the religions, of the search for truth, of the people’s journey to peace, interior peace, justice, liberty –. And this twofold movement is moved by a reciprocal attraction. On God’s part, what is it that attracts Him? It is His love for us: we are His children, He loves us and He wants to free us from evil, from sicknesses, from death and take us to His House, in His Kingdom. “Out of pure grace, God attracts us, to unite us to Himself” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 112). And there is also love on our part, a desire: good always attracts us; truth attracts us; life, happiness, beauty attract us. Jesus is the meeting point of this reciprocal attraction, of this twofold movement. Jesus: He is God and man. God and man. But, who takes the initiative? It is always God! God’s love always comes before ours! He always takes the initiative. He waits for us, He invites us, the initiative is always His. Jesus is God who became man. He was incarnated and born for us. The new star that appeared to the Magi was the sign of the birth of Christ. If they had not seen the star, those men would not have set out. Light precedes us, truth precedes us, beauty precedes us. God precedes us. The prophet Isaiah said that God is like the flower of the almond tree. Why? Because the almond tree is the first to flower in that land. And God always precedes, He always seeks us first. He takes the first step. God precedes us always. His grace precedes us and this grace appeared in Jesus. He is the epiphany. He, Jesus Christ, is the manifestation of the love of God. He is with us.
The Church is altogether within this movement of God towards the world: her joy is the Gospel, it is to reflect the light of Christ. The Church is the people who have experienced this attraction and carry it within, in the heart and in life. “I would like — sincerely — to say to those who feel far from God and from the Church — to say respectfully — to say to those who are fearful and indifferent: the Lord calls you also, He calls you to be part of His people, and He does so with great respect and love!” (Ibid., 113). The Lord calls you. The Lord seeks you. The Lord waits for you. The Lord does not engage in proselytism, He gives love, and this love seeks you, waits for you, you who at this moment do not believe or are far away. And this is the love of God.
Let us ask God, for the whole Church, the joy of evangelizing, because “Christ was sent to reveal and communicate the charity of God to all peoples” (Ad gentes, 10). May the Virgin Mary help us all to be missionary-disciples, small stars that reflect His light. And we pray so that hearts will open to receive the proclamation, and all men will come “to be partakers of the promise through the Gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
After the Angelus, the Holy Father said:
Brothers and Sisters,
I give my cordial good wishes to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches that tomorrow will celebrate the Holy Christmas. May the peace that God has given humanity with the birth of Jesus, the Incarnate Word, reinforce in all faith, hope and charity, and give comfort to the Christian communities, to the Churches that are being tested.
Epiphany is the Missionary Day for Children, proposed by the Pontifical Work of the Holy Infancy. So many youth in the parishes are protagonists of gestures of solidarity to their contemporaries, and in this way widen the horizon of their fraternity. Dear children and youngsters, with your prayer and your commitment you collaborate in the mission of the Church. I thank you for this and I bless you!
I greet all of you present here: families, parish groups and associations. In particular, I greet the young people of the Tra Noi Movement and those of the Saint Victor of Verbania Oratory; the scouts of Minori and of Castelforte; the Saint Anthony Choir of Lamezia Terme; the “Laudate Pueri” choir of Gozo that, together with the Sistine Chapel, animated the hymns of today’s liturgy; the “Giacomo Sichirollo” Catholic school of Rovigo; and the participants in the historic-folkloric procession, which this year is led by families of the city of Leonessa and of other towns in the Province of Rieti. I wish all a happy feast of Epiphany and a good lunch. See you soon![Translation by ZENIT]