“Longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change. Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need.”
Pope Francis stressed this in his homily this morning at the Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Reflecting on how the Wise Men set out when they saw a star, the Pontiff underscored that this star did not shine just for them, nor “did they have special DNA” to be able to see it. They were ready to embark, the Jesuit Pope explained, since their hearts were open, open to something new, and were guided by an inner restlessness.
“The Magi,” he said, “thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland. They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have let their hearts be anesthetized.”
While stressing that a “holy longing for God” wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel “is not an event of the past, but of the present,” Francis added how it also “helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life.”
This same longing, Francis recalled, led the elderly Simeon to go up each day to the Temple, certain that his life would not end before he had held the Savior in his arms and also led the Prodigal Son to abandon his self-destructive lifestyle and to seek his father’s embrace.
Don’t be tempted to think it’s too late…
“Longing for God,” the Pope said, “draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change. Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need.”
“Longing for God has its roots in the past, yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future,” he said, adding, “Believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did , in the most distant corners …, for they know that there, the Lord awaits them.”
God’s Gaze Lifts Us Up, Heals
Those Wise Men, the Holy Father highlighted, came from the East to worship, and they came to do so in the place befitting a king: a palace. They had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically.
“There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved. For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize: that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us; that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals; that God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him; that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated and abandoned; and that His strength and His power are called mercy.”
Something New … Welcoming Change
Herod, the Pontiff pointed out, was unable to worship because he could not or would not change his own way of looking at things. The Wise Men, however, the Pope stressed, experienced longing, as they were tired of the usual fare, and realized that in Bethlehem, there was a promise and something new.
“The Magi,” Pope Francis said, “were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.”
After the Mass, Pope Francis gave his Angelus address at noon and recited the midday pray with the some 35,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square.
During his remarks, the Holy Father reminded those present of how the miracle of Jesus’ light tears down darkness and illumines.
“To those who have lost the strength to seek, who are tired and overwhelmed by the obscurities of life, whose desire is spent,” Francis said, “Arise, courage! The light of Jesus is able to overcome the greatest darkness; arise, courage!”
At the end of the Angelus, Pope Francis donated to those present in St Peter’s Square a small booklet on mercy which was distributed to at least 300 poor people present in the Square, to whom the Pope offered lunch.
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