ZENIT News in Text Format

Today's news dispatch: Jan. 6, 2016

Pope Suggests 3 Gifts Faithful Should Offer to Jesus

Like the Magi offered Baby Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh, we faithful are to offer three gifts to the Lord, says Pope Francis.

During his homily this morning at the Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope said that we are just as called to follow the light of Jesus today, to worship Him with all our heart, and present Him with our gifts of freedom, understanding and love.

The Pope began recalling the words of the Prophet Isaiah addressed to Jerusalem, but which, he noted, are also meant for us. When Isaiah says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you,” it also invites us to rise and go forth, leave behind all that keeps us self-enclosed, go out from ourselves and recognize the splendour of the light which illumines our lives.

Francis pointed out that this “light” is the glory of the Lord, for the Church “cannot illude herself into thinking that she shines with her own light.”

True light

“Christ is the true light shining in the darkness,” he said, adding, “To the extent that the Church remains anchored in him, to the extent that she lets herself be illumined by him, she is able to bring light into the lives of individuals and peoples.”

The Holy Father underscored that we need this light from on high if we are to respond in a way worthy of the vocation we have received.

“To proclaim the Gospel of Christ is not simply one option among many, nor is it a profession. For the Church, to be missionary does not mean to proselytize: for the Church to be missionary means to give expression to her very nature, which is to receive God’s light and then to reflect it. This is her service. There is no other way.”

Mission, he pointed out, is the Church's vocation; “to shine Christ’s light is her service. How many people look to us for this missionary commitment, because they need Christ. They need to know the face of the Father.”

Reflecting on the Three Kings, the Pope said the Magi mentioned in Matthew's Gospel demonstrate that the seeds of truth are present everywhere and represent the men and woman throughout the world who are welcomed into the house of God.

No more restless hearts

The Pope stressed that the Church's service lies in its drawing out the desire for God present in every human heart. She has the task, he noted, of ever more clearly seeing and showing the desire for God which is present in the heart of every man and woman. 

“Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a 'restless heart' which continues to seek without finding sure answers – it is the restlessness of the Holy Spirit that stirs in hearts. They too are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem,” the Pope said.

The Magi “followed a new and different star, which for them shone all the more brightly. They were seeking an answer to their questions and had restless hearts, and at long last, the light appeared and that star changed them.”

The Pope said it was the voice of the Holy Spirit, who works in all people, at work. “The star guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.”

All this, Francis went on to say, has something to tell us today. He noted that we should also seek the Child, like the Magi, following his signs.

“We are impelled, especially in an age like our own, to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that great effort is needed to interpret them and thus to understand his will. We are challenged to go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother,” he said.

Our three gifts

Pope Francis invited those gathered to follow the light which God offers, “the tiny light” of the Child, and once we have found Him, let us worship Him with all our heart, and present Him with our gifts: our freedom, understanding and love.

“True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this Child. It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the Church is summed up. For here is the wellspring of that light which draws to itself every individual in the world and guides the journey of the peoples along the path of peace.”

***

On ZENIT's Web page:

Pope's Full Homily: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-homily-for-solemnity-of-epiphany

 

 

Pope: Jesus Is for Everyone

Pope Francis says the story of the Magi and today’s feast of the Epiphany highlight the “universal breadth” of the Church, which “desires that all the peoples of the earth be able to meet Jesus, to experience His merciful love.”

The Pope said this today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. 

He explained that the Church has always seen in the Magi the image of the whole of humanity.

With today’s feast, the Pontiff said, the Church “wishes to indicate respectfully, to every man and woman of this world, the Child that was born for the salvation of all.”

Open to God

The Magi and the shepherds represent two contrasting groups of people, but both found the Christ Child, the Pope continued, pointing out that the Magi and the shepherds were able to find Him because they had something in common:

“The shepherds and the Magi are very different from one another; however, they have one thing in common: the heavens. The shepherds of Bethlehem went immediately to see Jesus, not because they were particularly good, but because they were watching in the night and, raising their eyes to the heavens, they saw a sign, they listened to its message and followed it. So, also, did the Magi: they scrutinized the heavens, they saw a new star, they interpreted the sign, and started out from afar.”

Thus, the Pope reflected, both the shepherds and the Magi “teach us that to meet Jesus it is necessary to be able to raise one’s gaze to the heavens, not to be withdrawn in oneself, in one’s egoism, but to have the heart and mind open to the horizon of God, who always surprises us, to be able to receive His messages, and to answer with promptness and generosity.”

Guided

Pope Francis further reflected that the star — the Gospel — is a great consolation to us, because to see the star is “to feel guided and not abandoned to our fate.”

“Without listening to the Gospel, it is impossible to meet Him!,” the Pope said. 

As well, the Magi’s example “exhorts us not to be content with mediocrity, not to ‘get by’ somehow, but to seek the meaning of things, to scrutinize passionately the great mystery of life. And it teaches us not to be scandalized by littleness and poverty, but to recognize the majesty of humility, and to be able to kneel before it.”

Taking His light to others

The Holy Father concluded by asking Mary’s help: “May the Virgin Mary, who received the Magi at Bethlehem, help us to raise our gaze from ourselves, to let ourselves be guided b y the star of the Gospel to meet Jesus, and to be able to abase ourselves to adore Him. Thus we will be able to take to others a ray of His light, and to share with them the joy of the way.”

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/angelus-address-jan-6-on-the-magi

 

 

Pope's Homily for Solemnity of Epiphany

Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' homily this morning at the Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica:

***

The words of the Prophet Isaiah – addressed to the Holy City of Jerusalem – are also meant for us. They call us to rise and go forth, to leave behind all that keeps us self-enclosed, to go out from ourselves and to recognize the splendour of the light which illumines our lives: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1). That “light” is the glory of the Lord. The Church cannot illude herself into thinking that she shines with her own light. Saint Ambrose expresses this nicely by presenting the moon as a metaphor for the Church: “The moon is in fact the Church… [she] shines not with her own light, but with the light of Christ. She draws her brightness from the Sun of Justice, and so she can say: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’” (Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32). Christ is the true light shining in the darkness. To the extent that the Church remains anchored in him, to the extent that she lets herself be illumined by him, she is able to bring light into the lives of individuals and peoples. For this reason the Fathers of the Church saw in her the mysterium lunae.

We need this light from on high if we are to respond in a way worthy of the vocation we have received. To proclaim the Gospel of Christ is not simply one option among many, nor is it a profession. For the Church, to be missionary does not mean to proselytize: for the Church to be missionary means to give expression to her very nature, which is to receive God’s light and then to reflect it. This is her service. There is no other way. Mission is her vocation; to shine Christ’s light is her service. How many people look to us for this missionary commitment, because they need Christ. They need to know the face of the Father.

The Magi mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew are a living witness to the fact that the seeds of truth are present everywhere, for they are the gift of the Creator, who calls all people to acknowledge him as good and faithful Father. The Magi represent the men and woman throughout the world who are welcomed into the house of God. Before Jesus, all divisions of race, language and culture disappear: in that Child, all humanity discovers its unity. The Church has the task of seeing and showing ever more clearly the desire for God which is present in the heart of every man and woman. This is the service of the Church, with the light that she reflects: to draw out the desire for God present in every heart. Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a “restless heart” which continues to seek without finding sure answers – it is the restlessness of the Holy Spirit that stirs in hearts. They too are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.

How many stars there are in the sky! And yet the Magi followed a new and different star, which for them shone all the more brightly. They had long peered into the great book of the heavens, seeking an answer to their questions – they had restless hearts –, and at long last the light appeared. That star changed them. It made them leave their daily concerns behind and set out immediately on a journey. They listened to a voice deep within, which led them to follow that light. It was the voice of the Holy Spirit, who works in all people. The star guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.

All this has something to say to us today. We do well to repeat the question asked by the Magi: “Where is the child who has been born the King of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Mt 2:2). We are impelled, especially in an age like our own, to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that great effort is needed to interpret them and thus to understand his will. We are challenged to go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother. Let us follow the light which God offers us – that tiny light. The hymn in the breviary poetically tells us that the Magi lumen requirunt lumine – that tiny light. The light which streams from the face of Christ, full of mercy and fidelity. And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts: our freedom, our understanding and our love. True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this Child. It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the Church is summed up. For here is the wellspring of that light which draws to itself every individual in the world and guides the journey of the peoples along the path of peace.

Original Text: Italian] [Vatican-provided translation]

 

Pope Francis Thanks Children Who Help Their Peers With Prayer and Sacrifice

Pope Francis today thanked children who themselves become missionaries with their prayer and sacrifice.

Noting that the Feast of the Epiphany is the day that the Church marks the World Day of Missionary Childhood, the Pope described it as “the feast of children who, with their prayers and sacrifices, help their neediest contemporaries by becoming missionaries and witnesses of fraternity and sharing.”

In 2008 on this feast, Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude for the work of missionary children, considering some of the history of this celebration.

After praying the Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square on that day, the German Pontiff said: “For more than 160 years, through the initiative of the French bishop Charles de Forbin Janson, the childhood of Jesus has become the icon for the commitment of Christian children who help the Church in her task of evangelization by prayer, sacrifice and gestures of solidarity.

“Thousands of children meet the needs of other children, driven by the love that the Son of God, become a child, brought to the earth. I say thanks to these little ones and I pray that they will always be missionaries.

“I also thank those who assist them, who accompany them along the road of generosity, of fraternity, of joyous faith that generates hope.”

On ZENIT's Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/angelus-address-jan-6-on-the-magi

 

 

Bishops of Nebraska Issue Statement on Transgender Students and Sports

On Monday, the Nebraska bishops released this Statement on the Nebraska School Activities Association’s Policy on Transgender Student Participation:

* * *

Over the next two weeks, the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) member schools and board of directors will be considering and voting on alternative policies regarding the participation of minors who experience gender dysphoria in high school activities. These alternatives will determine whether, and if so under what conditions, a biological male student can participate as a female in a girls’ sport, and a biological female student can participate as a male in a boys’ sport. Whichever alternative is chosen also will establish the legal basis for any litigation in Nebraska on important, related issues such as locker room and restroom use, religious liberty, and individual freedom of conscience.

Any person who experiences gender dysphoria is entitled to the respect and dignity that is the right of every human person, as well as genuine concern and the support needed for personal development and well-being. Such support, however, must be provided with due consideration to fairness and the safety, privacy, and rights of all students.

Parents have always appreciated school activities as playing a vital role in the mature development of their school age children.  It would be unjust to allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology to shape either what is taught or how activities are conducted in our schools.  This would certainly have a negative impact on students’ and society’s attitudes towards the fundamental nature of the human person and the family.

Recently, Pope Francis addressed this issue in the context of marriage and the family by stating, “the complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of the divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.”

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI also expressed grave concern about the gender ideology: “The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation.”

High schools in the Nebraska panhandle will be voting on January 6th, and high schools in the rest of the state will be voting on January 13th, whether to formally adopt the current NSAA practice that students participate according to their sex at birth. The Nebraska Catholic Conference supports this proposal, and diocesan high schools that are members of the NSAA will be voting in favor of it.

If NSAA member schools fail to pass this or a related proposal, the NSAA board of directors will consider, and possibly approve, a separate policy on January 14th that would open the door to participation by students with gender dysphoria according to their self-identity.  If approved, this policy would go into effect immediately on January 14th.  The Nebraska Catholic Conference strongly opposes this new policy being considered by the NSAA board of directors.

We strongly urge all NSAA member schools to vote in favor of the “sex on the certificate at birth” bylaw amendment proposal at their district meetings on January 6th and 13th.

More information is available at the Nebraska Catholic Conference website, www.necatholic.org.

Most Rev. George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha
Most Rev. James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln
Most Rev. Joseph G. Hanefeldt, Bishop Grand Island

 

 

Saint of Light, Saint of Darkness

Like so many others around the world, I was overjoyed to hear of the recent decision of the Vatican to canonize Mother Teresa, a woman generally recognized, during her lifetime, to be a “living saint.” Mother Teresa first came to my attention through Malcolm Muggeridge's film and attendant book Something Beautiful for God. Of course Muggeridge showed Mother's work with the dying and the poorest of the poor on the streets of Kolkata, but what moved me the most were the images of the saint's smile amidst so much squalor and suffering. She was a very bright light shining in exceptionally thick darkness. 
 

Mother's life reveals so many aspects and profiles of holiness, but I would like to focus on three of them. First, she shows something remarkable about love, which is not a sentiment but rather willing the good of the other. I think it is fair to say that Mother Teresa went to extremes in demonstrating love in this proper sense. She renounced practically everything that, in the opinion of the world, makes life pleasant — wealth, material goods, power, comforts, luxuries — in order to be of service to those in need. Further, for decades, she personally reached out to the most vulnerable in one of the worst slums in the world and sent her sisters to some of the most disagreeable places on the planet. Most of us, I imagine, manage to love to a degree, but few ever express this theological virtue more dramatically and radically than she did. This is not simply admirable, it constitutes a crucial witness to the nature of love. Unlike the other virtues, both natural and theological, love has no limit. Justice, limitlessly expressed, excludes all mercy; too much temperance becomes a fussy puritanism; exaggerated courage is rashness; unlimited faith is credulity; infinite hope devolves into presumption. But there can never be too much love; there is never a time when love is inappropriate, for love is what God is, and love constitutes the very life of heaven. Mind you, in heaven there is no need for faith and hope fades away. But in that supremely holy place, love remains in all of its infinite intensity and radicality. Mother Teresa's way of life, accordingly, is an icon of the love that will obtain in heaven, when we are drawn utterly into the very life of God.

 

A second feature of Mother's holiness is her dedication to prayer. When I visited the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata some years ago, what impressed me most was a life-size statue of Mother Teresa in the very back of the chapel, in the attitude she customarily assumed when she prayed: legs folded under her, palms facing upward, head bowed. From the very beginning of her community, Mother insisted that her sisters should engage in substantial amounts of prayer every day; and in time, she established a branch of her order dedicated exclusively to contemplative prayer. She understood something that is essential to the Christian spiritual life, namely, that the kind of love she and her sisters endeavored to practice could come only through the grace of God, only as a sheer gift. To get that gift, it was necessary to ask, to ask again, to beg one's whole life long. Without this explicit connection to God and his purposes, their work, she knew, would turn into mere do-goodism, and the egos of her sisters would inevitably assert themselves. Saints, those who embody the love that God is, are necessarily beggars.

 

I remarked above that Mother Teresa struck me as a light in the shadows. How mysterious, therefore, that she herself once said, “If I ever become a saint, I will surely be a saint of darkness.” She was referring to something that only a handful of people knew in her lifetime, that for upwards of fifty years, Mother Teresa experienced the pain of the absence of God. The living saint often felt abandoned by God or even that God does not exist. Once a visiting bishop was kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament with Mother and her nuns. A note was passed to him from the saintly foundress, which read, to his infinite surprise, “Where is Jesus?” That she lived through this crucible for decades, even as people routinely saw her as the very paragon of holiness, shows forth a third dimension of her saintliness. To be a saint is to allow Christ to live his life in you. Indeed, St. Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me;” and this means the wholeChrist. Jesus was a person of service to the poor and needy, and Mother certainly embodied this aspect of his life; Jesus was a person who prayed intently and for long periods of time, and Mother participated in this dimension of his existence. But Jesus was also the crucified Lord, who said, at the limit of his suffering, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” To allow Christ to live his life in you is, therefore, necessarily to experience, to one degree or another, the absence of God, to undergo the agony of the crucifixion in all of its dimensions. St. John of the Cross, the greatest mystical theologian in the Church's history said, quite simply, that there is no path to holiness that does not lead through the cross. Though it is a high paradox, the fifty-year darkness that Mother endured is, therefore, one of the surest indicators of her saintliness. 

 

Saints exist for the Church, for in them we see the very raison d'etre of the Church, and this is why canonizations are always joyful affairs. So let us rejoice in this new saint whose love, prayer, and very darkness, are light for us.

 
Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.
 
 

ANGELUS ADDRESS Jan. 6: On the Magi

Here is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis' Angelus Address today at noon to the faithful in St. Peter's Square on the Solemnity of the Epiphany:

* * *

Before the Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In today’s Gospel, the story of the Magi, who came from the East to Bethlehem to adore the Messiah, confers on the feast of the Epiphany a universal breadth. And this is the breadth of the Church, which desires that all the peoples of the earth be able to meet Jesus, to experience His merciful love. This is the desire of the Church: that they find the mercy of Jesus, His love.

Jesus has just been born, He still does not know how to speak, and all peoples – represented by the Magi – can already meet Him, recognize Him and adore Him. The Magi say: “We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). Herod heard this as soon as the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. These Magi were prestigious men, of distant regions and different cultures, and they started towards the land of Israel to adore the King that was born. The Church has always seen in them the image of the whole of humanity, and with today’s celebration of the feast of the Epiphany, she wishes to indicate respectfully, to every man and woman of this world, the Child that was born for the salvation of all.

On Christmas Eve Jesus manifested Himself to the shepherds, humble men held in contempt – some say brigands –; they were the first to bring some warmth to that cold cave of Bethlehem. Now the Magi arrive from distant lands, also attracted mysteriously by that Child. The shepherds and the Magi are very different from one another; however, they have one thing in common: the heavens. The shepherds of Bethlehem went immediately to see Jesus, not because they were particularly good, but because they were watching in the night and, raising their eyes to the heavens, they saw a sign, they listened to its message and followed it. So, also, did the Magi: they scrutinized the heavens, they saw a new star, they interpreted the sign, and started out from afar. The shepherds and the Magi teach us that to meet Jesus it is necessary to be able to raise one’s gaze to the heavens, not to be withdrawn in oneself, in one’s egoism, but to have the heart and mind open to the horizon of God, who always surprises us, to be able to receive His messages, and to answer with promptness and generosity.

The Gospel says that, “on seeing the star” the Magi “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10). It is a great consolation for us also to see the star, that is, to feel guided and not abandoned to our fate. And the star is the Gospel, the Word of the Lord, as the Psalm says: “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (119:105). This light leads us to Christ. Without listening to the Gospel, it is impossible to meet Him! In fact, the Magi, following the star, reached the place where Jesus was. And there “they saw the child with Mary his Mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.” (Matthew 2:11). The Magi’s experience exhorts us not to be content with mediocrity, not to “get by” somehow, but to seek the meaning of things, to scrutinize passionately the great mystery of life. And it teaches us not to be scandalized by littleness and poverty, but to recognize the majesty of humility, and to be able to kneel before it.

May the Virgin Mary, who received the Magi at Bethlehem, help us to raise our gaze from ourselves, to let ourselves be guided by the star of the Gospel to meet Jesus, and to be able to abase ourselves to adore Him. Thus we will be able to take to others a ray of His light, and to share with them the joy of the way.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

After the Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we express our spiritual closeness to brothers and sister of the Christian East, Catholics and Orthodox, many of whom will celebrate the Lord’s Birth tomorrow. To them we send our wishes of peace and goodness, and also a hearty applause as greeting!

We remember also that Epiphany is the World Day of Missionary Childhood. It is the feast of children that, with their prayers and sacrifices, help their neediest contemporaries by becoming missionaries and witnesses of fraternity and sharing.

I give my cordial welcome to you all, individual pilgrims, families, parish groups and Associations from Italy and from different countries. In particular I greet the faithful of Acerra, Modena and Terlizzi; the School of Sacred Art  of Florence; and the young people of the Lions Club International Camp.

A special greeting goes to all those who give life to the historic and folkloric procession, dedicated this year to the territory of the Valle dell’Amaseno. I wish to remind also of the procession of Magi taking place in numerous cities of Poland with the wide participation of families and Associations, as well as of the living Nativity scene set up at the Campidoglio by UNITALSI and the Friars Minor, involving persons with disabilities.

I wish you all a happy feast. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and see you soon!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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