Thought for the Day – 7 January – The Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Excerpt from Pope Francis Homily for Epiphany 2017
The Magi 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 not let their hearts be anaesthetised.
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. A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life. A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom. That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.
We want to worship. Those men came from the East to worship and they came to do so in the place befitting a king: a palace. This is significant. Their quest led them there, for it was fitting that a king should be born in a palace, amid a court and all his subjects. For that is a sign of power, success, a life of achievement. One might well expect a king to be venerated, feared and adulated. True, but not necessarily loved. For those are worldly categories, the paltry idols to which we pay homage: he cult of power, outward appearances and superiority. Idols that promise only sorrow, enslavement, fear.
It was there, in that place, that those men, come from afar, would embark upon their longest journey. There they set out boldly on a more arduous and complicated journey. 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 realise that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us. To realise that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals. To realise that God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him. To realise that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated, abandoned. That His strength and His power are called MERCY. For some of us, how far Jerusalem is from Bethlehem!
Herod is unable to worship because he could not or would not change his own way of looking at things. He did not want to stop worshipping himself, believing that everything revolved around him. He was unable to worship, because his aim was to make others worship him. Nor could the priests worship, because although they had great knowledge, and knew the prophecies, they were not ready to make the journey or to change their ways.
The Magi experienced longing, they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day. But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness. There something new was taking place. The Magi 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.