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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany: Let us Follow the Light that God Gives

Vatican City, 6 January 2015 (VIS) – “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.” These were among the words spoken by the Holy Father this morning in the homily of the Mass for the Solemnity of Epiphany celebrated in the Vatican Basilica. Following is the complete text of the Pope's homily, given after the Gospel reading and the announcement that Easter will be celebrated on 27 March this year.

The words of the Prophet Isaiah – addressed to the Holy City of Jerusalem – are also meant for us. They call us to 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.' That 'light' is the glory of the Lord. The Church cannot delude 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”.' 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. There is no other way. Mission is her vocation. 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. Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a 'restless heart' which continues to seek without finding sure answers. 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, 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. 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.' 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! 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. Let us recognize that 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 and guides the journey of the peoples along the path of peace.”

Angelus: Star is the Gospel; In Following It We Follow Jesus

Vatican City, 6 January 2015 (VIS) – At noon, after the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

In today's Gospel,” he began, “the story of the Magi who came to Bethlehem from the East to adore the Messiah confers upon the feast of Epiphany an air of universality. This air is the breath of the Church, who desires all the peoples of the earth to encounter Jesus and to experience his merciful love. This is the Church's wish: that all may find Jesus' mercy, his love. The new-born Christ does not yet know how to speak and yet people of all the nations—represented by the Magi—can already meet him, recognize him, worship him. The Magi say: 'We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage'.”

...The Magi were prestigious men, from distant lands and different cultures, and they had journeyed toward Israel to worship the king who had been born. The Church has always seen in them an image of all of humanity and, with today's celebration of the Feast of Epiphany, it wants to respectfully show every man and woman of this world the Child who was born for the salvation of all. On Christmas Eve, Jesus revealed himself to shepherds, humble and unappreciated men—some say robbers. They were the first to bring a little warmth into that cold grotto in Bethlehem. Now the Magi come from distant lands, also mysteriously attracted by that Child. The shepherds and the Magi are very different from one another but one thing unites them: the sky.”

...The shepherds and the Magi teach us that, to encounter Jesus, it is necessary to know how to raise our gaze to the heavens, and not be turned in on ourselves, on our own selfishness, but to have our hearts and minds open to the horizon of God, which always surprises us, and to know how to welcome its message and respond promptly and generously. The Magi, the Gospel says, 'were overjoyed at seeing the star'. Even for us there is great consolation in seeing the star, namely in feeling guided and not abandoned to our fate. The star is the Gospel, the Word of the Lord that, as the psalm says, 'is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path'. This light guides us towards Christ. Without listening to the Gospel it is not possible to encounter him.”

The Magi,” he added, “following the star, came to the place where Jesus was. And there 'they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage'. The experience of the Magi urges us not to be content with mediocrity, not to 'just get along' but to seek out the meaning of things, passionately scrutinizing the great mystery of life. It teaches us not to be scandalized by smallness and poverty, but to recognize the majesty of humility and to know how to kneel before it. May the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Magi to Bethlehem, help us to lift our gaze from ourself and to be guided by the star of the Gospel so that we might meet Jesus and know how to humble ourselves in order to worship him. In that way we can bring a ray of its light to others and share the joy of the journey with them.”

Eastern Christian Brothers and Sisters in Pope's Heart

Vatican City, 6 January 2015 (VIS) – Following the Angelus, the Pope gave his customary greeting to the numerous faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. He expressed his “spiritual nearness” to the brothers and sisters of the Christian East, “many of whom celebrate the birth of the Lord tomorrow.” He sent them a wish for peace and wellness.

He also mentioned that the 6th of January marks the “World Day of Missionary Childhood”. “It is the day for children,” he said, “who with their prayers and sacrifices, help their contemporaries most in need, acting as missionaries and witnesses of fraternity and solidarity”. At the end of his remarks, he wished all a good feastday.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 7 January 2016 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father erected the apostolic exarchate for Syrian Catholics in Canada with territory taken from the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark. The Holy Father appointed Fr. Antoine Nassif as first exarch of the newly-erected apostolic exarchate. Bishop-elect Nassif was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1969 and ordained for the Syrian Catholic patriarchal eparchy in 1992. After ordination he served in various roles including: principal of the school of Charfet, Lebanon; vice-pastor in two parishes; and, most recently, as rector of the Patriarchal Major Seminary of Charfet. He speaks French, English, and Italian.

Yesterday, 6 January, the Holy Father appointed:

Bishop Luiz Gonzaga Fechio as Bishop of Amparo (area 2,084, population 381,500, Catholics 314,000, priests 53, permanent deacons 1, religious 123), Brazil. Bishop Fechio was previously auxiliary of Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bishop Juarez Sousa da Silva as Coadjutor Bishop of Parnaiba (area 20,839, population 623,000, Catholics 514,000, priests 48, religious 69), Brazil. Bishop da Silva was previously bishop of the Diocese of Oeiras, Brazil and apostolic administrator of Sao Raimundo Nonato, Brazil.
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