On the solemnity of the Epiphany, Pope Francis said that the journey of the three wise men reflects a path of conversion taken by each person, in which God breaks the norm of our human expectations. “The crib points us to a different path from the one cherished by the thinking of this world: it is the path of God’s self-abasement, his glory concealed in the manger of Bethlehem, on the cross upon Calvary, in each of our suffering brothers and sisters,” the Pope told Mass attendees on Jan. 6. On their journey to the manger where Jesus was laid, the wise men realized, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that “God’s criteria are quite different from those of men,” the pontiff continued. They understood that “God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of his love …The wise men are thus models of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendor of power.” In his reflections for the Mass, which took place inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the Roman Pontiff noted how the Church celebrates the encounter between the Magi and the infant Jesus by honoring it with a solemnity — the highest ranking feast in the liturgical calendar. By doing this the Church invites the faithful to pray and meditate on the journey of the three wise men, who initiated a search for the savior that still continues to this day. Traditionally understood as sages or “observers of the heavens” who, in a cultural and historical context, believed that the stars had an impact human affairs, “the wise men represent men and woman who seek God in the world’s religions and philosophies: an unending quest,” the Pope observed. When the Magi set out to follow the star, they were really seeking God, who is the true light, the pontiff said. He noted that it was the Holy Spirit who prompted them to begin their journey, which would ultimately end in a personal encounter with God. Pope Francis pointed out how the Magi encountered many difficulties on their journey, the first being their visit to Herod’s palace when they entered Jerusalem, “for they thought it obvious that the new king would be born in the royal palace.” “There they lost sight of the star and met with a temptation, placed there by the devil: it was the deception of Herod. King Herod was interested in the child, not to worship him but to eliminate him.” As a powerful man Herod viewed others only as rivals, the pontiff noted, explaining that for the king, God was secretly the most dangerous rival of all. He then observed that after a moment of “obscurity” and desolation, the wise men left Herod’s palace at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and were filled with joy when the star came into sight again. When the Magi reached Bethlehem and found the infant Jesus in the arms of Mary, they were faced with another great temptation, the Pope said, explaining that this one was a temptation “to reject this smallness.” “But instead ‘they fell down and worshiped him,’ offering him their precious symbolic gifts,” he said, reiterating how it was by grace of the Holy Spirit that they were led to Jesus and were able to enter into his mystery. In being face-to-face with Jesus, the wise men realize that the ways of God “are quite different from those of men,” and that God speaks through humility and love, rather than the “splendor of power.” “The love of God is humble, so humble!” the Pope observed, and explained that the conversion of the Magi is a true example for those who genuinely seek God. “So we can ask ourselves: what is the mystery in which God is hidden?” the pontiff said, and asked those present where we can find God when we see so many wars, the exploitation of children, torture, and trafficking of arms and persons around us. In all these circumstances and in “the least of our brothers and sisters who are enduring these difficult situations, there is Jesus,” he said, explaining that the crib of Christ shows us a different path than that of the world, because God’s glory is masked by suffering. The ability of the wise men to enter into this mystery and pass from their own human calculations to those of God “was their conversion,” the Bishop of Rome observed. “And our own? Let us ask the Lord to let us undergo that same journey of conversion experienced by the wise men. Let us ask him to protect us and to set us free from the temptations which hide the star,” he said. Pope Francis concluded his homily by praying all would find “the courage to be liberated from our illusions, our presumptions, our ‘lights,’ and to seek this courage in the humility of faith and in this way to encounter the Light, like the holy wise men.”
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