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Friday, January 6, 2017

Angelus for the Epiphany

Having concluded the celebration of the Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, at noon today (Rome time), the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, we are celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord, the manifestation of Jesus who shines as a light to all nations.  A symbol of this light that shines throughout the world and seeks to illuminate the life of each person is the star that guided the Magi to Bethlehem.  The gospel tells us that they: saw his star (Mt 2:2) and chose to follow it: they chose to allow themselves to be guided by Jesus' star.

In our lives too, there are various stars, lights that twinkle and guide us.  It is up to us to choose which ones we follow.  For example, there are intermittent lights which go and come, such as the small pleasures of life: although they are good, they are not enough because they only last a short while and do not leave us the peace that we seek.  Then there are the bright lights we refer to as the limelight: money and success, which promise everything immediately, but blinded by them, we pass by dreams of glory and find ourselves in the deepest darkness.  Instead, the Magi invite us to follow a fixed light, a gentle light that does not pass away, for it is not of this world: it comes from the skies and shines ... where?  In our hearts.

This true light is the light of the Lord, or better yet, it is the Lord himself.  He is our light: a light that does not dazzle us, but accompanies us and gives us a unique joy.  This light is for everyone and calls to each one of us: so we can hear the call of the prophet Isaiah addressed to us today: Get up, clothe yourself in light (Is 60:1).  Isaiah used these words while prophesying about today's gift of joy to Jerusalem: Get up, clothe yourself in light.  At the beginning of every new day we can welcome this invitation: get up, clothe yourself in light; today, among the many shooting stars in the world, follow the luminous star of Jesus!  Following it, we will find joy, as the Magi did: upon seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding joy (Mt 2:10); because where God is, there is joy.  Anyone who has met Jesus has experienced the miracle of light that pierces the darkness and knows this light that illuminates and brightens.

With great respect, I wish to invite all people to not be afraid of this light, and to open your hearts to the Lord.  Above all, I want to say to anyone who has lost the strength to search, anyone who is tired, anyone who is overwhelmed by the darkness of life, anyone who has lost the desire to search: get up, take courage, the light of Jesus can overcome even the darkest of shadows; get up, take courage!

And how do we find this divine light?  Let us follow the example of the Magi, who the gospel describes as always moving.  In fact, those who seek the light go out from themselves and search: they do not remain closed in, stop to watch whatever is going on around them; they bring their very lives into play; go out from themselves.  The Christian life is a continual journey, composed of hope and seeking; a journey that, like that of the Magi, continues even if the star should momentarily disappear from view.  Along the way, there are also some pitfalls that should be avoided: superficial and mundane chatter, which slows down the pace; selfish tantrums that cripple; the pits of pessimism, that entraps all hope.  These obstacles blocked the way for the Scribes, as today's gospel tells us.  They knew where the light was but they did not go in search of it.  When Herod asked them: Where is the Messiah to be born?, they answered: In Bethlehem!  They knew where, but they did not go in search of him.  Their knowledge was vain: they knew many things but their knowledge was useless; it was stopped by vanity.  It is not enough to know that God is born, we must celebrate him, celebrate Christmas in our hearts.  God is born, but has he been born in your heart?  Has he been born in my heart?  Has he been born in our hearts?  This is how we will find him, like the Magi, with Mary and Joseph in the stable.

The Magi were successful: when they found the Child, they knelt and adored him (Lk 2:11).  They didn't only look at him, they did not simply say a prayer and then go on their way, no - they adored him: they entered into a personal communion of love with Jesus.  Then they presented him with gold, frankincense and myrrh: they offered their most prized possessions.  Let us learn from the Magi how not to dedicate to Jesus only some of our spare time and a few thoughts from time to time, otherwise we will not receive his light.  Like the Magi, let us set out on a journey, clothing ourselves in light and following Jesus' star; let us adore the Lord with all our beings.

After the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Tomorrow, the ecclesial community of the Orient who follow the Julian calendar will celebrate Christmas.  In a spirit of joyful fraternity, I hope that the new birth of the Lord Jesus will fill our brothers and sisters with light and peace.

The Epiphany is the Day of Holy Childhood.  I encourage all the children and the young people who in many parts of the world are committed to proclaiming the gospel and to helping their friends who are in need.  I greet all those who have come today from the Lazio, Abbruzzo and Molise regions of Italy, and I thank the Pontifical Holy Childhood Association for this educational opportunity.

I greet the participants taking part in the historical-folkloristic parade, dedicated this year to the southern Umbrian lands; together you are dedicated to spreading the values of solidarity and fraternity.

I greet the groups who have come from Malta, California and Poland; and I extend my blessing to the participants taking part in the great Parade of the Magi which is taking place in Warsaw, including many families and children.

I greet the faithful from Ferrara, Correggio, Ruvo di Puglia, Robecco sul Naviglio and Cucciago; as well as the newly Confirmed from Rosolina and from Romano in Lombardia, the Altar servers from the Dioceses of Asti and the young people from Cologno al Serio as well as the friends and volunteers from the Fraterna Domus.

The Magi offered Jesus their gifts, but in reality, it is Jesus himself who is the true gift of God.  In fact, he is God himself who gives himself to us, in Him we see the merciful face of the Father who awaits us, who welcomes us, who always forgives us; the face of God who never treats us according to our own works or according to our sins, but always according to the immensity of his inexhaustible mercy.  And speaking of gifts, I too want to offer you a little gift ... there are no camels, but I will give you a gift: a little book entitled Icons of Mercy.  God's gift is Jesus, the Father's mercy; and for this reason, to remember this gift of God, I will give you this gift which will be distributed by the poor, by those who are homeless and by refugees along with many volunteers and religious who I cordially greet and thank with all my heart.

I wish you all a year of justice, forgiveness, serenity and above all a year of mercy.  It will help if you read this book.  It is pocket sized, you can carry it with you.  Please, don't forget to offer the gift of your prayers for me.  May the Lord bless you.  Happy feast day, enjoy your lunch and good bye!
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