Pope: politicians, scientists, religions, today’s Magi, do not fear light of Christ
During Mass to mark the solemn feast of the Epiphany, Benedict XVI outlined the paths towards a new contemporary humanism. And he renewed the invitation of the Second Vatican Council to rulers, researchers and representatives of non-Christian religions to find in Jesus Christ the way of justice and peace for the peoples of the earth.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – On the day when the Church celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles, represented by the Magi who came from the East, Benedict XVI launched a heartfelt appeal to “today’s Magi”: politicians, scientists and representatives of non-Christian religions, that they may discover that Christ is the fulfillment of their searching. In the setting of St Peter’s Basilica, in a Eucharistic celebration, with Asian, African, Polynesian ministrants, the pontiff presented the message of the Epiphany once again, of a “God who revealed himself in history as the light of the world, to lead and finally to introduce mankind to the promised land, where freedom, justice and peace reign”. To “today’s Magi” and “to all men of our time”, the pope repeated: “Do not be afraid of the light of Christ! His light is the splendour of truth. Let yourselves be illuminated by Him, all peoples of the earth, allow yourselves to be covered by his love and you will find the path of peace.”
The urgency expressed by the pope in this missionary appeal is partly due to the fact that “twenty centuries have passed since this mystery was revealed and realized in Christ, but still it has not reached fulfillment.” He recalled “my beloved predecessor John Paul II”, who in “his Encyclical on the mission of the Church, wrote that ‘as the second millennium after Christ's coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning’ (Redemptoris missio, 1)”.
But the urgency is also down to the tragic situation gripping the modern world, empty of peace, justice and love because it is without God. Benedict XVI recalled that the Second Vatican Council was an attempt to make current the “manifestation [Epiphany] of Christ”. The pope said: “In truth, all the Second Vatican Council was prompted by the yearning to announce Christ, light of the world, to mankind of today. In the heart of the Church, starting out from the top of its hierarchy, emerged the compelling desire, drawn forth by the Holy Spirit, for a new epiphany of Christ to the world, a world that the modern era had profoundly transformed and that for the first time in history had found itself facing the challenge of a global civilization, where the centre could no longer be Europe or even what we call the West and North of the world. The need emerged for a new world order in economic and political spheres but also and especially in cultural and spiritual spheres, that is, a renewed humanism.” And to stress the difficulties prevalent today, he added spontaneously, “A new social, political and economic order does not work if there is no spiritual renewal, if we do not find God.”
The pope spoke about the situation of the modern world as an “epochal challenge”. He continued: “At the start of the third millennium, we find ourselves in the midst of this phase of human history that has come to be defined round the word ‘globalization’. But then today we realize how easy it is to lose sight of the terms of this very challenge, precisely because we are taken up in it: this risk is greatly reinforced by the immense expansion of the mass media which on the one hand multiplies information but on the other seems to weaken our abilities for critical synthesis. Today’s celebration could offer us this perspective, starting from the manifestation of a God who revealed himself in history as the light of the world, to lead and finally to introduce mankind to the promised land where freedom, justice and peace will reign”. And once again he added spontaneously: “And we see that we cannot find justice and peace alone, if the face of God does not appear to us, this humble face of God that appears to us in the poverty of the manger.”
Benedict XVI thus made his own the appeal of the Second Vatican Council to those he described as “today’s Magi”: the “rulers” and “men of thought and science”, to which he added another category, “the spiritual guides of the great non-Christian religions”. Benedict XVI continued: “Two thousand years later, we can recognize in the Magi a sort of pre-figuration of these three dimensions that make up modern humanism: the political, scientific and religious dimensions. The Epiphany shows them in a state of ‘pilgrimage’, that is, in a movement of searching that definitively has its point of arrival in Christ. At the same time, it shows us God who in his turn is on a pilgrimage towards man: who is Jesus in fact, if not God who came out, so to speak, of himself to meet mankind? For love, He made himself history in our history; for love he came to bring us the seed of new life (cfr Jn 3:3-6) and to sow it in the furrows of our earth, until it should sprout, flower and bear fruit.”
Citing the message of the Second Vatican Council to rulers the pope said: “’Your task is to be in the world the promoters of order and peace among men. But never forget this: It is God, the living and true God, who is the Father of men. And it is Christ, His eternal Son, who came to make this known to us and to teach us that we are all brothers. He it is who is the great artisan of order and peace on earth, for He it is who guides human history and who alone can incline hearts to renounce those evil passions which beget war and misfortune.’ How could we not recognize in these words of the Council Fathers the luminous tracks of a journey that could transform the history of the Nations and the world?”
And again, citing the “Message to men of thought and science”, he said: “Continue your search without tiring and without ever despairing of the truth. Recall the words of one of your great friends, St. Augustine: ‘Let us seek with the desire to find, and find with the desire to seek still more.’ Happy are those who, while possessing the truth, search more earnestly for it in order to renew it, deepen it and transmit it to others. Happy also are those who, not having found it, are working toward it with a sincere heart. May they seek the light of tomorrow with the light of today until they reach the fullness of light.” Again he said spontaneously: “The great danger – for people of science – is that one despairs of truth and makes do with pragmatism.”
“Today more than ever, it is a must to flank the rulers of peoples, researchers and scientists with representatives of the big traditional non-Christian religions, inviting them to confront themselves with the light of Christ that came not to abolish but to bring to fulfillment what the hand of God has written in the religious history of civilization, especially in the ‘great souls’ that have contributed to building humanity with their wisdom and their examples of virtue. Christ is light and light cannot obscure but only illuminate, make clear and reveal. Thus no one should fear Christ and his message! And if throughout history Christians, being limited men and sinners, could at times have betrayed him with their conduct, this shows even more clearly how the light is Christ and that the Church reflects him only by remaining united with Him.”
At the end of his homily, Benedict XVI dwelt on some features of the Magi (of then and now), namely humility and passion to seek truth rather than wealth and power. The pope said: “They prostrated themselves before a simple baby in his mother’s arms not in the setting of a royal palace but instead in the poverty of a shed in Bethlehem (cfr Mt ). How was it possible? What convinced the Magi that that boy was the ‘king of the Jews’? Certainly they were persuaded by the sign of the star, which they saw ‘rising’ and which stopped right on top of the place where the Boy was (cfr Mt 2:9). But even that star would not have been enough had the Magi not been people intimately open to the truth. As opposed to King Herod, who was taken up by his interests of power and wealth, the Magi were looking towards the end of their quest and when they found it, although they were cultured men, they behaved like the shepherds of Bethlehem: they recognized the sign and adored the Boy, offering him precious and symbolic gifts that they brought with them.”
The mystery of the Epiphany “contains a demanding and ever present message” for Christians too, who often whittle their faith and witness down to activism or sentimentalism. The pope said: “The Church, reflected in Mary, is called to show Jesus to men, nothing else but Jesus. He is the All and the Church does not exist other than to remain united in Him and to make Him known to the world. May the Mother of the Word incarnate help us to be docile disciples of her Son, Light to the nations.”
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