01/06/2016, 00.00
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Pope at Epiphany: For the Church, "There is no other way. Mission is her vocation”

Speaking at the Epiphany Mass, Pope Francis reiterated the Church’s missionary mission, which is not proselytising. The Church lives from the ‘mysterium lunae’. She reflects God’s light, and cannot “illude herself into thinking that she shines with her own light”. “Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a ‘restless heart’.” In front of the child and his mother, let us present them with our gifts: “our freedom, our understanding and our love."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In the homily he delivered in today’s Mass in St Peter’s Basilica celebrating the solemnity of the Epiphany, Pope Francis said that for the Church, “There is no other way. Mission is her vocation”. For the pontiff, the festivity expresses the manifestation of the child Jesus to all the nations, represented by the Magi, as noted in today’s Gospel (Mt, 2: 1-12).

In his homily, Francis focused on the mission. “To proclaim the Gospel of Christ,” Francis said, “is not simply one option among many, nor is it a profession. For the Church, to be missionary does not mean to proselytise. 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.

Hence, the Church’s mission and the light she announces is not her property. “The Church cannot illude 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’” (Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32).

“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.” Hence, “We need this light from on high if we are to respond in a way worthy of the vocation we have received.

“The Magi,” the pope went on to say, “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.”

Francis then spoke about the "sign" of the star, which the Magi saw and followed to reach 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’ (Mt 2:2). 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.”

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