01/06/2015, 00.00
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Pope: follow the path of the wise men, "models of conversion" towards the encounter with Christ

"They are the men and women in search of God in the religions and philosophies of the entire world, a search that never ends." Like them, Christians must be "careful, tireless, courageous: with the light of God's Word, a Gospel in one's pocket. [. . .] Even those who seem far from the Lord are followed - or rather 'pursued' - by his passionate love, his faithful as well as humble love."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In his message for Epiphany, which he delivered during the Mass celebrated in St Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis evoked the story of the three "wise" men from the East who followed the "star" to learn about the "king".

In his address, the Holy Father called on the faithful to follow the wise men, "models of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendour of power," as well as recognise and join "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."

"According to tradition, the wise men were sages, watchers of the constellations, observers of the heavens, in a cultural and religious context which saw the stars as having significance and power over human affairs. The wise men represent men and woman who seek God in the world's religions and philosophies: an unending quest."

"The Gospel account of the wise men describes their journey from the East as a journey of the soul, as a path to union with Christ," the pontiff said before the crowd of some 60,000 people present in St Peter's Square for the Angelus.

"They were attentive to the signs that indicated his presence; they were tireless in addressing the difficulties of the search; they were courageous in the implications of life resulting from the encounter with the Lord. The wise men's experience evokes every person's journey to Christ. Like the wise men, for us seeking God means walking, staring at the sky, seeing in the visible sign of the star the invisible God who speaks to our hearts. The star that can drive any man to Jesus is the Word of God. It is the light that guides our path, nourishes our faith and regenerates it. It is the Word of God that renews our hearts and our communities. Thus, let us not forget to read it and meditate it every day, so that it may become, for everyone, like a flame that we carry within us to illuminate our steps, even for those who walk next to us, struggling perhaps to find their way to Christ." Thus, "The Word of God at hand: a small Gospel in your pocket, purse, always, for reading. Do not forget this: always [have] the Word of God" with you.

The wise men show us the path to walk in our lives. They sought the true light: "Lumen requirunt lumine" says a liturgical hymn for the Epiphany, referring precisely to the experience of the wise men. Following a light, they sought the light. They went in search of God. Having seen the sign of the star, they interpreted it and set out on their way, and made a long trip.

"It is the Holy Spirit who called them and prompted them to set out; during this journey they had a personal encounter with the true God."

"Along the way, the wise men encountered many difficulties. Once they reached Jerusalem, they went to the palace of the king, 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. Herod is the powerful man who sees others only as rivals. Deep down, he also considers God a rival, indeed the most dangerous rival of all. In Herod's palace, the wise men experience a moment of obscurity, of desolation, which they manage to overcome thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the prophecies of sacred Scripture. These indicate that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David."

"At that point, they resume their journey, and once more they see the star; the evangelist says that they 'rejoiced exceedingly' (Mt, 2:10). Coming to Bethlehem, they found 'the child with Mary his mother' (Mt, 2:11). After that of Jerusalem, this was their second great temptation: to reject this smallness. But instead, 'they fell down and worshiped him,' offering him their precious symbolic gifts. Again, it is the grace of the Holy Spirit which assists them. That grace, which through the star had called them and led them along the way, now lets them enter into the mystery. Led by the Spirit, they come to realize that God's criteria are quite different from those of men, 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 splendour of power."

"Through their act of worship," Francis said during the Angelus, "the Wise Men bear witness that Jesus came to earth to save not one nation, but every nation. Therefore, in today's feast our eyes widen towards the horizon of the whole world to celebrate the 'manifestation' of the Lord to every nation; that is the, manifestation of God's love and universal salvation. He did not restrict his love to a privileged few, but offered it to everyone. As everybody's Creator and Father, he wants to be everyone's Saviour. For this reason, we are called to nurture always great trust and hope in every person and their salvation. Even those who seem far from the Lord are followed - or rather 'pursued' - by his passionate love, his faithful as well as humble love. "

"The wise men entered into the mystery," said the pope at the end of his homily. "They passed from human calculations to the mystery: this was their conversion. 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. To let us always feel the troubling question, 'Where is the star?' whenever - amid the deceptions of this world - we lose sight of it. To let us know ever anew God's mystery, and not to be scandalized by the 'sign' which points to 'a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger' (Lk, 2:12), and to have the humility to ask the Mother, our Mother, to show him to us. To 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, Lumen, like the holy wise men. [. . .] Always remember: be careful, tireless, courageous: with the light of God's Word, a Gospel in one's pocket."

Lastly, at the end of the Angelus, Pope Francis turned his thoughts "to the brothers and sisters of the Christian East, Catholic and Orthodox, many of whom celebrate the Lord's birth tomorrow. To them I extend our warmest wishes."

"I am pleased to note," he said by way of conclusion, "that today we celebrate World Day of Missionary Childhood. It celebrates children who live with joy the gift of faith and pray that the light of Jesus reaches all the children of the world. I encourage educators to cultivate the missionary spirit in the little ones, so that they may become witnesses of God's tenderness and proclaimers of his love."

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