On Friday, the Feast of the Epiphany, Pope Francis said that the Magi are not just men who sought out and worshiped the Christ-child a long time ago – they exemplify everyone who has a restless heart, everyone searching for God.
The hearts of the Magi “were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness,” he said Jan. 6. “They were open to something new.”
“The Magi thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland.”
In his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis explained how this “holy longing” for God is present in the hearts of believers because we know that the Gospel is not just something of the past, but that it is also here and now.
And this longing for God is what helps to keep us alert in the face of trials, and to keep the faith, even amongst “prophets of doom” and those people and things who try to “impoverish” our lives, he said.
“That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’”
This longing can be seen throughout the New Testament, Francis pointed out. It can be seen in the elderly Simeon, who went every day to the Temple, certain that he would hold the Savior before his life ended. The same longing can be seen in the Prodigal Son, leading him to abandon his self-destructive lifestyle and return to his father.
The shepherd who leaves the 99 to search for the one lost sheep has this longing. Mary Magdalen experienced this longing too, when she went to the tomb on that first Easter morning looking for Christ.
“Longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change. Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need,” the Pope stated.
“Longing for God has its roots in the past yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future,” he continued.
When we feel this longing, faith leads us to seek God, just like the Magi did, he explained, even “in the most distant corners of history.” Believers throughout history have been led to “go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to places not yet evangelized” because of this faith, he said.
But they don’t do this through a sense of superiority, Francis noted. They go as beggars, who “cannot ignore the eyes of those who for whom the Good News is still uncharted territory.”
King Herod though, instead of having faith, was full of fear, full of the culture that preaches control and winning at any cost. And this is what led him to kill innocent children, he explained.
The Pope said that the Magi, on the other hand, wanted to worship, but they thought they would find the King in a palace: “They had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically.”
Continuing, Pope Francis said we have to realize that “God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him. To realize that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated and abandoned.”
“That his strength and his power are called mercy. For some of us, how far Jerusalem is from Bethlehem!” Francis emphasized.
“The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day,” the Pope said. “But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness. There something new was taking place.”
“The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.”
Following Mass, Pope Francis led around 35,000 pilgrims in the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, speaking about how Jesus is our light: “a light that does not dazzle, but accompanies and gives a unique joy.”
“In our life there are several stars,” he warned. And it’s up to us to choose which to follow. There are many “flashing lights” in our lives, like success and money, which come and go, which may be good, but are not enough, because they do not give lasting peace.
“The Magi, instead, invite you to follow a stable and friendly light, which shall not pass, because it is not of this world,” he explained. It comes from “heaven and shines in the heart.”
Today, follow the “bright star of Jesus!” he said. Have courage, because the “light of Jesus can overcome the darkest darkness.”
This Epiphany, look to the example of the Magi, he emphasized. Go out of yourself and seek: “the Christian life is a continuous journey.”
And finding the Child, the Magi worshipped him, entered into “a personal communion of love with Jesus,” giving him their most precious gifts.
Don’t give Jesus only your “spare time” or “some thought occasionally,” the Pope concluded. “Like the Magi, let us set out, clothing ourselves in light, following the star of Jesus, adoring the Lord with our whole selves.”