On the Epiphany
"Jesus Came to the World With Great Humility and in Secret"
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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today, the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Epiphany, the "manifestation" of the Lord. The Gospel recounts how Jesus came to the world with great humility and in secret. St. Matthew, nonetheless, refers to the arrival of the Magi, who came from the East, guided by a star, to render homage to the recently born king of the Jews. Each time I listen to this narrative, I am impressed by the clear contrast between the attitude of the Magi, on one hand, and that of Herod and the Jews.
The Gospel says that, upon listening to the worlds of the Magi, "King Herod [...] was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matthwe 2:3). This reaction can be understood in various ways: Herod became alarmed because he saw in the one the Magi searched for a competitor for him and his sons. The authorities and inhabitants of Jerusalem, however, seemed astonished more than anything else, as if they woke up from a certain lethargy and needed time to think. Isaiah, in reality, had announced: "For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:5).
So then, why did Jerusalem become worried? It seems that the Evangelist wanted to anticipate the position that the high priests and the Sanhedrin would take, as well as that of the populous, with regard to Jesus during his public life. Certainly, it highlights the fact that knowledge of Scripture and the messianic prophecies don't lead all to open themselves to him and his word. Christ recalls this, before the passion, when he cries over Jerusalem because it had not recognized the time of its visitation (cf. Luke 19:44).
He we touch upon one of the crucial points of the theology of history: the drama of the faithful love of God in the person of Jesus, who "came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him" (John 1:11). In light of the entire Bible, this attitude of hostility, ambiguity or superficiality represents that of every man and of the "world" -- in the spiritual sense -- when it closes itself to the mystery of the true God, who comes to meet us with the disarming meekness of love. Jesus, the "King of the Jews" (cf. John 18:37), is the God of mercy and fidelity; he wants to reign with in love and truth, and asks us to convert, to abandon evil works and that we take up with decision the path of the good.
"Jerusalem," as such, in this sense, is all of us. May the Virgin Mary, who welcomed Jesus with faith, help us to not close our heart to his Gospel of salvation. Let us allow ourselves to be conquered and transformed by him -- the "Emmanuel" (God with us) -- to give us peace and love.
[After praying the Angelus, the Pope said:]
I direct my heartfelt congratulation to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches who follow the Julian calendar and will celebrate Christmas tomorrow. May the memory of the birth of the Savior spark in your hearts more and more the joy of being loved by God. Recalling our brothers and sisters in faith takes me spiritually to the Holy Land and to the Middle East. I am deeply worried about the violent armed confrontations that are taking place on the Gaza border. While I confirm that hate and the rejection of dialogue doesn't bring anything but war, I would like to encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who, loving peace, are trying to help the Israelis and Palestinians to sit down at a table and talk. May God support the commitment of these builders of peace!
In many countries, the feast of the Epiphany is also a celebration of children. I am thinking especially of all children, who are the treasure and blessing of the world, and above all of those who are denied a serene childhood. I wish to call attention, in particular, to the situation of hundreds of children and adolescents who, in these past months, which included Christmas, have been kidnapped by armed gangs that have attacked small towns in the eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have resulted in numerous victims and wounded.
I call out to the authors of these inhuman brutalities to return these young people to their families and to a future of security and development, which is their right, together with these beloved populations. I wish to express at the same time my spiritual closeness to the local Churches, whose members and works have been hurt, while I exhort the pastors and faithful to remain strong and firm in hope.
Episodes of violence against children, which unfortunately also occurs in other parts of the world, are even more deplorable give that in 2009 the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child will be celebrated: a commitment that the international community is called to renew so that it can defend and promote childhood throughout the world.
May the Lord help those who work on a daily basis to serve the new generations -- and they are innumerable! -- helping them to be protagonists of the future. Furthermore, the Day of the Child Missionary, which is celebrated on the feast of the Epiphany, is an opportune occasion to highlight that children and adolescents have an important role to play in the diffusion of the Gospel and in the works of solidarity with those of their same age who are in need. May the Lord reward them!
[The Pope then greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking visitors who join us for this Angelus prayer. On this feast of the Epiphany, the Church celebrates the revelation of Christ, the Eternal Son of the Father, as the light of the nations and the Saviour of all mankind. May the radiance of the Lord's glory fill you and your families with deep spiritual joy, and draw men and women everywhere to faith and new life in him!
© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana