The Epiphany of the Lord

Pope Benedict’s homily, from Asia News Italy:

First and foremost the pope underlines the evangelical event as recalled in today’s liturgy: “the Magi’s visit to the baby in Bethlehem”, whose birth “had been announced by the rising of a star, visible from afar”. The star had been pre-announced by the prophets: ” A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel” (Nm 24,17),but is destined for all peoples. “In a historic prospective this gives us the meaning of the symbol of light which is applied to the Birth of Christ – continued the pope – it expresses that special blessing of God on the descendents of Abraham, destined to extend itself to all peoples of the earth”.

The pope recalls that  “the story of God’s chosen people” is woven with God’s attempts to establish an alliance (Noah, Abraham) and man’s attempts at desegregation. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the “meaning of the Epiphany”, Benedict XVI highlights the “great fresco” of the Tower of Babel (cfr. Gen. 11) where man’s superbia (“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth”  (-Gn 11,4), is followed by “the confusion of tongues and the scattering of humanity across the earth (cfr Gn 11,7-8). This means Babel, and it was a sort of curse, similar to the expulsion from earthly paradise ”.

“The arrival of the Magi from the east, the three wise men, to Bethlehem and to adore the new born Messiah,….. is the beginning of a movement that is the opposite of Babel: from confusion to comprehension, from dispersion to reconciliation. We notice the bond between the Epiphany and Pentecost; if the Christmas of Christ, who is the head, is also the Christmas of the Church, which is the body, we see in the Magi the people who gather to the mains of Israel, pre-announcing the great sign of the “multilingual Church”, activated by the Holy Spirit fifty days after Easter.  It is always fascinating to broaden ones gaze over the history of salvation in all of its breadth, to admire the beauty of God’s design, the projection in history of his being Trinitarian Communion, Faithful Love and tenacity, who always keeps to his alliance, generation after generation”.

This “divine plan”, which reaches back “four thousand years or more”, “ “has its culmination in the mystery of Christ two thousand years ago; since then the “end of time” has begun, in the sense that the design has been fully revealed and realised in Christ, but is asking to be heard by history, which always remains a story of loyalty on God’s part and unfortunately often of betrayal on the part of us men”.

“This “mystery” – continues the pontiff – constitutes the hope of history; it is the mystery of a blessing that wants to reach out to all peoples and all human beings so that they may live as brothers and sisters, children of the one Father.. This is where the truth of man and of his entire history is This design, pre-announced by the Prophets, was revealed in Jesus Christ, and now it is being realised through the Church.  But it is contrasted by divisive pressures and abuses, which lacerate humanity and are caused by the sin of conflict and selfishness”.

Referring to the reading from the prophet Isaiah, proclaimed in today’s liturgy the pope adds : “In fact the words of the prophet Isaiah remain ever valid: See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples”.

He explains: “it cannot be said that the globalisation is synonymous of world order, it is the opposite.  Conflicts for world order and the grasping for energy resources, water and primary materials make the work of those who strive for a just and fair world, all the more difficult.  We need a greater hope that helps us choose common good over luxury of a few and the misery of many”.

Quoting from his encyclical Spe salvi , Benedict XVI  relates the divisions which lacerate the world to the lack of hope and faith in Jesus Christ: “This great hope can only be God….not any God, but that God who has a human face”: the God who manifest himself, who showed himself to us, in the infant child of Bethlehem and in the Crucified and Risen.  If there is great hope, than we can soldier on in sobriety. If there is no hope, then we search for happiness in the fleeting, superfluous, in excesses and we ruin ourselves and the world.  Moderation therefore is not simply an ascetic rule, but also a path to salvation for humanity.  By now it has become increasingly evident that only by choosing a sober lifestyle, accompanied by a series commitment to an equal distribution of wealth, will a just and sustainable model of development be possible.”.

Benedict XVI concluded his homily with an invitation to hope and courage: “there is a need for men who nurture great hope and thus posses even greater courage.   The courage of the Magi, who undertook a long journey, following a star, and who knew how to kneel before a child and offer him their precious gifts.  We all need this courage anchored to a solid hope.  That Mary may grant us as much, accompanying us on our earthly pilgrimage with her maternal protection.  Amen”.

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