By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday held out the Magi as models, urging Christians to dare and look up to the star and “set out”, shaking off their comforts, to “give freely” and “do good” to “the least” of the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus. The Pope’s exhortation came in his homily at a morning Mass in Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica on the solemn feast of the Epiphany.
The Jan. 6th feast of the Epiphany, a holiday in the Vatican and Italy, commemorates the visit of the Three Magi, or Wise Men from the East, who followed a star to find the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem, an event that symbolizes the manifestation of God, made man, to the people of the world outside the chosen people of Israel.
Delivering his homily in Italian, Pope Francis focused on three actions of the Magi - they see the star, they set out and they bring gifts.
The star of Jesus gently invites
The Pope explained that for the Magi everything began by raising their eyes to heaven to see the star - the star of Jesus which the Pope said, “does not dazzle or overwhelm, but gently invites.” There are other brighter stars such as success, money, career, honours and pleasures that do not point the way. Like meteors they blaze momentarily and fade, but the Lord’s star, the Holy Father said, “does not promise material reward, but ensures peace and grants… joy”.
Shake off worldly comforts
Just as the Magi set out on their journey after seeing the star, the Pope said, the star of Jesus demands that those who seek Him “leave behind the armchair of worldly comforts and the reassuring warmth of hearth and home.” “In other words,” he said, “if we want to find Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to ask anything more of life.”
The Pope acknowledged this is not easy, just as the Magi came across Herod and the priests and scribes who were all afraid of the new things that God was bringing about. Christians too can fall into the temptation of the priests and scribes who talk much about faith but take no personal risk or pray, complain but do no good. On the contrary, the Pope said, the Magi “talk little and journey much.”
Finally, the Magi do as Jesus does: they bring costly gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. The Pope said the Gospel becomes real when the journey of life ends in giving. “To give freely, for the Lord’s sake, without expecting anything in return” is “the sure sign that we have found Jesus,” the Pope said. Giving freely, the Pope further explained, means “to do good without counting the cost, even when unasked, even when you gain nothing thereby, even if it is unpleasant.
The Pope said that Jesus “asks us to offer something for the least of His brothers and sisters,” who have nothing to give in return - the needy, the hungry, the stranger, the prisoner, the poor. He said, “We give a gift pleasing to Jesus when we care for a sick person, spend time with a difficult person, help someone for the sake of helping, or forgive someone who has hurt us.”
If we only love those who love us, we do as the pagans, the Pope said, and concluded urging Christians to “try to think of some free gift that we can give without expecting anything in return.”