Faith involves questioning, risks, adoring Jesus, pope says on Epiphany
Like the Magi, Christians need to ask questions, set off on a journey and learn to worship Jesus, Pope Francis said in his homily Jan. 6, the feast of Epiphany.
Participants in a parade for the feast of the Epiphany attend Pope Francis' recitation of the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Faith is a journey inspired by restless questioning, fraught with risk, powered by perseverance in prayer and charity, and culminating in the awe, wonder and worship of the Lord, Pope Francis said.
"Let us worship God, not ourselves; let us worship God and not the false idols that seduce by the allure of prestige and power, with the fascination of fake news; let us love God and not bow down before passing things and evil thoughts, seductive yet hollow and empty," the pope said Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.
At the beginning of the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Dicastery for Evangelization, who was the main celebrant at the altar, blessed with incense the statue of the baby Jesus that had been placed in front of the main altar on Christmas Eve. After the Mass, Pope Francis was taken in his wheelchair to kiss the Christ child.
"Like a rising star," the pope said in his homily, "Jesus comes to enlighten all peoples and to brighten the nights of humanity."
Today's faithful are called, like the Magi from the East, to set out on a journey to discover the Christ child, he said.
The Magi's experience shows that the first "place" where Jesus loves to be sought is in restless questioning, he said. Faith is a gift from God whose grace "helps us to shake off our apathy and opens our minds to ask the important questions in life."
However, he said, the world is filled with dangerous "tranquilizers of the soul" that sedate the restlessness and suppress the urge to ask questions; those tranquilizers include new products to consume, "empty promises of pleasure and nonstop media controversies, the idolatry of fitness. Everything seems to tell us: Don't overthink things; let go and enjoy life!"
The journey of faith begins, he said, "when we are dissatisfied with our daily routine and take seriously the challenges of each new day. When we step out of our comfort zone and decide to confront the uncomfortable aspects of life: our relationships with others, unexpected events, projects needing to be undertaken, dreams to be realized, fears to be faced, physical and mental sufferings."
Many questions can lead people to seek the Lord, he said, such as, where does one find real happiness, the fullness of life or enduring love? And "what hidden opportunities are present in the midst of my crises and my sufferings?"
After the restless questioning, the pope said, the second place to encounter the Lord is "in the risk of journeying" and seeking "the face of God and the beauty of his word."
"Without a continuous journey in constant dialogue with the Lord, without attentive listening to his word, without perseverance, faith cannot grow," he said. "We need to become disciples, following Jesus and his Gospel, bringing everything to him in prayer, seeking him in the events of our daily lives and in the faces of our brothers and sisters."
Pope Francis said the faithful must ask: "Jesus, who are you for me? Where are you calling me to go, and what are you asking of my life? What decisions are you inviting me to make for the sake of others?"
Finally, he said, the third place to encounter the Lord is in the wonder of worship.
"This is what really matters: our restlessness, our questioning, our spiritual journeys and the practice of our faith must all converge in worship of the Lord," he said.
"The purpose of everything is not to achieve a personal goal or to receive glory for ourselves, but to encounter God," he said. The purpose is "to let ourselves be enveloped by his love, which is the basis of our hope, which sets us free from evil, opens our hearts to love others, and makes us a people capable of building a more just and fraternal world."
Learn to stand before God and not ask for anything, he said, "but simply to halt in silence and abandon ourselves to his love, letting him take us by the hand and restoring us by his mercy."
After the Mass, Pope Francis greeted some 60,000 people, who gathered in St. Peter's Square for his midday recitation of the Angelus after watching a traditional Epiphany parade. Marching bands, flag twirlers and people in Renaissance costumes paraded up the main boulevard leading to the square ahead of the Three Kings on horseback and the "Befana," or Epiphany witch, riding in a pink convertible.
The Magi not only brought gifts to Jesus, they received God's gifts as well, the pope said in his address.
They received the gift of the call "to go beyond" and not be satisfied with the status quo, the gift of discernment and knowing how to distinguish "between the goal of their journey and the temptations they find on the way," and the gift of surprise, experiencing their encounter with the Lord "with amazement, adoring him," he said.
People are normally "inclined to seek greatness, but it is a gift to know how to truly find it -- to know how to find greatness in the littleness that God loves. For the Lord is encountered like this: in humility, in silence, in adoration, in the smallest and in the poor," Pope Francis said.