On the solemnity of Epiphany, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Altar of the Chair. Worshippers, cardinals, bishops, and choir kept at a distance because of COVID-19. It Is urgent “to understand more fully what it means to be worshippers of the Lord.” We must ‘lift up our eyes,’ ‘set out on a journey’ and ‘see’.” We must “cast off the dictatorship of the self, the constant temptation to withdraw into ourselves and our own concerns.” “Herod and the leading citizens of Jerusalem represent a worldliness enslaved to appearances and immediate attractions.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “To worship the Lord we need to ‘see’ beyond the veil of things visible,” said Pope Francis during the Eucharistic celebration for the solemnity of the Epiphany, which is celebrated in Italy on 6 January.
As is now customary in this pandemic situation, Mass was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter's Basilica, in the presence of ten cardinals and a few dozen worshippers, well spaced in accordance with anti-COVID regulations.
In his homily, Francis focused above all on the adoration by the Magi, as described in the Gospel of the day (Matthew 2:1-12). “The Liturgy of the Word offers us three phrases,” said the pontiff. They “can help us to understand more fully what it means to be worshippers of the Lord. They are: ‘lift up our eyes’, ‘set out on a journey’ and ‘see’.
“The first phrase, lift up our eyes, comes to us from the prophet Isaiah. To the community of Jerusalem, recently returned from exile and disheartened by great challenges and hardships, the prophet addresses these powerful words of encouragement: ‘Lift up your eyes and look around’ (60:4). He urges them to lay aside their weariness and complaints, to escape the bottleneck of a narrow way of seeing things, to cast off the dictatorship of the self, the constant temptation to withdraw into ourselves and our own concerns.”
“Lift up your eyes, look around and see. The Lord asks us first to trust in him, because he truly cares for everyone. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he provide for us? (cf. Lk 12:28). If we lift up our eyes to the Lord, and consider all things in his light, we will see that he never abandons us. The Word became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14) and remains with us always, for all time (cf. Mt 28:20). Always.
“When we lift up our eyes to God, life’s problems do not go away, no; instead we feel certain that the Lord grants us the strength to deal with them.”
“The second helpful phrase is to set out on a journey. Before they could worship the Child in Bethlehem, the Magi had to undertake a lengthy journey. Matthew tells us that in those days “wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying: ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him’ (Mt 2:1-2).
“A journey always involves a transformation, a change. After a journey, we are no longer the same. There is always something new about those who have made a journey: they have learned new things, encountered new people and situations, and found inner strength amid the hardships and risks they met along the way. No one worships the Lord without first experiencing the interior growth that comes from embarking on a journey.”
“From this point of view, our failures, crises and mistakes can become learning experiences: often they can help us to be more aware that the Lord alone is worthy of our worship, for only he can satisfy our innermost desire for life and eternity. With the passage of time, life’s trials and difficulties – experienced in faith – help to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God.”
And so we come to the third phrase: to see. To lift up our eyes; to set out on a journey; to see. The Evangelist tells us that, ‘going into the house they saw the child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him’ (Mt 2:10-11). Worshiping was an act of homage reserved for sovereigns and high dignitaries. The Magi worshiped the One they knew was the king of the Jews (cf. Mt 2:2). But what did they actually see? They saw a poor child and his mother. Yet these wise men from far-off lands were able to look beyond those lowly surroundings and recognize in that Child a royal presence. They were able to ‘see’ beyond appearances.”
“To worship the Lord we need to ‘see’ beyond the veil of things visible, which often prove deceptive. Herod and the leading citizens of Jerusalem represent a worldliness enslaved to appearances and immediate attractions. They see, yet they cannot see. It is not that they do not believe, no; it is that they do not know how to see because they are slaves to appearances and seek what is attractive. They value only the sensational, the things that capture the attention of the masses.”
This “way of ‘seeing’ [. . .] transcends the visible and makes it possible for us to worship the Lord who is often hidden in everyday situations, in the poor and those on the fringes. A way of seeing things that is not impressed by sound and fury, but seeks in every situation the things that truly matter”.