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On the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Pope prays for Ukraine

May the Nativity instil comfort and hope

 May the Nativity instil comfort and hope  ING-002
13 January 2023

“Let us pray a lot for Ukraine and for peace”, Pope Francis launched this new appeal at the Angelus on Friday, 6 January, after Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The Pope also expressed his best wishes to Catholic and Orthodox members of the Eastern Churches, on the eve of their Christmas celebration. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s words, which he shared with those gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Buongiorno and Happy Feast Day!

Today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Gospel speaks to us about the Magi who, arriving in Bethlehem, open their [treasure] chests and offer gold, incense and myrrh to Jesus (cf. Mt 2:11). These wise men from the East are famous because of the gifts they offered. Considering their story, however, we could say that, above all, they receive three gifts. They received three gifts, three precious gifts that regard us as well. They give gold, incense and myrrh, but what are the three gifts they received?

The first gift is the gift of the call. The Magi were not alerted because they had read the Scriptures or because they had seen a vision of angels, but they sensed it while they were studying the stars. This tells us something important: God calls us through our aspirations and our greatest desires. The Magi allowed themselves to be amazed and inconvenienced by the novelty of the star, and they set out on a journey towards the unknown. Educated and wise, they were fascinated more by what they did not know than by what they already knew. They opened themselves to what they did not know. They felt called to go beyond. They did not feel happy remaining there; they felt called to go beyond. This is important for us as well. We are called not to settle, to seek the Lord by stepping out of our comfort zone, journeying towards him with others, immersing ourselves in reality. For God calls every day, here and now. God calls us, each one of us, every day. He calls us here and he calls us today, in our world.

But the Magi speak to us about a second gift: discernment. Seeing that they are looking for a king, they go to Jerusalem to speak with King Herod, who, however, is a power-hungry man and wants to use them to eliminate the baby Messiah. But the Magi do not allow themselves to be fooled by Herod. They know how to distinguish between the goal of their journey and the temptations they find along the way. They could have remained there in Herod’s court, serene. No, they move ahead. They leave Herod’s palace and, attentive to the sign from God, do not pass that way again, but return by another route (cf. v. 12). Brothers and sisters, how important it is to know how to distinguish life’s goal from the temptations along the way! Our goal in life is one thing, the temptations on the way are another. To know how to renounce that which seduces but leads down an ugly road, to understand and to choose God’s ways! Discernment is a great gift and we should never tire of asking for it in prayer. Let us ask for this grace! Lord, grant us the ability to discern what is good from what is evil, what is better from what is not better.

Finally, the Magi speak to us about a third gift: the surprise. After a long journey, what do these high-ranking men in society find? A baby with his mother (cf. v. 11): certainly, a tender scene, but not astonishing! They do not see the angels like the shepherds did, but they meet God in poverty. Perhaps they were expecting a powerful and prodigious Messiah, and they find a baby. And still, they do not think they made a mistake; they know how to recognize him. They welcome God’s surprise and experience their encounter with him with amazement, adoring him — in his littleness, they recognize God’s face. Humanly, we are all 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 so much. For the Lord is encountered like this: in humility, in silence, in adoration, in the small and in the poor.

Brothers and sisters, we are all called — the first gift: the call — by Jesus; we can all discern — the second gift: discernment — discern his presence; we can all experience his surprises — the third gift: the surprise. Today, it would be beautiful to remember these gifts: the call, discernment and the surprise, gifts that we have already received — to think back to when we sensed God’s call in our life; or even when, perhaps after quite a struggle, we succeeded in discerning his voice; or even still, an unforgettable surprise he gave us, astounding us. May Our Lady help us remember and treasure the gifts received.

After the Angelus the Pope continued:

Dear brothers and sisters, I extend my heartfelt best wishes to the communities of the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, who will celebrate the Nativity of the Lord tomorrow. In a special way, I would like them to reach the brothers and sisters of the war-torn people of Ukraine. May the Saviour’s birth instil comfort, instil hope; and may it inspire concrete steps that can finally lead to the end of the fighting and to peace. Let us pray a lot for Ukraine and for peace.

We celebrate World Missionary Childhood Day on the Feast of the Epiphany. I greet all the children, the boys and girls, who in every part of the world are spreading the joy of being Jesus’ friends, and who are dedicated through prayer, sacrifice and offerings, to supporting the missionaries of the Gospel.

I greet all of you, members of the faithful from Rome and pilgrims from various countries. In particular, I greet participants in the historic, folkloristic Viva la Befana parade, organized this year by the Municipality of Foligno on the theme of peace, solidarity and brotherhood among peoples. I thank the mayor and the Bishop of Foligno, as well as the other authorities, associations, schools, musical bands and all those who have made the historic Giostra della Quintana come alive. And a thought also goes to the “Procession of the Magi” that takes place today in many cities and villages in Poland.

I greet the Confirmation candidates from Romano, Lombardy, the Association of Solidarity among Families from Podenzano (Diocese of Piacenza), and the friends and volunteers of Fraterna Domus. And I greet the young people in the Immacolata group.

I wish everyone a happy feast day. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch! Arrivederci.