In his short Angelus catechesis, the Argentine Pontiff turned the story of the Magi's arrival to Bethlehem on its head.
The three Magi are “famous” for having offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Jesus; “but reflecting on their story, we could say that they first received three gifts,” Pope Francis suggested before praying the midday Angelus this January 6, 2023, on the Solemnity of the Epiphany.
The “gift of the call,” “discernment,” and “surprise” could be considered the three gifts of God for the Magi and for the world, he said.
After presiding at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of the Epiphany, Pope Francis came to the window of the Apostolic Palace to recite the Marian prayer with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, many of whom were in costumes for the feast day.
In Italy, Epiphany is celebrated with La Befana, an old woman who gives gifts (or coal!). After the Angelus the Pope mentioned both the Viva la Befana procession, and the Three Kings processions in various parts of the world.
In his short catechesis, the Argentine Pontiff turned the story of the Magi’s arrival in Bethlehem on its head and proposed a different reading of this Gospel passage. Instead of commenting on the gifts they offered to Jesus, he gave an account of the “three precious gifts” that God gave them.
“The first is the gift of the call,” the 86-year-old Pope explained, noting that the Magi did not foresee the coming of Jesus “by reading the Scriptures or seeing a vision of angels” but by “studying the stars.”
“This tells us something important: God calls us through our greatest aspirations and desires,” he said.
“Educated and wise, they were more fascinated by what they did not know than by what they did know,” he said, inviting everyone to step out of their own “comfort zones” to seek God.
The Magi then received the gift of “discernment,” the Pope continued, noting the journey of these men who did not fall into the trap of King Herod. Pope Francis praised the clear-sightedness of the Magi who were able to distinguish “between the purpose of the journey and the temptations” encountered along the way. He urged Christians to “never tire” of asking for the gift of discernment.
“Finally, the Magi speak to us of a third gift: surprise,” the Pope continued, noting that the three “men of high social standing” encountered a baby in a manger, a “God in poverty.”
While they could have wanted to honor a “powerful and prodigious Messiah,” they “do not decide they were mistaken” and “know how to recognize him,” the Bishop of Rome noted, emphasizing that it is “in humility, in silence, in adoration, in the little ones and the poor” that “one meets the Lord.”
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