Epiphany: God gives us the Light to illuminate our reason…
(CUSA) – Fides et Ratio was the signature encyclical of John Paul II and it formed the public intellectual foundation for the freedom to use the gifts of God to move forward in faith and witness.
In this homily from 1999 the saint reflects on how to move forward illumined by Christ. —Ed.
SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
January 6, 1999
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Today the whole liturgy speaks of the light of Christ, of that light which was kindled on the Holy Night. The same light which led the shepherds to the stable in Bethlehem shows the way, on the day of Epiphany, to the Magi who have come from the East to worship the King of the Jews, and it shines brightly for all men and women and for all peoples who long to meet God.
In his spiritual quest, the human being already enjoys a guiding light: it is reason, through which he can find the way, although gropingly, towards his Creator. But since it is easy to lose the way, God himself has come to his aid with the light of Revelation, which attained its fullness in the Incarnation of the Word, the eternal Word of truth.
Epiphany celebrates the appearance in the world of this divine Light in which God has reached out to the faint light of human reason. Today’s solemnity suggests the close relationship between faith and reason, the two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth, as I recalled in the recent Encyclical Fides et ratio.
Christ is not only the light that illumines man’s way. He also became the path for his uncertain steps towards God, the source of life. One day he will say to the Apostles:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.
And in response to Philip’s objection, he will add:
He who has seen me has seen the Father … I am in the Father and the Father in me.” The epiphany of the Son is the epiphany of the Father.
Was this not the reason, after all, for Christ’s coming into the world? He himself declared that he had come to “make the Father known”, to “explain” to people who God is, to reveal his face, his “name.” Eternal life consists in meeting the Father. How appropriate, then, is this reflection, especially in the year dedicated to the Father!
Down the centuries the Church continues the mission of her Lord: her primary task is to make the Father’s face known to all people by reflecting the light of Christ, lumen gentium, the light of love, truth and peace….
On the threshold of the third millennium, the world has greater need than ever to experience the divine goodness, to feel God’s love for every person.
The oracle of the prophet Isaiah, which we have heard today, also applies to our age: “Darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.”
On the crest, so to speak, between the second and the third millennium, the Church is called to rise up in splendour, to shine as a city set on a hill: the Church cannot remain hidden, because people need to hear her message of light and hope and give glory to the Father who is in heaven.
Conscious of this apostolic and missionary task which belongs to all the Christian people, but especially to those whom the Holy Spirit has set as Bishops to govern the Church of God, we go as pilgrims to Bethlehem to join the Magi from the East as they offer gifts to the newborn King.
But he is the true gift: Jesus, God’s gift to the world. He is the One we must receive, in order to bring him in turn to everyone we will meet on our way. For everyone he is the epiphany, the manifestation of God the hope of man, of God the liberation of man, of God the salvation of man.
Christ was born for us in Bethlehem.
Come, let us adore him! Amen.