Three men dressed as the Three Kings attend Pope Francis’ Angelus on the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Jan. 6, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Instead of splitting into ideological groups, members of the Catholic Church need to put God front and center, not their own personal ideas and plans, Pope Francis said.

“We need to let go of ecclesiastical ideologies in order to find the meaning of the Holy Mother Church” and to support its true vocation, he said.

“Let us set out anew from God; let us seek from him the courage not to lose heart in the face of difficulties, the strength to surmount all obstacles, the joy to live in harmonious communion,” the pope said Jan. 6, celebrating Mass on the feast of the Epiphany.

“We need to let ourselves walk in friendship with the Lord, we need his love to sustain us, and the light of his word to guide us, like a star in the night,” he said in his homily.

“We need to set out on this journey, so that our faith will not be reduced to an assemblage of religious devotions or mere outward appearance, but will instead become a fire burning within us, making us passionate seekers of the Lord’s face and witnesses to his Gospel,” he said.

“We need this in the church, where, instead of splitting into groups based on our own ideas, we are called to put God back at the center,” Pope Francis said.

The Three Kings on their journey from the East have much to teach today’s faithful, he said: “Their eyes are raised to the heavens; their feet are journeying on the earth; and their hearts are bowed in adoration.”

The wise men “teach us to fix our sight on high, to lift our eyes to the heavens, to the hills, from which our help will come, for our help is from the Lord,” he said.

The Magi, he said, do not spend their lives “staring at their feet, self-absorbed, confined by earthly horizons, plodding ahead in resignation or lamentation.”

“If we remain closed in the narrow confines of earthly things, if we waste away, heads bowed, hostages of our failures and our regrets; if we thirst for wealth and worldly comforts, which are here today and gone tomorrow, rather than becoming seekers of life and love,” he said, “our life slowly loses its light.”

Seeking God, the pope said, the wise men “are directed to find him in man, in a little child lying in a manger.”

“We find the God who comes down to visit us, not by basking in some elegant religious theory, but by setting out on a journey, seeking the signs of his presence in everyday life, and above all in encountering and touching the flesh of our brothers and sisters,” he said.

Finally, he said, the wise men “have hearts bowed in adoration” before the baby Jesus.

“Before this mystery, we are called to bow our heart and bend our knee in worship: to worship the God who comes in littleness, who dwells in our homes, who dies for love,” he said.

Unfortunately, Pope Francis said, “we have lost the habit of adoration, we have lost this ability. Let us rediscover our taste for the prayer of adoration. Let us acknowledge Jesus as our God and Lord, and let’s adore him.”

While Pope Francis and some 6,000 people were at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, thousands more lined the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square for the traditional, folkloric Epiphany celebration. Marching bands and people in Renaissance costumes paraded up the street ahead of the Three Kings on horseback.

Vatican police said there were 40,000 people in the square to recite the Angelus at midday with the pope.

“In the child Jesus, we see God made man. And so let us look at him, let us wonder at his humility,” the pope said at the Angelus.

“Contemplating Jesus, staying before him, adoring him,” he said, “is not wasting time, but giving meaning to time” and rediscovering life’s direction “in the simplicity of a silence that nourishes the heart.”

“If we stand before the child Jesus and in the company of children, we will learn to be amazed and we will start out simpler and better, like the Magi. And we will know how to have a new and creative outlook on the problems of the world,” he said.

Pope Francis prayed that Mary, the mother of God, would intercede and help “increase our love for the child Jesus and for all children, especially those burdened by wars and injustice.”