Pope Francis: When We Do Not Worship God, We Worship Ourselves

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 6, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

On the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Pope Francis said worship of Christ reveals the true meaning of our journey of life, as it did for the magi in the Gospel.

“When we do not worship God, we end up worshiping ourselves,” Pope Francis said Jan. 6 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Worship means concentrating on what is essential,” he said. “In worship, we learn to reject what should not be worshiped: the god of money, the god of consumerism, the god of pleasure, the god of success, the god of self. Worship means bending low before the Most High and to discover in his presence that life’s greatness does not consist in having, but in loving.”

In his homily for the Epiphany of the Lord, Pope Francis reflected on the magi, or wise men, who bearing gifts, came to worship the Child Jesus in Bethlehem.

The Magi brought gold to the Lord to tell him that nothing is more precious than he, the pope said. They offered him incense to tell him that only in union with him can our lives rise up to heaven, and healing myrrh to promise Christ aid to marginalized and suffering neighbors in whom he himself is present.


“In worshiping, we too will discover, like the Magi, the meaning of our journey. And like the Magi, we too will experience ‘a great joy,’” Francis said.

“Worship means realizing that you and God belong together to one another. It means being able to speak to him freely and intimately,” he said. “Worship means discovering that, in order to pray, it is enough to say: ‘My Lord and my God,’ and to let ourselves be pervaded by his tender love.”

“Through worship, we discover that the Christian life is a love story with God,” the pope said. “This is what the Church ought to be, a worshiper in love with Jesus her spouse.”

Pope Francis said that worship is an act of love that transforms one’s life. “In worship, we allow Jesus to heal and change us … to kindle light amid our darkness, to grant us strength in weakness and courage amid trials.”

“Once we lose the sense of worship, we lose our direction in the Christian life, which is a journey towards the Lord, not towards ourselves,” the pope said.

More in Vatican

“This is a grave risk,” he said. “We use God instead of serving him … How many times have we confused God’s power, which is for serving others, with power of this world, which is for serving ourselves.”

Pope Francis said that worship allows one to realize that faith is not simply a set of doctrines, but a relationship with a living person, Jesus Christ:

“It is in encountering Jesus face to face that we come to see him as he is,” he said. “Worship means being silent in the presence of the divine Word, and learning to use words that do not wound but console.”

“As we begin the New Year, may we discover anew that faith demands worship. If we can fall on our knees before Jesus, we will overcome the temptation to set off on our own path. For worship involves making an exodus from the greatest form of bondage: slavery to oneself,” Pope Francis said.

“Worship means putting the Lord at the center, not ourselves. It is means giving things their rightful place, and giving the first place to God. Worship means making God’s plan more important than our personal time, our entitlements and our spaces,” he said.


Following the Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus prayer with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

“Here is the difference between the true God and the treacherous idols, such as money, power, success,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus reflection. “The difference is that idols bind us ... The true God neither holds us back nor lets himself be held back by us: he opens up ways of novelty and freedom.”

“We ask the Holy Virgin that we can become witnesses of Christ where we are, with a new life transformed by his love,” Pope Francis prayed.

Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.