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Pope Francis Talks about the Nearness of God 18.03.20


Pope Francis: God walks with us 18.03.20


Pope Francis   18.03.20  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)        Deuteronomy 4: 1,5-9      Matthew 5: 17-19
Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent - Lectionary Cycle II
Pope Francis Talks about the Nearness of God 18.03.20

The theme of both readings today is the Law (cf. Dt 4.1.5-9; Mt 5.17-19). The Law that God gives to His people. The Law that the Lord wanted to give to us and that Jesus wanted to bring to the ultimate perfection. But there is one thing that attracts attention: the way God gives the Law. Moses says: "Indeed, what great nation is there that has gods so close to it, as the Lord, our God, is close to us whenever we call to him?" (Dt 4:7). The Lord gives the Law to his people with an attitude of closeness. They are not the prescriptions of a ruler, who may be far away, or a dictator...no. It's the nearness. And we know through revelation that it is a father's closeness, as a father, who accompanies His people by giving them the gift of the Law. The God who is near. "Indeed, what great nation has gods so close to it, as the Lord, our God, is close to us whenever we call Him?"

Our God is the God of nearness, a God who is near, who walks with his people. That image in the desert, in Exodus: the cloud and the pillar of fire to protect the people: He walks with his people. He is not a God who leaves the written prescriptions and says, "Go ahead." He makes the prescriptions, writes them with his own hands on the stone, gives them to Moses, hands them to Moses, but does not leave the prescriptions and leaves: He walks, He is close. "Which nation has such a close God?" It's the nearness. Ours is a God of nearness.

And man's first response, in the first pages of the Bible, is that of not drawing near. Our response is always to distance ourselves, we distance ourselves from God. He gets close and we walk away. Those two first pages. Adam's first attitude with his wife is to hide: they hide from God's nearness, they were ashamed, because they had sinned, and sin leads us to hide, to not want closeness (cf. Gen 3:8-10). And so often, we adopt a theology thinking that He's a judge; and that's why I'm hiding, I'm afraid. The second human way of behaving, to the proposal of this closeness of God is to kill. Killing his brother. "I am not my brother's keeper" (cf. Gen 4:9).

Two attitudes that inhibit any closeness. Man rejects God's closeness, he wants to be in control of relationships, and closeness always brings with it some type of vulnerability. God drawing near makes Himself vulnerable, and the closer He comes, the more vulnerable He seems. When He comes among us, to live with us, He makes himself a man, one of us: he makes himself weak and bears that weakness to the point of death and the most cruel death, the death at the hands of assassins, the death of the greatest sinners. Drawing near humiliates God. He humiliates Himself to be with us, to walk with us, to help us.

The "God who draws near" speaks to us of humility. He's not a "great God," up there. No. He is very near. He's in the house. And we see this in Jesus, God made man, near even to death. With His disciples: He accompanies them, teaches them, corrects them with love... Let us think, for example, of Jesus' closeness to the anguished disciples of Emmaus: they were distressed, they were defeated, and He slowly approaches, to make them understand the message of life, of resurrection (cf. Luke 24,13-32).

Our God is near and asks us to be near to each other, not to distance ourselves from each other. And in this moment of crisis because of the pandemic that we are experiencing, this nearness asks us to manifest it more, to make it more visible. We cannot, perhaps, draw near physically for fear of contagion, but we can reawaken in ourselves an attitude of closeness between us: with prayer, with help, so many ways of drawing near. And why do we have to be near to each other? Because our God is near, He wanted to accompany us in life. He is the God of proximity. For this reason, we are not isolated people: we are neighbours, because this is our inheritance that we have received from the Lord, proximity, that is, the reaction of drawing near.

Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be near to each other; don't hide from each other; don't wash your hands, as Cain did, of the problem of others, no. Nearness. Proximity. Proximity. "Indeed, what great nation has gods so near to it, as the Lord, our God, is near to us every time we call Him?"