God walks with us
Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
"With joy, let us go to the house of the Lord". And we did so, because the first Reading reminds us of a moment of joy for the people of God, a very beautiful moment when “a pagan king helped God's people return to their land and rebuild the temple”. The reference is to a passage from the Book of Ezra (6:7-8, 12, 14-20).
In the history of God's people, there are beautiful moments like this one, which bring great joy, and there are also ugly moments of suffering, martyrdom and sin. In good and bad moments alike, one thing always remains the same: the Lord is there. He never abandons his people, for the Lord, on that day of sin, of the first sin, made a decision; he made a choice, to make history with his people.
God, who has no history since he is eternal, wanted to make history, to walk close to his people. But there is more: he wanted to make himself one of us and as one of us to walk with us in Jesus. And this speaks to us. It tells us about the humility of God” who is “so very great” and powerful precisely in his humility. He “wanted to walk with his people, and when his people wandered far from him through sin, idolatry and the many things we see in the Bible, he was there”.
We also see this attitude of humility in Jesus, “Walking with God's people, walking with sinners, even walking with the proud: how much the Lord did in order to help the proud hearts of the Pharisees. He wanted to walk. Humility. God always waits, God is beside us. God walks with us. He is humble. He waits for us always. Jesus always waits for us. This is the humility of God”.
Thus, “the Church joyfully sings of the humility of God who accompanies us as we did in the psalm: “With joy, let us go to the house of the Lord”. Let us go with joy; then he accompanies us, he along with us”.
The Lord Jesus, also accompanies us in our personal lives with the sacraments. A sacrament is not a magical rite, it is an encounter with Jesus Christ. In it, “we encounter the Lord. And he is by our side and accompanies us: a travelling companion”. And “the Holy Spirit also accompanies us and teaches us all that we do not know in our hearts. He reminds us of all that Jesus taught us and he makes us feel the beauty of the good way. Thus God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are our travelling companions. They make history with us”.
The Church, celebrates this with great joy at each Eucharist. That beautiful Eucharistic prayer that we will pray today, in which we sing of God's great love, which desired to be humble, to be a travelling companion with us, and that also wanted to make history with us. And if God, entered into our history, let us also enter a little into his history or at least ask of him the grace to let him write history. May he write our history. It is a reliable one.
In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles we heard the voice of Peter, who with power announces the Resurrection of Jesus. Peter is a witness to hope in Christ. And in the Second Reading it is Peter again who confirms the faithful in faith in Christ, writing: “Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead... so that your faith and hope are in God” (Pet 1:21). Peter is the community’s firm reference point, because he is founded on the Rock that is Christ. As was John Paul II, a true stone anchored to the great Rock.
One week after the Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, we are gathered in this church of the Poles in Rome to thank the Lord for the gift of the holy Bishop of Rome who was a son of your nation. This church to which he came more than 80 times! He always came here, at various times in his life and in the life of Poland. In times of sadness and dejection, when all seemed lost, he did not lose hope, because his faith and hope were fixed in God (cf. 1 Pet 1:21). And thus he was a foundation stone, a rock for this community that prays here, that listens to the Word here, prepares for the Sacraments and administers them, welcomes those in need, sings and celebrates, and from here returns to the outskirts of Rome....
Brothers and sisters, you belong to a people that has been severely tried throughout its history. The Polish people know well that in order to enter into glory one must pass through the Passion and the Cross (cf. Lk 24:26). And it knows it not because it has studied it, it knows it because it has lived it. St John Paul II, as a worthy son of his earthly fatherland, followed this path. He followed it in an exemplary way, having received from God to be totally stripped of self. That is why his “flesh will dwell in hope” (cf. Acts 2:26; Ps 19:9).
And us? Are we ready to follow this road?
You, dear brethren, who today form the Polish Christian community in Rome, do you want to follow this road?
St Peter, also through the voice of John Paul II, tells you: Conduct yourselves with fear of God throughout the time of your exile here below (cf. 1 Pet 1:17). It is true, we are wayfarers, but we are not wanderers! On a journey, but we know where we are going! Wanderers do not know where. We are pilgrims, but not vagabonds — as St John Paul II would say.
At the outset the two disciples of Emmaus were wanderers, they did not know where they would end up, but on their return, not so! On their return they were witnesses of the hope that is Christ! For they had met Him, the Risen Wayfarer. This Jesus, he is the Risen Wayfarer who walks with us. Jesus is here today, he is among us. He is here in his Word, he is here on the altar, he walks with us, he is the Risen Wayfarer.
We too can become “risen wayfarers”, if his Word warms our hearts, and his Eucharist opens our eyes to faith and nourishes us with hope and charity. We too can walk beside our brothers and sisters who are downcast and in despair, and warm their hearts with the Gospel, and break with them the bread of brotherhood.
May St John Paul II help us to be “risen wayfarers”. Amen.
The Collect asked the Lord for “the grace of unity and peace”. God reconciles: he reconciles the world to himself through Christ. Jesus, brought to us by Mary, makes peace, gives peace to two peoples, and of two peoples he makes one: Hebrews and Gentiles. One people. He makes peace. Peace in their hearts. But, how does God reconcile?. In what manner does he do this? Does he perhaps make a great assembly? Does everyone come to an agreement? Do they sign a document?. No. God uses a specific method to make peace: he reconciles and makes peace in the little things and on the journey.
“Littleness” was spoken of in the First Reading (Mic 5:1-4): “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little...”. In other words: you are so little: but you will be great, because your ruler will be born from you and he will be peace. He himself will be peace, because from that littleness comes peace. This is the manner of God, who chooses little things, humble things, to do great works. The Lord, is the Great One and we are the little ones, but the Lord advises us to make ourselves little like children to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas the great ones, the powerful, the arrogant, the proud cannot enter. God, however, reconciles and makes peace in littleness.
The Lord also reconciles on the journey: walking. The Lord does not want to make peace and reconcile with a magic wand: today — boom! — all done! No. He journeys with his people. An example of this action of God is found in the day’s Gospel (Mt 1:1-16, 18-23). The passage regarding Jesus’ lineage may seem somewhat repetitious: This one begot that one, that one begot this one, this one begot that one.... It’s a list. Yet, it is God’s journey: God’s journey among men, good and bad, because on this list there are saints and there are sinful criminals.
Thus, it is a list which even contains much sin. However, God is not afraid: he journeys. He walks with his people. And on this journey he makes hope grow in his people, hope in the Messiah. This is the closeness of God. Moses said it to his own: “Think about it: what nation has a God as close as ours?”. Thus, this journeying in littleness, with his people, this walking with the good and bad gives us our way of life. In order to walk as Christians, in order to make peace and reconcile as Jesus did, we have the path: With the Beatitudes and with the protocol by which we will all be judged. Matthew, 25: ‘Do likewise: little things’. This means in littleness and by journeying.
The people of Israel dream of being set free, they have this dream because it was promised to them. Even Joseph dreams and his dream is somewhat like a summary of the entire history of God’s journey with his people. However, not only does Joseph have dreams: God dreams. God our Father has dreams, and he dreams beautiful things for his people, for each of us, because he is Father and as Father he thinks and dreams of the best for his children.
In conclusion, this great and almighty God teaches us to do great works of peacemaking and of reconciliation in littleness, by walking, and by not losing hope, with the capacity to dream great dreams, to have vast horizons.
Let us in this commemoration of the beginning of a crucial phase of salvation history, the birth of Our Lady seek the grace that we asked for in prayer, that of unity, of reconciliation, and of peace. To be always on the path, close to others and with great dreams. With the manner of ‘littleness’, the littleness, which is found in the Eucharistic celebration: a little piece of bread, a little bit of wine. In this ‘littleness’ there is everything. God’s dream is there, his love is there, his peace is there, his reconciliation is there, Jesus is there.
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?"
In the Psalm, we prayed: "The Lord is my shepherd: There is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose, near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit. He guides me on the right path. He is true to his name. If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil will I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff. With these you give me comfort."
This is the experience that these two women had, whose story we read in the two Readings. An innocent woman, falsely accused, slandered, and a sinful woman. Both sentenced to death. The innocent and the sinner. Some Fathers of the Church saw in these women a figure of the Church: holy, but with sinful children. They said in a beautiful Latin expression: "The Church is the caste meretrix (chaste sinner)", the saint with sinful children.
Both women were desperate, humanly desperate. But Susanna trusts God. There are also two groups of people, of men; both had positions in the Church: the judges and the doctors of the Law. They were not ecclesiastical, but they were in the service of the Church, in the courthouse, and in the teaching of the Law. Different. The first, those who accused Susanna, were corrupt: the corrupt judge, an emblematic figure in history. Even in the Gospel, Jesus recounts, in the parable of the insistent widow, the corrupt judge who did not believe in God and did not care about others. The corrupt. The doctors of the law were not corrupt, but hypocrites.
And these women, one fell into the hands of the hypocrites and the other into the hands of the corrupt: there was no way out. "Even if I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil will I, because you are with me with your crook and staff, with these you give me comfort. " Both women were in a valley of darkness, they went there: a valley of darkness heading towards death. The first explicitly trusts God, and the Lord intervened. The second, poor woman, knows that she is guilty, shamed before all the people – because the people were present in both situations – the Gospel does not say it, but surely she prayed inside, asked for some help.
What does the Lord do with these people? He saves the innocent woman and does her justice. To the sinful woman, He forgives her. The corrupt judges, He condemns them; and the hypocrites, He helps them to convert and in front of the people Jesus says: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone", and one by one they are gone. With what irony the Apostle John says: "When they heard this they went one by one, beginning with the elders." He gives them some time to repent; He does not forgive the corrupt, simply because the corrupt are incapable of asking for forgiveness, of going beyond. They were tired ... no, it's not that they were tired: they are not capable. Corruption has also taken away from them that capacity that we all have to be ashamed of, asking for forgiveness. No, the corrupt are sure of themselves, they go ahead, they destroy, they exploit people, like this woman, everything, everything ... goes on. They put themselves in God's place.
And the Lord responds to the women. To Susanna, He frees her from these corrupt people, and she goes ahead, and the other: "Neither do I condemn you. Go away and don't sin anymore." He lets her go. And this, before the people. In the first case, the people praise the Lord; In the second case, the people learn. Learn what God's mercy is like.
Each of us has our own stories. Each of us has our own sins. And if you don't remember them, think a little: you'll find them. Thank God if you find them, because if you don't find them, you're corrupt. Each of us has our own sins. Let us look at the Lord who does justice but who is so merciful. Let us not be ashamed of being in the Church: let us be ashamed of ourselves as sinners. The Church is the mother of all. We thank God that we are not corrupt, but are sinners. And each of us, looking at how Jesus acts in these cases, trusts God's mercy. And pray, with confidence in God's mercy, pray for forgiveness. "Because God guides me on the right path because He is true to His name. Even if I walk in the valley of darkness – the valley of sin – no evil will I fear you are there. With your crook and staff. With these you give me comfort."
Let us pray today, in this Mass, for all the people who suffer sadness, because they are alone or because they do not know what future awaits them or because they cannot provide for their family because they have no money, because they have no work. So many people who suffer sadness. We pray for them today.
So many times we have heard that Christianity is not just a doctrine, or a way of behaving, it is not a culture. Yes, it is all that, but more important and first of all, it is an encounter. A person is a Christian because he or she has met Jesus, he or she has allowed themselves to meet with him.
This passage of Luke's Gospel tells us about an encounter, how to understand well how the Lord acts, and how our way of acting is. We were born with a seed of restlessness. God wanted it like this: an anxiety to find fullness, an anxiety to find God. So often even without knowing that we have this concern our hearts are restless, our hearts thirsty: thirsty for an encounter with God. It looks for it many times on the wrong road: it gets lost, then returns, it looks for him . On the other hand, God thirsts to meet, so much so that he sent Jesus to meet us, to come and meet this concern.
How does Jesus act? In this passage of the Gospel (cf. Luke 24: 13-35) we see that he respects, respects our own situation, does not move forward. Only sometimes, with the stubborn, we think of Paul don't we? When he is thrown off the horse. But he usually goes slowly, respectful of our readiness. He's the Lord of patience. How much patience the Lord has with each of us! The Lord walks beside us.
As we have seen here with these two disciples, he listen to our concerns – he knows them! – and at some point he tells us something. The Lord likes to hear how we speak, to understand us well and to give the right answer to that concern. The Lord does not accelerate the pace, he always goes at our pace, often slow, but his patience is like this.
There is an ancient rule of pilgrims that says that the real pilgrim must go at the pace of the slowest person. And Jesus is capable of this, he does it, he does not accelerate, he waits for us to take the first step. And when the time comes, he asks us the question. In this case it is clear: "But what are you discussing?" (see v.17), he becomes ignorant to make us talk. He likes us to talk. He likes to hear us, he likes to talk like that. To listen to us and respond, he makes us speak, as if he was ignorant, but with so much respect. And then he answers, he explains, to the necessary extent. Here he tells us : ""Was it not necessary that Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them the passages in all the scriptures that were about himself." He explains and clarifies.
I confess that I am curious to know how Jesus explained in order to do the same. It was a beautiful catechesis. And then the same Jesus who accompanies us, who draws near to us, pretends to go further to see the extent of our disquiet: "No, come, come, stay with us a little" (v. 29). So the encounter happens. But the encounter is not only the moment of breaking bread, here, but it is the entire journey. We meet Jesus in the darkness of our doubts. Even in the ugly doubt of our sins, He is there to help us, in our anxieties. He's always with us.
The Lord accompanies us because he wants to meet us. That is why we say that the core of Christianity is an encounter: it is the encounter with Jesus. Why are you a Christian? Why are you a Christian? And many people don't know what to say. Some say it's by tradition but others do not know what to say: because they met Jesus, but they did not realize that it was an encounter with Jesus. Jesus always seeks us. All the time. And we have our own concern. When our concern meets Jesus, there the life of grace begins, the life of fullness, the life of the Christian journey.
May the Lord grant us all this grace to meet Jesus every day, to know, to know that he walks with us in all our moments. He's our pilgrimage companion.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
Today, the First Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of salvation. In so doing, as Mother, she illuminates the path of our existence, supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ. Today's liturgy invites us to live the first “important Season”, which is that of Advent, the first of the liturgical year, Advent, which prepares us for Christmas, and therefore it is a time of expectation and a time of hope. Expectation and hope.
Saint Paul (see 1 Cor 1:3-9) indicates the object of our expectation. What is it? The “manifestation of the Lord” (v. 7). The Apostle invites the Christians of Corinth, and we too, to focus our attention on the encounter with Jesus. For a Christian the most important thing is the continuous encounter with the Lord, being with the Lord. And in this way, accustomed to staying with the Lord of life, we prepare ourselves for the encounter, for being with the Lord for eternity. And this definitive encounter will come at the end of the world. But the Lord comes every day, so that, with His grace, we might accomplish good in our own lives and in the lives of others. Our God is a God-who-comes, do not forget this: God is a God who comes, who continually comes. Our waiting will not be disappointed by Him! The Lord never disappoints. He will perhaps make us wait, He will make us wait a few moments in the dark to allow our expectation to ripen, but He never disappoints. The Lord always comes, He is always by our side. At times He does not make Himself seen, but He always comes. He came at a precise moment in history and became man to take on our sins - the feast of the Nativity commemorates Jesus’ first coming in the historical moment -; He will come at the end of times as universal judge; He comes every day to visit His people, to visit every man and woman who receives Him in the Word, in the Sacraments, in their brothers and sisters. Jesus, the Bible tells us, is at the door and knocks. Every day. He is at the door of our heart. He knocks. Do you know how to listen to the Lord who knocks, who has come today to visit you, who knocks at your heart restlessly, with an idea, with inspiration? He came to Bethlehem, He will come at the end of the world, but every day He comes to us. Be careful, look at what you feel in your heart when the Lord knocks.
We are well aware that life is made up of highs and lows, of lights and shadows. Each one of us experiences moments of disappointment, of failure and being lost. Moreover, the situation we are living in, marked by the pandemic, generates worry, fear and discouragement in many people; we run the risk of falling into pessimism, the risk of falling into closure and apathy. How should we react in the face of all this? Today’s Psalm suggests: “Our soul waits for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name” (Ps 33:20-21). That is, the soul awaiting, confidently waiting for the Lord, allows us to find comfort and courage in the dark moments of our lives. And what gives rise to this courage and this trustful pledge? Where do they come from? They are born of hope. And hope does not disappoint, that virtue that leads us ahead, looking at the encounter with the Lord.
Advent is a continuous call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal and to lead us to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. God is present in the history of humanity, He is the “God-with-us”, God is not distant, He is always with us, to the extent that very often He knocks on the door of our heart. God walks beside us to support us. The Lord does not abandon us; He accompanies us through the events of our lives to help us discover the meaning of the journey the meaning of everyday life, to give us courage when we are under duress or when we suffer. In the midst of life’s storms, God always extends His hand to us and frees us from threats. This is beautiful! In the book of Deuteronomy there is a very beautiful passage, in which the Prophet says to the people: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us?” No-one, only we have this grace of having God close to us. We await God, we hope that He manifests Himself, but He too hopes that we manifest ourselves to Him!
May Mary Most Holy, the woman of expectation, accompany our steps at the beginning of this new liturgical year , and help us to fulfil the task of Jesus’ disciples, indicated by the Apostle Peter:. And what is this task? To account for the hope that is in us (see 1 Pet 3:15).
On this Sunday of the Word, let us listen to Jesus as he proclaims the Kingdom of God. Let us consider what he says and to whom he says it.
What does he say? Jesus begins his preaching with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15). God is near, that is the first message. His kingdom has come down to earth. God is not, as we are often tempted to think, distant, up in heaven, detached from the human condition. No, he is in our midst. The time of his distance ended when, in Jesus, he became man. Ever since then, God has been very close to us; he will never retire from our human condition or tire of it. This closeness is the very first message of the Gospel; today’s reading tells us that Jesus “was saying” (v. 15) those words: he kept repeating them. “God is near” was the leitmotif of his preaching, the heart of his message. If this was the opening theme and the refrain of all Jesus’ preaching, it must necessarily be the one constant of the Christian life and message. Before all else, we must believe and proclaim that God has drawn near to us, that we have been forgiven and shown mercy. Prior to every word of ours about God, there is his word to us, his Word who continues to tell us: “Do not be afraid, I am with you. I am at your side and I will always be there”.
The word of God enables us to touch this closeness, since – as the Book of Deuteronomy tells us – it is not far from us, it is near to our hearts (cf. 30:14). It is the antidote to our fear of having to face life alone. Indeed, by his word the Lord consoles us, that is, he stands “with” (con-) those who are “alone” (soli). In speaking to us, he reminds us that he has taken us to heart, that we are precious in his eyes, and that he holds us in the palm of his hand. God’s word infuses this peace, but it does not leave us in peace. It is a word of consolation but also a call to conversion. “Repent”, says Jesus, immediately after proclaiming God’s closeness. For, thanks to his closeness, we can no longer distance ourselves from God and from others. The time when we could live thinking only of ourselves is now over. To do so is not Christian, for those who experience God’s closeness cannot ignore their neighbours or treat them with indifference. Those who hear God’s word are constantly reminded that life is not about shielding ourselves from others, but about encountering them in the name of God who is near. The word sown in the soil of our hearts, leads us in turn to sow hope through closeness to others. Even as God has done with us.
Let us now consider to whom Jesus speaks. His first words are to Galilean fishermen, simple folk who lived by harsh manual labour, by day and night. They were no experts in Scripture or people of great knowledge and culture. They lived in a region made up of various peoples, ethnic groups and cults: one that could not have been further from the religious purity of Jerusalem, the heart of the country. Yet that is where Jesus began, not from the centre but from the periphery, and he did so in order to tell us too that no one is far from God’s heart. Everyone can receive his word and encounter him in person. The Gospel offers a nice detail in this regard, when it tells us that Jesus’ preaching came “after” that of John (Mk 1:14). That word after is decisive: it points to a difference. John received people in the desert, where only those able to leave their homes could go. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks of God in the heart of society, to everyone, wherever they find themselves. He does not speak at fixed times or places, but “walking along the shore”, to fishermen who were “casting their nets” (v. 16). He speaks to people in the most ordinary times and places. Here we see the universal power of the word of God to reach everyone and every area of life.
Yet the word of God also has particular power, that is, it can touch each person directly. The disciples would never forget the words they heard that day on the shore of the lake, by their boats, in the company of their family members and fellow workers: words that marked their lives forever. Jesus said to them: “Follow me, I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17). He did not appeal to them using lofty words and ideas, but spoke to their lives. He told fishermen that they were to be fishers of men. If he had told them: “Follow me, I will make you Apostles, you will be sent into the world to preach the Gospel in the power of the Spirit; you will be killed, but you will become saints”, we can be sure that Peter and Andrew would have answered: “Thanks, but we’ll stick to our nets and our boats!” But Jesus spoke to them in terms of their own livelihood: “You are fishermen, and you will become fishers of men”. Struck by those words, they come to realize that lowering their nets for fish was too little, whereas putting out into the deep in response to the word of Jesus was the secret of true joy. The Lord does the same with us: he looks for us where we are, he loves us as we are, and he patiently walks by our side. As he did with those fishermen, he waits for us on the shore of our life. With his word, he wants to change us, to invite us to live fuller lives and to put out into the deep together with him.
So dear brothers and sisters, let us not ignore God’s word. It is a love letter, written to us by the One who knows us best. In reading it, we again hear his voice, see his face and receive his Spirit. That word brings us close to God. Let us not keep it at arm’s length, but carry it with us always, in our pocket, on our phone. Let us give it a worthy place in our homes. Let us set the Gospel in a place where we can remember to open it daily, perhaps at the beginning and at the end of the day, so that amid all those words that ring in our ears, there may also be a few verses of the word of God that can touch our hearts. To be able to do this, let us ask the Lord for the strength to turn off the television and open the Bible, to turn off our cell phone and open the Gospel. During this liturgical year, we are reading Saint Mark, the simplest and the shortest of the Gospels. Why not read it at home too, even a brief passage each day. It will make us feel God’s closeness to us and fill us with courage as we make our way through life.
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
I wish to express my gratitude to those who, during the days of my stay at the Gemelli Hospital, showed me affection, care and friendship, and assured me of the support of prayer. This human closeness and spiritual closeness were of great help and comfort to me. Thank you all! Thank you! Thank you from my heart!
Today, in the Gospel, Jesus calls by name – he calls by name - and sends out the twelve Apostles. By sending them, he asks them to proclaim just one thing: “Preach as you go, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt 10:7). It is the same proclamation with which Jesus began his preaching: the kingdom of God, that is, his lordship of love, has come near, it comes in our midst. And this is not just one piece of news among others, no, but the fundamental reality of life: the vicinity of God, the vicinity of Jesus.
Indeed, if the God of heaven is close, we are not alone on earth, and even in difficulty we do not lose faith. Here is the first thing to say to people: God is not far away, but he is a Father. God is not distant, he is a Father, he knows you and he loves you; he wants to take you by the hand, even when you travel on steep and rugged paths, even when you fall and struggle to get up again and get back on track. He, the Lord, is there with you. Indeed, often in the moments when you are at your weakest, you can feel his presence all the more strongly. He knows the path, he is with you, he is your Father! He is my Father! He is our Father!
Let us remain with this image, because proclaiming God as close to us is inviting you to think like a child, who walks held by his father’s hand: everything seems different. The world, large and mysterious, becomes familiar and secure, because the child knows he is protected. He is not afraid, and learns how to open up: he meets other people, finds new friends, learns with joy things that he did not know, and then returns home and tells everyone what he has seen, while within him there grows the desire to become grown up and to do the things he has seen his daddy do. This is why Jesus starts out from here, this is why God’s vicinity is the first proclamation: by staying close to God, we conquer fear, we open ourselves to love, we grow in goodness and we feel the need and the joy to proclaim.
If we want to be good apostles, we must be like children: we must sit “on God’s lap” and, from there, look at the world with trust and love, in order to bear witness that God is the Father, that he alone transforms our hearts and gives us that joy and that peace that we ourselves cannot attain.
To proclaim that God is near – but how can we do this? In the Gospel, Jesus recounts and recommends not saying many words, but performing many deeds of love and hope in the name of the Lord. Not saying many words, performing deeds! “Heal the sick”, says the Lord, “raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay” (Mt 10:8). Here is the heart of proclamation: witness freely given, service. I will tell you something: I am always puzzled, very puzzled, by the “talkers” with their endless talk and no action.
At this point, let us ask a few questions: we, who believe in God who is close, I wonder: do we confide in him? Do we know how to look forward trustfully, like a child who knows he is held in his father’s arms? Do we know how to sit in the Father’s lap with prayer, by listening to the Word, partaking of the Sacraments? And finally, close to him, do we know how to instil courage in others, to make ourselves close to those who suffer and are alone, to those who are distant and even those who are hostile? This is the substance of faith. This is what counts.
And let us now pray to Mary; may she help us feel we are loved and transmit closeness and trust.