“Let us pray today for the deceased, those who have lost their lives due to the virus; In a special way, I would like us to pray for the health workers who have died these days. They have donated their lives to serve the sick. ”
This Tuesday, March 18, 2020, the Holy Father has invoked all the deceased because of the coronavirus in the intention of prayer in the Eucharist, celebrated in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.
Reflecting on the readings proposed for this Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent, Francis has pointed out that our God “is the God of closeness, is a God who is close, who walks with his people”, and who “makes the prescriptions, writes them with his own hands on the stone, he gives them to Moses, but he does not leave the prescriptions and he goes away: he walks, he is close, and he observes: What nation has a God so close? Ours is a God of closeness.”
Being close to each other
In this context, the Pontiff points out that “Our God is close” and “asks us to be close to each other, not to distance ourselves from each other.” And at this time of crisis due to the pandemic we are experiencing, he clarified, “this closeness asks us to show it more, to show it more.”
“We cannot, perhaps, physically approach for fear of contagion, but yes, we can awaken in us an attitude of closeness between us: with prayer, with help, many forms of closeness. And why should we be close to each other? Because our God is close, he wanted to accompany us in life ”, assured the Holy Father.
Following is the transcript of the Pope’s homily by the Italian edition of Vatican News.
The theme of both Readings today is the Law (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1.5-9; Matthew 5:17-19), the Law that God gives His people; the Law that the Lord willed to give us, and that Jesus willed to bring to the greatest perfection. However, there is something that attracts attention: the way in which God gives the Law. He says to Moses: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). The Lord gives the Law to His people with an attitude of closeness. They are not the prescriptions of a ruler, who can be far away, or of a dictator . . . No. It is closeness. And, through revelation, we know that it is a paternal closeness, of a father, who accompanies His people giving them the gift of the Law — the close God. “In fact, what great nation is there that has gods so close to it, as the Lord, our God, is close to us every time we call upon Him?”
Our God is the God of closeness; He is a close God, who walks with His people. That image of the desert in Exodus: the cloud and column of fire to protect the people: He walks with His people. He isn’t a god who leaves the prescriptions written and says: “Go forward.” He does the prescriptions, He writes them with His own hands on the stone, gives them to Moses, delivers them to Moses, but He doesn’t leave the prescriptions and goes away: He walks, He is close. “What nation has a god that is so close? It’s closeness; ours is a God of closeness.
And man’s first response, in the Bible’s first pages, are two attitudes of non-closeness. Our response is always to move away, to move away from God. He makes Himself close, and we move away — those two first pages. The first attitude of Adam with his wife is to hide: they hide from God’s nearness; they are ashamed, because they have sinned, and sin leads us to hide, not to want closeness (Cf. Genesis 3:8-10). And so often it [leads] to engaging in a theology thought only on a God-Judge and, therefore, <we> hide, <we are> afraid. The second human attitude, in the face of a proposal of this closeness of God, is to kill, to kill one’s brother. “I’m not my brother’s keeper”(Cf. Genesis 4:9).
These are two attitudes that cancel all closeness. Man refuses God’s closeness, he wants to be master of relationships, but closeness always brings with it some weakness. The “close God” makes Himself weak, and the closer He makes Himself, the weaker He seems. When He comes to us, to dwell with us, He makes Himself man, one of us: He makes Himself weak and bears the weakness to death and to the cruelest death, the death of assassins, the death of the greatest sinners. Closeness humiliates God. He humbles Himself to be with us, to walk with us, to help us.
The “close God” speaks to us of humility. He isn’t a “great God,” no. He is close; He is of the house, and we see this in Jesus, God made man, close <to us even> to death. With His disciples: He accompanies them; He teaches them. He corrects them with love . . . Let us think, for instance, of Jesus’ closeness to the anguished disciples of Emmaus: they were anguished, they were defeated and He approaches them slowly, to make them understand the message of life, of resurrection (Cf. Luke 24:13-32).
Our God is close and He asks us to be close to one another, not to distance ourselves among ourselves. And in this moment of crisis because of the pandemic we are living, we are asked to manifest this closes more, to make it seen more. We can’t, perhaps, get close physically because of the fear of contagion, but we can reawaken in us an attitude of closeness among ourselves: with prayer, with help, <there are> so many ways of closeness. And why must we be close to one another? Because our God is close, He willed to accompany us in life. He is the God of proximity. Therefore, we aren’t isolated persons: we are close because the inheritance we received from the Lord is proximity, that is, the gesture of closeness.
Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be close to one another; not to hide from one another; not to wash our hands, as Cain did, from others’ problem, no. Close. Proximity. Closeness. “In fact, for what great nation is there so near to it as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call upon Him? “
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester