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The kingdom is “at hand”: Why we have to preach closeness and be close

PIETA

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‘Weep Not For Me, Mother’ is the equivalent of the Pieta in Eastern iconography. It represents the nude Christ, half-way deposited in the tomb. His eyes are closed, the head is tilted, and the wounded hands are arranged in the sign of the cross. The Virgin May holds up and tenderly embraces her Son. An anonymous icon from the late 17th or early 18th century. [Museum in Yekaterinburg]

Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 06/11/22

A faith that does not reveal closeness, and a Church that is not close to what is normally far away, is a faith and a Church that betrays Jesus' mandate.

Reading: Matthew 10:7-13

Reflection

The feast of the Apostle Barnabas reminds us of the missionary impetus of the Gospel, which the evangelist Matthew translates into a wonderful speech by Jesus:

As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.

“As you go” means that there can be no experience of faith and the Church while standing still. Faith and the Church are such only if they are in movement, only if it is understood that the theological space within which proclamation takes place is the road even more than the Temple. The Temple is valuable only insofar as it serves being on the road, and is not rather a shell within which to take refuge from the world.

The fundamental theme of every proclamation is closeness (“preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand”); a faith that does not reveal closeness, and a Church that is not close to what is normally far away, is a faith and a Church that betrays Jesus’ mandate.

And then healing, curing the sick, raising the dead, and driving out demons are verbs that tell us that words are not enough. The Gospel is instead something that concretely changes people’s lives. It’s not mere interpretation of facts, but change. And this happens by the power of the Spirit and not by pastoral techniques acquired over time.

This is why every true evangelization asks us a question that we must personally answer: “Do you really believe?”

~

Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese of Italy and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

Aleteia is proud to offer this commentary on the readings for daily Mass, in collaboration with Fr. Epicoco.

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LiturgyScriptureSpiritual Life
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