As Father's Day is celebrated in many countries, the mission Jesus gives his Apostles is a perfect reflection.
The Pope expressed his gratitude for all those who supported him during his recent surgery. Then, turning his attention to the Gospel, he noted that Jesus has just one mission for the Apostles: He asks them to proclaim just one thing: “Preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”
“This,” the Pope said, “is not just one piece of news among others, no; but the fundamental reality of life: the vicinity of God, the vicinity of Jesus.”
We share his full reflection, which is a perfect meditation for Father’s Day:
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
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.