By Pope Francis
(Editor’s note: Pope Francis opened his Sunday Angelus on June 18 expressing profound gratitude to all for their affection, care, friendship and prayerful support during his stay in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. The following is an excerpt from the Angelus: https://tinyurl. com/2p9fkxba)
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.