03/18/2020, 10.15
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Pope: a special prayer for frontline health workers who have died caring for coronavirus patients

"Our God is close and asks us to be close to each other, not to move away from each other. And in this moment of crisis for the pandemic we are experiencing, asks us to manifest this closeness more, to show it more. We cannot, perhaps, physically get closer because of the fear of contagion, but yes, we can awaken in us an attitude of closeness among us: with prayer, with solidarity, many forms of closeness".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis dedicated Mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta to frontline health care workers who have died helping coronavirus patients. "We pray today for the dead, those who because of the virus lost their lives; in a special way, I would like us to pray for health workers who have died these days. They gave their life in service to the sick".

In his homily, commenting on the passage of the Gospel (Mt 5: 17-19) in which Jesus says he did not come to repeal the Law he said that the subject of the readings is “the law that God wanted to give us” and which “Jesus wanted to bring to its ultimate perfection”. What drew the Pope’s attention was “the way God gives the law”. In fact, Moses marvels at how near God is and that no other nation has its God “has its God so near as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him”, Pope Francis quoted.

“The Lord gives His people the law by drawing near to them. They weren't prescriptions given by a far-off governor who then distances himself or of a dictator.  …. And we know through revelation that it was the paternal nearness of a father accompanying His people, giving them the gift of the law. A God who is near….

The Pope continued saying that God protects his people on their journey through the desert through the cloud and the pillar of fire. God journeys with His people, he said.

“He is not a God who leaves the prescriptions of the law in writing and then goes His own way.  He writes the prescriptions with His own hand on the rock. Then He gives them, hands them over to Moses. He doesn't give them and then go on His own way.”

Pope Francis then reflected on the tendency that humans have which is demonstrated on the first pages of the Bible. The more God draws near, the more we tend to distance ourselves from him. The first way of distancing ourselves is to hide ourselves, the second is killing others as Cain did, he said.

“Sin leads us to hide ourselves, to not want nearness. So many times we adopt a theology thinking that he's a judge. And so I hide myself, I am afraid…. Two types of reaction that inhibit every type of nearness. Man rejects God’s nearness. He wants to be in control of relationships. And relationships always bring with them some type of vulnerability. God draws near making Himself weak. And the closer He comes, the weaker He seems to be. When He comes to live among us, He makes Himself man, one of us. He makes Himself weak. He bears that weakness even unto death, the most cruel death.”

God’s nearness demonstrates His humility. “God humiliates Himself to walk with us, to help us”, Pope Francis said. As Moses said, He is not a God somewhere up in the heavens. “He’s in the house”. Jesus shows us this. Jesus, God-made-man, “accompanies” His disciples, teaching them and “lovingly” correcting them. Jesus asks us to draw near to each other rather than to distance ourselves from each other.

Pope Francis said that there are many ways of drawing near to each other that are not physical in nature.

“In this moment of crisis because of the pandemic we are experiencing, this nearness asks to be manifested more… Perhaps we cannot draw near physically to others because of the fear of contagion, but we can reawaken in ourselves a habit of drawing near to others through prayer, through help. There are many ways of drawing near.”

The reason why we need to be near each other is because God made Himself near to accompany us. The “inheritance we have received from the Lord” is that we are neighbours, we do not live in isolation. “Let’s ask the Lord the grace of being near to each other, not to hide ourselves from each other, not to wash our hands as Cain did….”


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