Philippines

God’s profound tenderness

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reflections reff rff rft

AT that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

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The essence of the Gospel can be expressed in one word: tenderness. Jesus reveals his tender relationship with his Father: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father.” Jesus recalls how the secrets of the Kingdom are revealed to mere children whom Jesus tenderly and graciously welcomes (cf Mt 19:14). Jesus compassionately invites all “who labor and are burdened”: “Come to me” and find rest. Indeed, this brief Gospel unfolds the profound tenderness of our God, who is truly “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4).

Pope Francis has much to teach us about God’s tenderness. In the homily during his Papal Mass of Inauguration (March 19, 2013), Pope Francis spoke, “Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”

Pope Francis continues, “Let us never forget that authentic power is service.” We should “be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph” and “embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important…”

In a homily for priests (June 12, 2015) Pope Francis notes, “How often do I think that we are afraid of the tenderness of God and because we are afraid of God’s tenderness, we do not allow it to be felt within us. Because of this we are so often hard, serious, punishing.” Francis encourages priests to “be pastors with the compassion of God.” “We believe in a God who became flesh, who has a heart and this heart today speaks to us thus: ‘Come to me. If you are tired, oppressed and I will give you rest. But the smallest, treat them with compassion, with the same tenderness with which I treat you.”

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is filled with insights on tenderness. “Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.…With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew” (EG, 3).

“Mercy is the greatest of all the virtues… It is proper to God to have mercy” (EG, 37). “The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness” (EG, 88). We are daily invited to “enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness” (EG, 270). “Let us learn to rest in the tenderness of the arms of the Father” (EG, 279).

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