By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis’ address to the crowds gathered in stifling St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, stemmed from his reflection on the Gospel reading of the day that tells the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.
Jesus and his apostles possessed but a few coins, the Pope said, while a great crowd had followed them up the mountain near the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It was there that a young man, led by Andrew, came forward and offered all he had: five loaves and two fish.
“He was a courageous boy” the Pope said, moved by compassion and the need to do something for others.
“Young people are like that, they have courage” he said, we must help them to continue being courageous.
Jesus attentive to the needs of people
Commenting on how, despite the difficulties, “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them and also as much of the fish as they wanted ", Pope Francis said this shows “Jesus is attentive to the primary needs of people”.
The episode, he said, stems from a concrete fact: the people are hungry and Jesus involves his disciples so that this hunger may be satisfied.
But, the Pope continued, Jesus did not limit himself to this: “he offered his Word, his consolation, his salvation, and finally his life” but he also took care of food for the body.
The proclamation of Christ calls for a commitment to solidarity
As disciples of Christ, Pope Francis said, “we must turn a blind eye:” Only by listening to the simplest requests of people and by placing ourselves next to their concrete existential situations, can we be listened to when speaking of higher values”.
We are instruments, he said, of God’s love for humanity that is “hungry for bread, for freedom, for justice, for peace, and above all for His divine grace, which never fails”.
Therefore, Francis said, the Gospel invites us to be available and industrious, just like that boy who only had five loaves but offered them.
“Faced with the cry of hunger - all sorts of “hunger” – of so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we cannot remain detached and calm spectators. The proclamation of Christ, the bread of eternal life, requires a generous commitment of solidarity for the poor, the weak, the last, and the defenseless. This action of proximity and charity is the best test of our faith, both at the personal level, and as a community” he said.
Plea not to waste the world’s resources
Pope Francis then commented on how after the crowd was fed and satisfied, Jesus ordered the apostles to “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”
And he appealed to all not to waste the food that is over.
“What do you do at home with the lunch you haven’t eaten? Do you throw it away? No! If you have this habit, I give you a suggestion: talk to your grandparents who lived through the post-war period, and ask them what they were doing with their left-over food. (…) This is advice and also a call to examine one’s conscience” he said.
Yes to development programmes no to armaments and war
Pope Francis concluded with a final prayer to Our Lady so that programmes and initiatives dedicated to development, to the eradication of hunger, to solidarity may prevail - not those of hatred, armaments and war.