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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

General Audience about mercy that leads to communion

This morning's General Audience began at 10:00am in the Paul VI Hall.  Pope Francis met there with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope added his meditation on the theme: Mercy, an instrument of communion, providing his commentary on the gospel passage of the multiplication of the loaves and fish (Mt 14:13-21).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father addressed greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, I want to reflect on the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.  At the beginning of the story that Matthew recounts (cf Mt 14:13-21), Jesus has just received news of the death of John the Baptist, and he crosses the lake in a boat in order to find a deserted place, apart (Mt 14:13).  However, the people understand and go on ahead of him on foot so that going ashore, he saw a great crowd and felt compassion for them and healed the sick among them (Mt 14:14).  Jesus was like that: he always had compassion, he was always thinking about others.  He recognized the people's determination, that they were afraid to be left alone, as though they were being abandoned.  Even in death, John the Baptist, a charismatic prophet entrusted himself to Jesus, of whom John himself had said: He who comes after me is mightier than I (Mt 3:11).  So the crowd followed him everywhere, listening to him and bringing the sick to him.  Seeing this, Jesus is moved.  Jesus is not cold, he does not have a cold heart.  Jesus is capable of emotions.  On one hand, he feels as through he is bound to this crowd and does not want to leave them, but he needs time for solitude, for prayer, time to spend with the Father.  Many times, he spent the entire night in prayer with his Father.

That day too, therefore, the Master devoted himself to the people.  His compassion was not a vague sentiment; instead he shows us the strength of his will to stay close to us and to save us.  Jesus loves us so much, and he wants to stay close to us.

When evening was approaching, Jesus wanted to feed all those people who were tired and hungry, to take care of all those who were following after him.  He also wanted to involve his disciples in this task.  In fact, he said to them: You yourselves, give them something to eat (Mt 14:16).  He showed them that even the little bread and fish that they had, with the strength of faith and prayer, could be shared with all those people.  Jesus performed a miracle, a miracle of faith, of prayer, stirred by compassion and love.  Thus, Jesus broke the bread, gave it to the disciples, and the disciples gave it to the crowds (Mt 14:19).  The Lord meets the needs of mankind, but he also wants to make each one of us true sharers in his compassion.

Now let us focus on Jesus' gesture of blessing: He took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes toward heaven, recited a blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them (Mt 14:19).  As you can see, these are the same signs that Jesus performed at the Last Supper; they are also the same signs that every priest observes when he celebrates the Holy Eucharist.  The Christian community is born again and again in this Eucharistic communion.  To live in communion with Christ is therefore something completely different from remaining passive and aloof from daily life; on the contrary, it increasingly places us in relationship with the men and women of our times, in order to offer them Christ's concrete sign of mercy and attention.  While we are nourished by Christ, the Eucharist which we celebrate also transforms us little by little into the body of Christ and spiritual food for our brothers (and sisters).  Jesus wants to reach everyone, to bring the love of God to everyone.  This is the reason why he makes every believer a servant of mercy.  Jesus saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them and multiplied the bread; he does the same thing with the Eucharist.  And we believers who receive this Eucharistic bread are spurred on by Jesus to serve others, with the same compassion.  This is the path we follow.

The story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish concludes with the observation that everyone is satisfied and the left-over pieces are collected (cf Mt 14:20).  When, out of compassion and love, Jesus gives us his grace, forgives our sins, embraces us, loves us, he doesn't do things half-way, he gives himself completely.  As it was in this case: all of them were satisfied.  Jesus fills our hearts and our lives with his love, with his forgiveness, with his compassion.  Jesus therefore has allowed his disciples to carry out his directions.  In this way, they discover the way they should go: to feed the people and to unite them; to live in service to life and communion.  Therefore, we call upon the Lord, for he always makes his Church capable of this holy service, and so that each of us can be an instrument of communion in our own families, in our workplaces, in our parishes and in the groups to which we belong, a visible sign of God's mercy that does not want to be left alone in solitude and in need.  Rather, the gift of communion brings peace between men (and women) and between God and mankind, so that it can be a source of life for all people.
(Original text in Italian)

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages and he himself addressed greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from Ireland, Sweden, Ghana, Nigeria, China and the United States of America. With prayerful good wishes that the present Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.
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