Wednesday, March 27, 2019

General Audience: give us today our daily bread

This morning's General Audience began at 9:20am local time (4:20am EDT) in Saint Peter's Square, where the Holy Father met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from other parts of the world.

In his speech, the Holy Father continued the cycle of catecheses on the Our Father, adding a meditation on the phrase: Give us today our daily bread (Mt 14:15-19).

After having summarized His catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  Then, he offered a greeting to Sister Maria Concetta Esu, a Missionary in Africa, part of the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Joseph of Genoni, who he met in Bangui (Central African Republic), on the occasion of the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy.

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, let us go on with the second part of our analysis of the Our Father, the section of the prayer where we present our needs to God.  This second part begins with a word that is part of our daily life: bread.

Jesus' prayer begins with a compelling question, which is very similar to the words offered by a beggar: Give us our daily bread!  This prayer comes from a need that we often forget, which is to say that we are not self-sufficient creatures: every day, we need nourishment.

The Scriptures show us that for so many people the encounter with Jesus begins with a question. Jesus does not ask for refined invocations, on the contrary, all human existence, with its most concrete and daily problems, can become a prayer. In the Gospels we find a multitude of beggars who beg for liberation and salvation. Some ask for bread, some for healing; some for purification, others for sight; or that a loved one can live again ... Jesus is never indifferent to these requests and these pains.

Therefore, Jesus teaches us to ask the Father for daily bread. And he teaches us to do this together with so many men and women for whom this prayer is a cry - often kept inside - that accompanies everyday anxiety. How many mothers and fathers, even today, go to sleep with the torment of not having enough bread tomorrow for their children! We imagine this prayer recited not in the security of a comfortable apartment, but in the precariousness of a room in which we adapt, where there is not enough to live. The words of Jesus take on new strength. Christian prayer begins at this level. It is not an exercise in ascetics; it starts with reality, from the heart and flesh of people who live in need, or who share the condition of those who do not have everything that they need to live. Not even the highest Christian mystics can disregard the simplicity of this question. Father, let there be the necessary bread for us and for everyone. And bread is also for water, medicine, home, work ... Ask for what is necessary in order to live.

The bread that the Christian asks for in prayer is not mine but our bread. This is what Jesus wants. He teaches us to ask for it not only for ourselves, but for the whole fraternity of the world. If we do not pray in this way, the Our Father ceases to be a Christian prayer. If God is our Father, how can we present ourselves to Him without taking the hand of our neighbour? All of us. And if the bread that He gives us we steal from others, how can we call ourselves his children? This prayer contains an attitude of empathy, an attitude of solidarity. In my hunger I feel the hunger of the multitudes, and then I will pray to God until their request is granted. In this way, Jesus educates his community, his Church, in order to bring the needs of all people to God: We are all your children, Father, have mercy on us! And now it's good for us to stop a bit and think about hungry children. We think of the children who are in countries at war: the hungry children of Yemen, the hungry children in Syria, the hungry children in many countries where there is no bread, in South Sudan. We think of these children and thinking of them we say together, aloud, the prayer: "Father, give us this day our daily bread. All together.

The bread that we ask of the Lord in prayer is the same bread that one day will accuse us. We will be reproached for the little habit of breaking bread with those who are close to us, the little habit of sharing it. It was bread given for humanity, and instead it was eaten only by someone: love cannot bear this. Our love cannot stand it; nor can the love of God bear this egoism of not sharing bread.

Once upon a time there was a great crowd before Jesus; they were people who were hungry. Jesus asked if anyone had anything to eat, and only one child was found willing to share his supply: five loaves and two fish. Jesus multiplied that generous gesture (cf Jn 6: 9). That child understood the lesson of the Our Father: that food is not private property - let's keep this in mind: food is not private property - but providence to be shared, with God's grace.

The true miracle performed by Jesus that day was not so much the multiplication - which was true - but sharing: you give what you have and I will perform the miracle. He himself, multiplying that offered bread, anticipated the offering of Himself in the Eucharistic Bread. In fact, only the Eucharist is able to satiate our hunger for the infinite and the desire of God that animates every man, even in the search for daily bread.

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages, and His Holiness offered particular greetings to all those in attendance.  To English-speaking visitors, He said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Japan and the United States of America. May the Lenten journey bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Upon you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in Christ our Redeemer!

At the conclusion of this morning's General Audience, after having offered greetings to each group of pilgrims in attendance, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, we have the joy of counting among us, a person who I want to introduce to you.  She is Sister Maria Concetta Esu, a member of the Congregation of Daughters of Saint Joseph of Genoni.  Why am I doing this?

Sister Maria Concetta is 85 years old, and for almost 60 years, she has been a missionary in Africa, where she serves as a midwife.  Let us applaud her.  I met her in Bangui, when I went to open the Jubilee for Mercy.  There, she told me that in her life, she has helped to birth thousands of babies.  How wonderful!  She had travelled from the Congo in a canoe - at 85 years of age - to shop in Bangui.

She has come to Rome for a meeting with her sisters, and today, she has come to the Audience with her Superior.  Therefore, I thought that I would take advantage of this occasion to present her with a sign of recognition and to thank her for her witness!

Dear Sister, in my name and in the name of the Church, I offer you a gift.  It is a sign of our affection and of our thank you for all the work that you have done among your sisters and brothers in Africa, at the service of life, serving children, mothers and families.

With this gesture dedicated to you, I also wish to express my gratitude to all misisonaries, priests, religious and lay people, who are spreading the seed of the Kingdom of God in every part of the world. Your work, dear missionaries, is great. You spend your lives sowing the word of God with your testimony ... And in this world you do not make news. You are not news in the newspapers. Cardinal Hummes, who is in charge of the Brazilian episcopate, from all of Amazonia, often visits the cities and villages of the Amazon. And every time he arrives there - he told me himself - he goes to the cemetery and visits the tombs of the missionaries; so many young deaths from diseases against which they do not have antibodies. And he told me: All of these deserve to be canonized, because they spent their lives in the service.

Dear brothers and sisters, Sister Maria Concetta, having exercised this service, will soon return to Africa.  Let us accompany her with our prayers.  And may her example help all of us to live the gospel where ever we are.

Thank you Sister!  May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady protect you.

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