Pope

Pope Francis: The Eucharist transforms us into “spiritual food for our brothers and sisters”

The Holy Father said that in receiving the bread of Christ, we are “urged on” by Jesus to be “servant[s] of mercy” to others

Pope Francis: The Eucharist transforms us into “spiritual food for our brothers and sisters”

© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

VATICAN CITY —“Living in communion with Christ … is anything but remaining passive and aloof from everyday life. On the contrary, it increasingly puts us in relationship with the men and women of our time, to offer them the concrete sign of the mercy and attention of Christ,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

Addressing faithful and pilgrims in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, at his Wednesday general audience, the pope reflected on Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of the loaves (Matthew 14:13-21). He said that “while it nourishes us with Christ, the Eucharist which we celebrate transforms us little by little into the body of Christ and spiritual food for our brothers and sisters.”

The pope’s words are reminiscent of St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

 St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

 

Here below is an English translation of Pope Francis’ address.

© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA
© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning! Today we wish to reflect on the miracle of the loaves. At the beginning of Matthew’s account (cf. 14:13-21), Jesus has just received news of the death of John the Baptist, and he crosses the lake in a boat seeking a “lonely place apart” (v. 13). However, the people understand this and go ahead of him on foot, so that “as he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick” (v. 14).

This is how Jesus was: always compassionate, always thinking of others. The determination of the people, who are afraid of being left alone and abandoned, is striking. With John the Baptist the charismatic prophet dead, they rely on Jesus, of whom John himself had said: “He who is coming after me is mightier than I” (Mt 3:11). So the crowd follows him everywhere, to listen to him and bring their sick to him. And seeing this Jesus is moved. Jesus is not the cold; he does not have a cold heart. Jesus is able to be moved. On the one hand, he feels bound to this crowd and does not want to go away; on the other, he needs moments of solitude and prayer with the Father. He often spent the night in prayer with his Father. On that day too, therefore, the Teacher dedicated himself to the people. His compassion is not a vague sentiment. Instead, he shows the full force of his will to remain close to us and save us. Jesus loves us so much, and he wants to be close to us.

When evening falls, Jesus is concerned about giving all those tired and hungry people something to eat, and he takes care of those who follow him. And he wants to involve his disciples in this. In fact, he tells them: “You give them something to eat” (v. 16). And he showed them that the few loaves and fish they had, through the power of faith and prayer, could be shared by all those people. Jesus performs a miracle, but it is a miracle of faith and prayer, stirred by compassion and love. Thus Jesus “broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (v. 19). The Lord meets the needs of men, but he wants to make each one of us truly participate in his compassion.

Now let us reflect on Jesus’ act of blessing: “Taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves” (v. 19). As we see, they are the same signs that Jesus carried out at the Last Supper; and they are also the same that every priest carries out when he celebrates the Holy Eucharist. The Christian community is born and continuously reborn from this Eucharistic Communion. Living in communion with Christ, therefore, is anything but remaining passive and aloof from everyday life. On the contrary, it increasingly puts us in relationship with the men and women of our time, to offer them the concrete sign of the mercy and attention of Christ. While it nourishes us with Christ, the Eucharist which we celebrate 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 all. And for this, he makes each believer a servant of mercy. Jesus saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them and he multiplied the loaves; he does the same with the Eucharist. And we believers who receive the Eucharistic bread are urged on by Jesus to bring this service to others, with the same compassion. This is the path.

The story of the loaves and fishes concludes with the observation that all were satisfied, and with the gathering up of the fragments that were left over (cf. v. 20). When Jesus, through his compassion and love, gives us a grace, forgives us our sins, embraces us, loves us, he does not do things halfway, but completely. As happened here: they were all satisfied. Jesus fills our hearts and our lives with his love, his forgiveness, his compassion. Thus Jesus permitted his disciples to carry out his order. In this way, they know the path to take: feed the people and keep them united; that is, be at the service of life and communion.

Let us therefore call upon the Lord, that he may always makes his Church capable of this holy service, and that each one of us may be an instrument of communion in our family, at work, in the parish and in groups to which we belong, as a visible sign of God’s mercy that does not want to leave anyone alone and in need, so that communion and peace may descend among men, and communion of men with God, for this communion is life for all.

Translation by Diane Montagna of Aleteia’s English edition.

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Diane Montagna

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.