Here is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ prepared address during this morning’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
A consequence of so-called “wellbeing” is one which leads people to withdraw into themselves, making them insensitive to the needs of others. Everything is done to deceive them, presenting ephemeral models of life, which disappear after a few years, as if our life were a fashion to follow and to change at every season. It’s not so. Reality must be accepted and faced for what it is, and often it makes us meet situations of urgent need. It is because of this that the cry of hunger and thirst is found among the works of mercy: to feed the hungry — there are so many today — and give drink to the thirsty. How many times the media informs us of populations that suffer from the lack of food and water, with grave consequences, especially for children.
In face of certain news and, especially, of certain images, public opinion feels touched and from time to time, aid campaigns are launched to stimulate solidarity. Donations are generous and thus, one can contribute to alleviate the suffering of many. This form of charity is important, but, perhaps, it does not involve us directly. Instead, when we go on the street and come across a person in need, or a poor man comes to knock on the door of our home, it’s very different, because we are no longer before an image but we are involved personally. There is no longer any distance between me and him or her, and I feel challenged. Poverty in the abstract does not challenge us, but it makes us think, it makes us lament, but when we see poverty in the flesh of a man, of a woman, of a child, this challenges us! And because of this, we have that habit of fleeing from the needy, of not getting close to them, of falsifying somewhat the reality of the needy with fashionable habits to distance ourselves from it. When I come across him, there is no longer any distance between me and the poor one. In such cases, what is my reaction? Do I turn my gaze away and pass beyond? Or do I stop to talk to him and to be interested in his state? And if you do this, one won’t be lacking who says: “This is crazy, why does he talk to a poor one!” Do I see if I can receive that person in some way or do I try to be free of him soonest? But perhaps he is asking only for the necessary: something to eat and to drink. Let us reflect for a moment: how often do we recite the “Our Father,” and yet we do not really pay attention to those words: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
A Psalm in the Bible says that God is He who “gives bread to all flesh” (136:25). The experience of hunger is harsh. Someone who has lived periods of war and want knows it. Yet this experience is repeated every day and it exists beside abundance and waste. The Apostle James’ words are always timely: ‘What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:14-17) because it is incapable of doing works, of doing charity, of loving. There is always someone who is hungry and thirsty and is in need of me. I cannot delegate it to any other. This poor one is in need of me, of my help, of my word, of my commitment. We are all involved in this.
It is also the teaching of the page of the Gospel in which Jesus, seeing the many people who had been following him for hours, asks His disciples: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (John 6:5). And the disciples answered: “It’s impossible, it would be better if you dismissed them …” Instead, Jesus says to them: “No, you yourselves give them to eat” <cf. Mark 14:16). He has them give him the few loaves and fish they have, he blesses them, breaks them and has them distributed to all. It is a very important lesson for us. It says to us that the little we have, if we entrust it to Jesus’ hands and share it with faith, becomes superabundant richness.
In the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI affirms: “Feed the hungry is an ethical imperative for the universal Church… The right to food, like the right to water, has an important place within the pursuit of other rights … It is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination” (n. 27). Let us not forget Jesus’ words: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35) and “If anyone who thirsts, come to me and drink” (John 7:37). These words are a provocation for all of us believers, a provocation to recognize that our relationship with God passes through feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, a God who revealed in Jesus His merciful face.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I receive joyfully the faithful of the Diocese of Caltagirone, with the Bishop, Monsignor Calogero Peri, on the occasion of the bicentenary of its foundation; the Confirmed of the Diocese of Faenza-Modigliana, accompanied by Monsignor Mario Toso; the participants in the Seminar promoted by the University of the Holy Cross; the youngsters of Catholic Action of Brindisi-Ostuni and the faithful of Mistretta.
I greet the pilgrimage of the Sisters of Saint John the Baptist, gathered here for the Canonization of Saint Alphonsus Maria Fusco, and I hope that the Founder’s charism is spread also in today’s society. I greet the officials of the Academy of Modena; the Center of National Creativity Foundation; the Association of the Variously Disabled and the participants in the Second Meeting Women, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Finally, a thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today the liturgy remembers Saint Paul of the Cross, priest Founder of the Passionists: dear young people, especially the youngsters adhering to the Festival of Diplomacy, may meditation on Jesus’ Passion teach you the greatness of His love for us; dear sick, carry your cross in union with Christ to have relief in the hour of trial; and you, dear newlyweds, dedicate time to prayer, so that your conjugal life is a journey of Christian perfection.[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]