This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:20 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Continuing with the series of catecheses on the “Our Father,” the Pope focused his meditation on “Give us this day our daily bread” (Biblical passage: from the Gospel according to Matthew 14:15-19).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he greeted Sister Maria Concetta Esu, missionary in Africa, of the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Joseph of Genoni, whom I met at Bangui (Central African Republic) on the occasion of the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We pass today to analyze the second part of the “Our Father,” in which we present our needs to God. This second part begins with a word that smells daily: bread.
Jesus’ prayer begins with a pressing demand, which is very similar to the entreaty of a beggar: “Give us our daily bread!” This prayer comes from evidence that we often forget, that is, that we aren’t self-sufficient creatures, and that every day we need to eat.
The Scriptures show us that for many people the encounter with Jesus began from a question. Jesus doesn’t ask for refine invocations, rather, the whole of human existence, with its most concrete and daily problems, can become a prayer. We find in the Gospel a multitude of beggars, who supplicate for liberation and salvation. One who asks for bread, another for healing, some for purification, others for sight, or that a dear person live again . . . Jesus never goes by indifferent to these requests and to these sorrows.
Therefore, Jesus teaches us to ask the Father for daily bread. He teaches us to do so united to so many men and women for whom this prayer is a cry — often held inside — which accompanies everyday anxiety. How many mothers and how many fathers, also today, go to sleep with the torment of not having enough bread the next day for their children! Let us imagine this prayer recited not in the security of a comfortable apartment, but in the precariousness of a room where we fit, where what is necessary to live is lacking. Jesus’ words assume a new force. Christian prayer begins from this level. It’s not an exercise for ascetics; it starts from reality, from the heart and from the flesh of people that live in need, or who share the condition of those that don’t have what is necessary to live. Not even the highest Christian mystics can do without the simplicity of this request. “Father, see to it that for us and for all there is today the necessary bread.” And “bread” stands also for water, medicine, house, work . . . To ask for what is necessary to live. The bread that a Christian asks for in prayer is not “my” but “our” bread. It’s how Jesus wants it. He teaches us to ask it, not only for ourselves but for the entire brotherhood of the world. If one doesn’t 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 one another by the hand? — all of us. And if we steal among ourselves the bread that He gives us, how can we say we are His children? This prayer contains an attitude of empathy and solidarity. In my hunger, I feel the hunger of multitudes, and then I’ll pray to God until their prayer is heard. This is how Jesus educates His community, His Church, to bring to God the needs of all: “We are all your children, O Father, have mercy on us!” And now it will do us good to pause a bit and to think of starving children. Let us think of children that are in countries at war: the starving children of Yemen, the starving children in Syria, the starving children in so many countries where there isn’t bread, in South Sudan. Let us think of these children and, thinking of them, let us say together in a loud voice the prayer: “Father, give us this day our daily bread” — altogether.
The bread that we ask of the Lord in prayer is the same that one day will accuse us. It will reprove our little habit of breaking it with one who is close to us, our little habit of sharing it. It was bread given for humanity and, instead, only someone ate it: love can’t endure this. Our love can’t endure this; nor can the love of God endure this egoism of not sharing the bread.
There was once a great crowd before Jesus; they were people who were hungry. Jesus asked if someone has something, and only a child was found ready to share his supply: five loaves and two fishes. Jesus multiplied that generous gesture (Cf. John 6:9). That child had understood the lesson of the “Our Father”: that food isn’t private property– let’s keep this in our mind: food isn’t private property –, but providence to share, with the grace of God.
The true miracle wrought by Jesus that day was not so much the multiplication — which is true –, but the sharing: give what you have and I will do the miracle. He Himself, by multiplying that bread offered, anticipated the offering of Himself in the Eucharistic Bread. In fact, only the Eucharist is able to satiate the hunger for the infinite and the desire for God that animates every man, also in the search for daily bread.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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As every year, we will meet next Friday and Saturday for the traditional initiative: “24 Hours for the Lord.” At 5:00 pm on Friday I will celebrate the Penitential Liturgy in the Vatican Basilica. How significant it would be if, on this particular occasion, our churches would also be open longer, to pray for God’s mercy and receive it in the Sacrament of Forgiveness.
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I’m happy to receive the pilgrims of the Dioceses of Palermo and Piazza Armerina, with the Bishops, Monsignor Corrado Lorefice and Monsignor Rosario Gisana, and the parish groups, in particular, that of Chiusi Stazione, accompanied by the Bishop, Monsignor Stefano Manetti.
I greet the United Dependents Movement 118 Sicily; the Free and Strong Association of Pontinia and the school Institutes, particularly those of Ladispoli, Fasano, Corropoli, and Naples.
A particular thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. May the visit to the Tombs of the Apostles be for all an occasion to grow in the love of God and to allow yourselves to be transformed by divine grace, which is stronger than any sin.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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The Holy Father’s Greeting to Sister Maria Concetta Esu
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we have the joy of having with us a person that I wish to introduce to you. She is Sister Maria Concetta Esu, of the Congregation of Daughters of Saint Joseph of Genoni. And why do I do this?
Sister Maria Concetta is 85 and has been a missionary in Africa for almost 60 years, where she carries out the service of obstetrics — applause for her. I met her at Bangui when I went to open the Jubilee of Mercy. There she told me that in her life she had helped thousands of children to be born. How wonderful! That day she even came from the Congo in a canoe — at 85 — to shop at Bangui.
She has come to Rome these days for a meeting with her Sisters, and she came to the Audience today with her Superior. So I thought of taking advantage of this occasion to give her a sign of gratitude and to say a big thank you for her witness!
Dear Sister, in my name and that of the Church, I offer you an honor. It’s a sign of our affection and of our “thank you” for all the work you have done in the midst of African sisters and brothers, at the service of life, of children, of mothers, and of families.
With this gesture dedicated to you, I also intend to express my gratitude to all men and women missionaries, priests, Religious and laymen, who scatter the seed of the Kingdom of God in every part of the world. Your work, dear men and women missionaries, is great. You “burn” <your> life sowing the Word of God with your witness . . . And in this world, you don’t make news. You aren’t news in the newspapers. Cardinal Hummes, who is in charge of the Brazilian Episcopate, of the whole of Amazonia, often goes to visit the cities and villages of Amazonia. And every time he arrives there — he told me this himself — he goes to the cemetery and visits the missionaries’ tombs; so many young dead because of sicknesses against which they didn’t have the antibodies. And he said to me: “All these deserve to be canonized,” because they “burnt” <their> life in service.
Dear brothers and sisters, after this commitment, Sister Maria Concetta will return in these days to Africa. Let us accompany her with prayer. And may her example help us all to live the Gospel, there, where we are.
Thank you, Sister! May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican