There is great hunger in the world and it isn’t only for bread. And the bread of eternal life promised by Jesus is more than food for the body.
This was the key theme of the homily Pope Francis delivered on May 7, 2019, when he celebrated Mass in Macedonia Square, Skopje, North Macedonia, on the last day of hit May 5-7 apostolic journey to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.
The Holy Father focused on the Gospel for the day from the sixth chapter of John where Jesus proclaims: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
“We have just heard the Lord speak these words,” Pope Francis said. “In the Gospel, a crowd had gathered around Jesus. They had just seen the multiplication of the loaves; it was one of those events that remained etched in the mind and heart of the first community of disciples. There had been a party: a feast that showed God’s superabundant generosity and concern for his children, who became brothers and sisters in the sharing of bread. Let us imagine for a moment that crowd. Something had changed. For a few moments, those thirsting and silent people who followed Jesus in search of a word were able to touch with their hands and feel in their bodies the miracle of a fraternity capable of satisfying superabundantly.
But the Holy Father went on to say that there are many other hungers: for God, for fraternity, for encounter and a shared feast. There is hunger for God’s word.
“We have become accustomed to eating the stale bread of disinformation and ending up as prisoners of dishonor, labels, and ignominy,” Francis lamented. “We thought that conformism would satisfy our thirst, yet we ended up drinking only indifference and insensitivity.
“We fed ourselves on dreams of splendor and grandeur and ended up consuming distraction, insularity, and solitude. We gorged ourselves on networking and lost the taste of fraternity. We looked for quick and safe results, only to find ourselves overwhelmed by impatience and anxiety. Prisoners of a virtual reality, we lost the taste and flavor of the truly real.”
The Pope urged those gathered for Mass not to be afraid to tell God: “We are hungry.” And by that is meant hunger for God’s world, for fraternity.
“In every Eucharist, the Lord breaks and shares himself,” Francis reminded the congregation. “He invites us to break and share ourselves together with him and to be part of that miraculous multiplication that desires to reach out and touch, with tenderness and compassion, every corner of this city, this country, and this land.”
The Holy Father pointed to the example of Saint Mother Teresa, born in Skopje and revered throughout the world during her life and today. He noted how she built her life on the “twin pillars of Jesus incarnate in the Eucharist and Jesus incarnate in the poor.”
He concluded: “She went to the Lord exactly as she went to the despised, the unloved, the lonely and the forgotten. In drawing near to her brothers and sisters, she found the face of the Lord, for she knew that “love of God and love of neighbor become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus, we find God” (Deus Caritas Est, 15). And that love alone was capable of satisfying her hunger.”