On his first full day in Bolivia, Pope Francis began the day by celebrating an outdoor Mass in the city of Santa Cruz. Unconfirmed reports state that nearly 2 million people attended the Mass. The Holy Father celebrated it as the inaugural Mass of the V Bolivian National Eucharistic Congress.
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on the Gospel which recounts Jesus’ miraculous feeding of 4,000 people. The Pope said that like them, “we too want to listen to his words and to receive his life. Like them, we are in the presence of the Master, the Bread of Life.”
The Holy Father said that the people of Bolivia, scarred by experiences of injustice and struggle, bear that memory from generation to generation.
“Frequently we tire of this journey. Frequently we lack the strength to keep hope alive,” he said. “How often have we experienced situations which dull our memory, weaken our hope and make us lose our reason for rejoicing! And then a kind of sadness takes over. We think only of ourselves, we forget that we are a people which is loved, a chosen people. And the loss of that memory disorients us, it closes our heart to others, and especially to the poor.”</p>
The Pope said that like the disciples who saw the crowds and begged Jesus to send them away because there was no food, our hearts also tend to fall into despair.
“A despairing heart finds it easy to succumb to a way of thinking which is becoming ever more widespread in our world,” he said.
“It is a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable. This way of thinking has room only for a select few, while it discards all those who are ‘unproductive’, unsuitable or unworthy, since clearly those people don’t ‘add up’.”
The 78-year-old Pontiff went on to say that Christ’s invitation to the disciples to give the people to eat, has a particular resonance today.
“Taking the lead, he gives us his own example, he shows us the way forward. What he does can be summed up in three words: He takes a little bread and some fish, he blesses them and then gives them to his disciples to share with the crowd,” he said.
“This is how the miracle takes place. It is not magic or sorcery. With these three gestures, Jesus is able to turn a mentality which discards others into a mindset of communion and community. I would like briefly to look at each of these actions.”
Taking, Blessing and Giving
Continuing his homily, Pope Francis focused on the three gestures of Christ that serve as an example to the faithful: taking, blessing and giving.
In the first gesture, the Pope said that Jesus takes the lives of the people seriously, experiencing and feeling what they feel. Christ is not concerned with material or cultural treasures, but with people.
“The greatest wealth of a society is measured by the lives of its people, it is gauged by its elderly, who pass on their knowledge and the memory of their people to the young,” he said. “Jesus never detracts from the dignity of anyone, no matter how little they possess or seem capable of contributing.”
Secondly, the Holy Father said that Jesus takes what is given and blesses the Father, showing that he doesn’t view things as objects but as “the fruit of God’s merciful love.”
“Blessing has this double aspect: thanksgiving and transformative power. It is a recognition that life is always a gift which, when placed in the hands of God, starts to multiply. Our Father never abandons us; he makes everything multiply.”
Finally, the Holy Father said that it is in giving that Christ reignites the memory of God’s people, that in turn calls on them to bring joy and salvation to others.
“The hands which Jesus lifts to bless God in heaven are the same hands which gave bread to the hungry crowd,” he said. “We can imagine how those people passed the loaves of bread and the fish from hand to hand, until they came to those farthest away. Jesus generated a kind of electrical current among his followers, as they shared what they had, made it a gift for others, and so ate their fill.”
Rounding out his homily, the Argentinian Pontiff reflected on the theme of the V Bolivian National Eucharistic Congress: “Bread Broken for the Life of the World.”
The Pope said that the Eucharist is a sacrament of communion that draws one out of individualism in “order to live together as disciples.”
“We are not isolated individuals, separated from one another, but rather a people of remembrance, a remembrance ever renewed and ever shared with others,” he said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to live a life of rememberance and solidarity, modeled after the Virgin Mary.
“Mary, like many of you, bore in her heart the memory of her people,” he said. “Today may Mary be our model. Like her, may we trust in the goodness of the Lord, who does great things with the lowliness of his servants.”