Vatican Radio has this report today about the Pope’s spiritual exercises. The Pope is on retreat outside of Rome through the morning of Friday.
The theme of transparency regarding the Church‘s assets and the question regarding the fight against hunger and food waste were two key points during the Sixth meditation of the Pope’s Lenten Retreat. Led by Father Ermes Ronchi who is preaching to Pope Francis and to members of the Roman Curia at their retreat in the town of Ariccia, the exercises focus on ten questions from the Gospels. The question at the heart of Wednesdaymorning’s reflection was “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38, Matthew 15:34).
“The thing that most hurts Christians – Father Ronchi said – is the clergy’s attachment to money,” whilst what makes them happy is “the sharing of the bread”.
Father Ronchi began his meditation saying “Some people are so hungry that for them God cannot but have the form of a loaf of bread”.
“Life – he said – begins with hunger; to be alive is to be hungry”. And if you take that a step further one must consider the hunger of millions of people in the world: “the siege of the poor”, millions of outstretched hands asking for something to eat does not – he said – ask for a religious definition. “How does the Church respond?”
No to smoke screens
Quoting from the Gospel reading which tells of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, Ronchi points out that Jesus has a very practical approach when he tells the disciples to sum up what they have in hand. He said that all disciples, including the ones today, are called to quantify their assets.
“How much money do you have? How many houses? What standard of living? You must check! How many cars and how much jewelry in the form of crucifixes or rings?” he said. The Church – Father Ronchi concluded – must not be afraid of transparency.
To share is to multiply
“If you are transparent you are truthful. When you are true you are free.” Father Ronchi observed that Jesus did not allow anyone to ‘buy’ him, and “he never entered the palaces of the powerful if not as a prisoner.”
He explained that Jesus’ logic is that of giving – not of hoarding. He said that the verb ‘to love’ in the Gospel translates into ‘to give’. The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish shows us that Jesus is not concerned with the quantity of the bread; what he desires is that the bread be shared.
“According to a mysterious divine rule: when my bread becomes our bread, then little becomes enough. Hunger begins when I keep my bread to myself, when the satiated West holds on to its bread, its fish, its assets… It is possible to feed the earth, there is enough bread. There is no need to multiply it, it would be sufficient to just distribute it, starting with ourselves. We do not need prodigious multiplications: we need to beat the Goliath of selfishness, of food waste and the hoarding of few”.
“The hunger of others has rights over me”
Quoting from the Gospel of Luke Father Ronchi said: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap…” In this promise of Jesus – Father Ronchi said – is the mysterious, immense economy of giving and its hundredfold return which turns every budget upside down. And the last question will be – he continued: “Have you given little or a lot to life?” – Life depends on this, not on assets.
“A gift of five loaves of bread is sufficient to change the world” he said.
Father Ronchi concluded saying that the miracle of the five loaves and the two fish that the nascent Church put in the hands of Christ who did no calculations and held nothing back for his own supper or that of his disciples, shows us that a drop in the ocean can give meaning and hope to life”.