Food Is Not a Private Property
In his catechesis on the 'Our Father', the Pope recalls the tragedy of starving children in war-torn nations
"It will do us good to pause a bit and think about the starving children" who are "in warring countries: the starving children of Yemen, the starving children in Syria ... in South Sudan". Pope Francis shared this thought with the faithful present at the General Audience on Wednesday morning, 27 March , in Saint Peter's Square. Continuing his catechesis on the 'Our Father' narrated in Matthew's Gospel (14:15-19), the Pontiff reflected on the second part of the Prayer which begins with the invocation: "Give us our daily bread!". The following is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis, which he delivered in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we move on to analyze the second part of the “Lord’s Prayer”, in which we present our needs to God. This second part begins with a word with the scent of daily life: bread.
Jesus’ prayer begins with a compelling request, which quite resembles a beggar’s plea: “Give us our daily bread!”. This prayer comes from an evident [fact] that we often forget, which is to say that we are not self-sufficient beings, and that we need to nourish ourselves every day.
Scripture shows us that for many people the encounter with Jesus is realized by beginning with a request. Jesus does not ask for refined invocations, but rather, the whole of human existence, with its most concrete and mundane problems, can become prayer. In the Gospels we find a multitude of mendicants who plead for liberation and salvation. Those who ask for bread, those for healing; some for purification, others sight; or that a dear one may live again.... Jesus never moves indifferently past these requests and this suffering.
Thus, Jesus teaches us to ask the Father for our daily bread. And he teaches us to do so united with many men and women for whom this prayer is a plea — often stifled within — which accompanies the anxiety of each day. How many mothers and how many fathers, even today, go to sleep with the torment of not having enough bread for their own children tomorrow! Let us imagine this prayer recited not in the security of a comfortable apartment, but in the precariousness of a room in which one adapts, where life’s necessities are lacking. Jesus’ words take on new meaning. Christian prayer begins at this level. It is not an exercise for ascetics; it begins from reality, from the heart and from the flesh of people who live in need, or who share the condition of those who do not have life’s necessities. Not even the most exalted Christian mystics can overlook the simplicity of this request. “Father let there be the necessary bread for us and for all”. And “bread” also means water, medicine, home, work.... Asking for life’s necessities.
The bread a Christian requests in prayer is not “mine”, but “ours”. This is what Jesus wants. He teaches us to request it not only for ourselves but for the world’s entire fraternity. If one does not 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 each other by the hand? All of us. And if we steal from one another the bread that he gives us, how can we call ourselves his children? This prayer contains an attitude of empathy, an attitude of solidarity. In my hunger I feel the hunger of the multitudes, and thus I will pray to God until their request is answered. This is how Jesus teaches 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 think about the starving children. Let us think about the children who are in warring countries: the starving children of Yemen, the starving children in Syria, the starving children in so many countries where there is no bread, in South Sudan. Let us think about these children and, thinking of them, let us recite the prayer together aloud: “Father, give us this day our daily bread”. Everyone together.
The bread we request from the Lord in prayer is the very same that one day will fault us. It will reproach us for the paltry habit of breaking it with those who are close to us, the paltry habit of sharing it. It was bread given for mankind, and instead it was eaten by just one: love cannot bear this. Our love cannot bear it; nor can God’s love bear this selfishness of not sharing our bread.
Once there was a great crowd before Jesus: they were people who were hungry. Jesus asked whether someone had something, and they found only one lad willing to share his provisions: five loaves and two fish. Jesus multiplied that generous act (cf. Jn 6:9). That lad had understood the lesson of the “Our Father”: that food is not private property — let us keep this in mind: food is not private property — but Providence to be shared, with the grace of God.
The true miracle performed by Jesus that day is not so much the multiplication — which is true — but the sharing: give what you have and I will perform a miracle. He himself, in multiplying that given bread, revealed the offering of Himself in the Eucharistic Bread. Indeed, the Eucharist alone is capable of satisfying the infinite hunger and the desire for God which animates each person, even in the search for daily bread.
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29 March 2019, page 3
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