· Vatican City ·

The Pope comments on the multiplication of the loaves and fishes

Angelus: 1 Aug

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.500.281.jpeg
06 August 2021

“Even today, the multiplication of goods cannot solve problems without fair sharing. The tragedy of hunger comes to mind, which affects the little ones in particular”, Pope Francis said at the Angelus on Sunday, 25 July, as he invited the faithful to accept Jesus’ invitation to “give what little you have”. Before leading the recitation of the Marian prayer, the Holy Father had reflected on the day’s Gospel Reading on the multiplication of the loaves and the fish. The following is a translation of his reflection, which he shared in Italian with the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Buongiorno!

The Gospel of this Sunday’s liturgy recounts the famous episode of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, with which Jesus feeds about five thousand people who had come to listen to him (cf. Jn 6:1-15). It is interesting to see how this miracle takes place: Jesus does not create the loaves and fishes from nothing, no, but rather he works by beginning with what the disciples bring him. One of them says: “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many?” (v. 9). It is little, it is nothing, but it is enough for Jesus.

Let us now try to put ourselves in the place of that boy. The disciples ask him to share everything he has to eat. It seems to be an unreasonable proposal, or rather, unjust. Why deprive a person, indeed a child, of what he has brought from home and has the right to keep for himself? Why take away from one person what is not enough to feed everyone anyway? In human terms, it is illogical. But not for God. On the contrary, thanks to that small, freely-given and therefore heroic gift, Jesus is able to feed everyone. This is a great lesson for us. It tells us that the Lord can do a lot with the little that we put at his disposal. It would be good to ask ourselves each day: “What do I bring to Jesus today?”. He can do a lot with one of our prayers, with one of our gestures of charity for others, even with one of our sufferings handed over to his mercy. Our small things to Jesus, and he works miracles. This is how God loves to act: he does great things, starting from those small things, those freely-given ones.

All the great protagonists of the Bible — from Abraham, to Mary, to the boy today — show this logic of smallness and giving. The logic of giving is so different from ours. We try to accumulate and increase what we have, but Jesus asks us to give, to diminish. We like to add, we like addition; Jesus likes subtraction, taking something away to give it to others. We want to multiply for ourselves; Jesus appreciates when we share with others, when we share. It is interesting that in the accounts of the multiplication of the loaves in the Gospels, the verb “multiply” never appears. On the contrary, the verbs used have the opposite meaning: “to break”, “to give”, “to distribute” (cf. v. 11; Mt 14:19; Mk 6:41; Lk 9:16). But the verb “to multiply” is not used. The true miracle, says Jesus, is not the multiplication that produces vanity and power, but the sharing that increases love and allows God to perform wonders. Let us try to share more: let us try this way that Jesus teaches us.

Even today, the multiplication of goods cannot solve problems without fair sharing. The tragedy of hunger comes to mind, which affects the little ones in particular. It has been calculated officially that every day in the world around 7,000 children under the age of five die due to reasons related to malnutrition, because they do not have what they need to live. Faced with scandals such as these, Jesus also addresses an invitation to us, an invitation similar to the one probably received by the boy in the Gospel, who has no name and in whom we can all see ourselves: “Be brave, give what little you have, your talents, your possessions, make them available to Jesus and to your brothers and sisters. Do not be afraid, nothing will be lost, because if you share, God will multiply. Banish the false modesty of feeling inadequate, have trust. Believe in love, believe in the power of service, believe in the strength of gratuitousness”.

May the Virgin Mary, who answered “yes” to God’s unprecedented proposal, help us to open our hearts to the Lord’s invitations and to the needs of others.

After the Angelus the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters, we have just celebrated the Liturgy on the occasion of the First World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. A round of applause to all the grandparents! Grandparents and grandchildren, young and old together, have shown one of the beautiful faces of the Church and demonstrated the covenant between the generations. I invite you to celebrate this Day in every community and to visit grandparents and the elderly, those who are most alone, to take to them my message, inspired by Jesus’ promise: “I am with you every day”. I ask the Lord that this celebration may help those of us who are older to respond to his call in this season of life, and show society the value of the presence of grandparents and the elderly, especially in this throwaway culture. Grandparents need young people and young people need grandparents: they must talk to each other, they must encounter one another! Grandparents have the sap of history that rises up and gives strength to the growing tree. I am reminded — I think I quoted it once — of that passage by a poet: “All that blossoms on the tree comes from that which is under the ground”. Without dialogue between young people and their grandparents, history does not move forward, life does not move forward: we need to take this up again, it is a challenge for our culture. Grandparents have the right to dream by looking at young people, and young people have the right to the courage of prophecy, drawing on the lifeblood from their grandparents. Please, do this: meet grandparents and young people and talk, converse. It will bring happiness to everyone.

In recent days, torrential rains have hit the city of Zhengzhou and Henan Province in China, causing devastating floods. I pray for the victims and their families, and express my closeness and solidarity with all those who are suffering as a result of this calamity.

Last Friday, the 32nd Olympic Games opened in Tokyo. In this time of pandemic, may these Games be a sign of hope, a sign of universal fraternity under the banner of healthy competition. God bless the organizers, the athletes and all those who collaborate in this great festival of sport!

I warmly greet you all, people of Rome and pilgrims. In particular, I greet the group of grandparents from Rovigo — thank you for coming! — the young people of Albinea who have walked the Via Francigena from Emilia to Rome; and the participants in the “Roma Capitale Rally”. I also greet the community of the Cenacolo. I wish everyone a happy Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci! Congratulations to you, children of the Immaculate, for the final approval!