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Dear brothers and sisters,
This Sunday we begin the reading of chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. The chapter opens with the episode of the multiplication of loaves, which Jesus then comments on in the synagogue in Capernaum, indicating himself as the “bread” that gives life. Jesus’ actions parallel those of the Last Supper: “He took the bread and, after giving thanks, he gave them to those who were seated.” Thus it is stated in the Gospel (John 6:11). The emphasis on the theme of “bread,” which is then shared, and on giving thanks (6:11, in Greek – “eucharistesas”), recalls the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the world.
The evangelist observes that the feast of Passover is near at this point (cf. 6:4). The focus turns to the cross, the gift of love, and to the Eucharist, the perpetuation of this gift: Christ makes himself the bread of life for men. St. Augustine comments on it in this wise: “Who, if not Christ, is the bread of heaven? But so that men might eat the bread of angels, the Lord of the angels became man. If he had not done this, we would not have his body; not having his body, we would not eat the bread of the altar” (Sermon 130, 2). The Eucharist is the permanent grand meeting of man with God, in which the Lord becomes our food, gives himself to transform us into himself.
In the scene of the multiplication of the loaves a young boy is also depicted, who, presented with the problem of feeding many people, puts what little he has at the disposal of the others: 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (cf. John 6:8). The miracle does not produce its effect out of nothing: God is able to multiply our little gesture of love and make us participate in his gift. The crowd is struck by the marvel: it sees in Jesus the new Moses, worthy of power, and in the new manna, the future secured, but they stop at the material element, which they have eaten, and the Lord, “knowing that they wanted to come to take him to make him king, he retreated again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15). Jesus is not an earthly king who exercises dominion, but a king who serves, who condescends to man to satisfy not only material hunger but above all the profound hunger for direction, for meaning, for truth, the hunger for God.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord to make us rediscover the importance of nourishing ourselves not only with bread, but with truth, with love, with Christ, with the body of Christ, faithfully participating in the Eucharist with keen understanding, to be ever more intimately united with him. In fact, It is not the eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself; he draws us into himself (Sacramentum caritatis, 70). At the same time, we wish also to pray that no one ever lacks the bread that is necessary for a worthy life, and inequalities be overcome, not with the weapons of violence but with sharing and love.
We entrust ourselves to the Virgin Mary, while we invoke her maternal intercession for us and our loved ones.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Dear brothers and sisters,
I continue to follow with apprehension the increasing episodes of violence in Syria with the sad sequence of dead and wounded, even among civilians, and an enormous number of evacuees within the country and refugees in neighboring countries. I ask that necessary humanitarian aid and joint help be guaranteed for these people. In renewing my nearness to the suffering population and remembrance in prayer, I renew a pressing appeal that an end be brought to all violence and bloodshed. I ask God for the wisdom of heart, especially for those who have great responsibilities, so that no effort be spared in the pursuit of peace, also on the part of the international community, through dialogue and reconciliation, in view of an adequate political solution of the conflict. My thoughts also turn to the dear Iraqi nation, struck in recent days by many grave attacks with many dead and wounded. May this country find the path to stability, of reconciliation and peace.
Next year at this time the 28th World Youth Day will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is a precious occasion for many young people to experience the joy and beauty of belonging to the Church and to live the faith. I look to this event with hope and I would like to encourage and thank the organizers, especially the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, committed consciously to preparing the welcome of the youth from around the world who will take part in this important ecclesial encounter.
I am following with concern the news about the ILVA plant in Taranto and I wish to manifest my nearness to the workers and their families, who are living through these difficult moments with apprehension. As I assure my prayer for the support of the Church, I exhort everyone to develop a sense of responsibility and encourage the national and local institutions to make every effort to reach an equitable resolution of the question that safeguards the right to health and the right to work, above all in these difficult times of economic crises.
[In English he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus prayer. In the Gospel this morning, our Lord miraculously offers food to the crowds, leaving a sign of God’s immeasurable providence in the Eucharist. Strengthened by that Sacrifice, may we always work for the spiritual nourishment of our brethren, not forgetting the poor and needy. God bless you and your loved ones!
[Concluding in Italian, he said:]
Greetings to everyone. Thank you!
[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]