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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memorial of St. Athanasius (295-373), bishop of Alexandria in Egypt

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

John 6, 1-15

After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee -- or of Tiberias-

and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he had done in curing the sick.

Jesus climbed the hillside and sat down there with his disciples.

The time of the Jewish Passover was near.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, 'Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?'

He said this only to put Philip to the test; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do.

Philip answered, 'Two hundred denarii would not buy enough to give them a little piece each.'

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said,

'Here is a small boy with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that among so many?'

Jesus said to them, 'Make the people sit down.' There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down.

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were sitting there; he then did the same with the fish, distributing as much as they wanted.

When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, 'Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing is wasted.'

So they picked them up and filled twelve large baskets with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves.

Seeing the sign that he had done, the people said, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.'

Jesus, as he realised they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, fled back to the hills alone.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel passage shows the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves according to the Gospel of John. The evangelist notes the large crowd that followed Jesus because of the “signs” that he performed on the sick. The crowds sensed that Jesus was a good and strong man, who helped and healed those who had lost health and hope. Jesus, for his part, was aware of the thirst of love that rose up from people. The evangelist writes, as if to emphasize his attitude of mercy, that Jesus “looks up” and sees the crowd that comes to meet them. It is not like us, as we usually keep our eyes turned only towards ourselves and towards our business. Jesus asks us to rise up, with him, and to turn our eyes from the concentration that we have on ourselves so that we can become aware of those who are suffering and in need of help. It is not the disciples who realize the need to eat that those crowds have; rather, it is Jesus who realizes this and asks Philip where to buy bread to feed all the people. The apostle Philip cannot do other than to note the impossibility of finding the bread for so many people. It was the most obvious observation, but also the most resigned. Andrew, who was present during the conversation, comes forward and says that there are only five barley loaves and two fish: practically nothing. For them, therefore, the matter is closed. But they did not yet understand that “what is impossible to men is possible to God.” We, too, should remember often these words, rather than quietly resign in the face of difficulties. But Jesus, who is guided by passionate love for people, does not resign. He orders the disciples to make the crowd sit. We can see the scene of a great banquet where all are freely satisfied. The evangelist recalls the celebration of the Eucharist in Jesus’ gesture and words. The loaves put in the hands of Jesus, the compassionate one, are enough for everyone. Unlike the narrative of the Synoptic Gospels, here the evangelist makes Jesus act alone; it is he who takes the loaves of bread, multiplies them, and distributes them. It is as if to underline that there is a direct relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. Beautiful are the words of Pope Francis to priests, which we can all welcome: “We need to go out ... in the ‘periphery’ where there is suffering, there is bloodshed, there is blindness of that want to see, there are so many prisoners of evil bosses...Those who do not get out themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. I ask you: be shepherds with the smell of the sheep.” We have to go to the periphery, to those who are waiting for love, justice, and peace. Let us put our few loaves in Jesus’ hands, and the miracle will happen. The hands of Jesus - it is he who multiplies and distributes - do not keep anything for themselves, are used to open up, to be generous. He multiplies our weakness. The miracle continues if we, like the boy, leave the narrowness of the disciples and put into the hands of the Lord the poor barley loaves that we possess. The crowd had wanted to proclaim Jesus as king, but he instead fled to the mountain alone. Jesus does not want to cheapen the urgency of bread, but rather emphasizes the need to be nourished with eternal bread: friendship with him.

Memory of Jesus crucified