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The Everyday Prayer

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

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

Matthew 14, 13-21

When Jesus received this news he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the crowds heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot.

So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.

When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, 'This is a lonely place, and time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.'

Jesus replied, 'There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.'

But they answered, 'All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.'

So he said, 'Bring them here to me.'

He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves he handed them to his disciples, who gave them to the crowds.

They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps left over, twelve baskets full.

Now about five thousand men had eaten, to say nothing of women and children.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The story of the multiplication of the loaves is told six times in the Gospels (twice in Matthew and Mark and once each in Luke and John). It had evidently made a great impression on the community of the first disciples, so much so that it is one of the few Gospel passages common to all four evangelists. We could say that it is one of the Gospel passages that epitomize Jesus’ mission. We are already struck at the beginning of the story by the tenderness and compassion shown by the prophet from Nazareth for the people who continue to follow him. This time, after he set off in a boat, they hurried to the other shore where he would land. And in fact, as soon as he comes ashore, Jesus sees a large crowd before him. It is made up of harried people, exhausted by their labours and in search of someone to take care of them. Jesus’ heart cannot help but be moved: he first heals the sick and then begins to speak. He speaks until evening, and everyone stays to listen. What the crowd really needed was not bread, but true words for their lives. This is why they spent the whole day listening to Jesus. Truly, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Nonetheless, the Lord knows that people do need bread to live. Indeed it is written, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink... but strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:25-34). This is what happens in the story of the multiplication of the loaves. The disciples, thinking themselves more considerate than Jesus, interrupt him: “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” This is a normal, almost thoughtful suggestion. But Jesus replied, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” The Lord knows that the disciples have very little on hand: barely five loaves and two fish. And yet they are to provide for the crowd’s needs without sending them away. The miracle begins here: from our weakness that is trustingly placed in the Lord’s hands. And it is transformed into wealth. Poverty becomes abundance. The miracle is performed by the Lord, but not without the disciples’ help. The Lord needs our hands, even if they are weak, and our resources, even if they are modest. He makes our weakness strong and enriches our poverty. This is the meaning of the twelve baskets that were left over: each disciple - each one of the twelve - is given one of the baskets so that he or she might feel the serious but sweet responsibility of distributing the bread that God’s mercy has multiplied in his or her hands.

Prayer for the Sick