Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Jul 9, 2015 / 07:55 am
Giving into despair when confronted with life's difficulties only leads to an individualistic attitude that discards others, Pope Francis said Thursday, explaining that with Jesus, no one is ever left out or excluded.
"A despairing heart finds it easy to succumb to a way of thinking which is becoming ever more widespread in our world. It is a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable," the Pope said July 9 during his homily at his Mass, said in Santa Cruz de la Sierra's Christ the Redeemer Square.
He said that thinking this way only leaves space for a select few, while the rest – who "don't add up" or are considered unsuitable and unworthy – are discarded.
In reference to the day's Gospel reading, in which Christ multiplied loaves and fish to feed a crowd of 4,000, the Pope said Christ's words to his disciples, "you yourselves, give them something to eat", have a particular resonance today.
Christ, he said, tell us that "No one needs to go away, no one has to be discarded; you yourselves, give them something to eat."
He said Christ is speaking those same words "here in this square. Jesus' way of seeing things leaves no room for the mentality which would cut bait on the weak and those most in need."
Pope Francis spoke the morning after his arrival to Bolivia. It began at 10a.m. local time, and fell on the fifth day of his July 5-13 apostolic voyage to South America. Prior to Bolivia, Pope Francis spent three days in Ecuador, and will move on to Paraguay on Friday afternoon.
Speaking directly to the pilgrims who came from many different areas and villages to participate in the Mass, Francis said they are living many of the same situations as those who came to hear Christ.
In addition to coming with their children and hopes in hand, the Pope noted how they also brought with them the weight of disappointments and injustice.
"Frequently we tire of this journey. Frequently we lack the strength to keep hope alive. How often have we experienced situations which dull our memory, weaken our hope and make us lose our reason for rejoicing!"
He warned that in such situations "a kind of sadness takes over. We think only of ourselves, we forget that we area people which is loved, a chosen people."
"And the loss of that memory disorients us, it closes our heart to others, and especially to the poor."
When confronted with contemporary problems, the Pope said, we can look at it in a worldly way and say nothing can be done – "our hearts yield to despair," and we can feel the same way as the disciples when they asked Jesus to send away the hungry and those in need.
However, with his example of taking what was given to him, blessing it, and giving it to others, Christ shows us a different approach, he observed.
"This is how the miracle takes place. It is not magic or sorcery. With these three gestures, Jesus is able to turn a mentality which discards others into a mindset of communion and community."
Christ, the Pope said, takes the people's lives "very seriously. He looks at them in the eye, and he knows what they are experiencing, what they are feeling."
Instead of being concerned about material objects or grand ideas, the Lord is primarily concerned about the people, he said, adding that "Jesus never detracts from the dignity of anyone, no matter how little they possess or seem capable of contributing."
By blessing what had been given to him, Christ demonstrates his knowledge that everything is a gift from God, Francis continued. Rather than treating things as objects, the Lord values them as a fruit of God's merciful love.
"Life is always a gift which, when placed in the hands of God, starts to multiply. Our Father never abandons us; he makes everything multiply."
Pope Francis said that every blessing has a missionary purpose, which is to share what we have received with others. It is only by giving that we find joy and salvation, he added.
He reflected on how the hands which Christ lifts to bless God are the same ones he used to feed the hungry crowd, and encouraged those present to image "how those people passed the loaves of bread and the fish from hand to hand, until they came to those farthest away."
"Jesus generated a kind of electrical current among his followers, as they shared what they had, made it a gift for others, and so ate their fill," he said.
Referring to the Eucharist, the Pope noted how July 9 marked the inauguration of the Fifth Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Tarija, in Bolivia's south.
The Eucharist, he said, "is a sacrament of communion, which draws us out of our individualism in order to live together as disciples."
He turned his attention to the Church, saying that she is a community of remembrance that continues to pass on the faith in memory of Christ, as he commanded at the Last Supper.
"We are not isolated individuals, separated from one another, but rather a people of remembrance, a remembrance ever renewed and ever shared with others," Francis said.
"A life of remembrance needs others. It demands exchange, encounter and a genuine solidarity capable of entering into the mindset of taking, blessing and giving. It demands the logic of love," he concluded, encouraging attendees to imitate Mary, who constantly pondered the life of her son.
"Like her, may we trust in the goodness of the Lord, who does great things with the lowliness of his servants."