Hunger for God, feed the poor, Pope Francis urges Macedonian Catholics

Pope Francis at Mass in Skopje North Macedonia May 7 2019 Credit Andrea Gagliarducci CNA Pope Francis at Mass in Skopje, North Macedonia May 7, 2019. | Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.

Following the example of St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata, hunger for Jesus, partake in the Bread of Life, and then feed Jesus hidden in the poor, Pope Francis said in North Macedonia on Tuesday.

"Hunger for bread, hunger for fraternity, hunger for God," he said at an outdoor Mass in Skopje May 7. "How well Mother Teresa knew all this, and desired to build her life on the twin pillars of Jesus incarnate in the Eucharist and Jesus incarnate in the poor!"

"Love received and love given," he added.

According to Pope Francis, Mother Teresa's journey was marked by her desire to quench her hunger and thirst for God. She approached the Lord just as she approached "the despised, the unloved, the lonely and the forgotten."

She knew, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Deus caritas est, that "love of God and love of neighbor become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God," Francis said.

The pope celebrated Mass in Skopje on the last day of a May 5-7 visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

According to 2002 estimates, Catholics and other non-Orthodox Christians in North Macedonia are just .4% of a population of over 2 million. The majority religion is Macedonian Orthodox at 65%. Islam is the next largest religion at over 33% of the population.

Local authorities estimated there were around 15,000 people at the Mass, held in Macedonia Square.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the "Bread of Life," explaining that "The Lord came to give life to the world."

Jesus, he said, "is the living Bread come down from heaven, who tells us: 'Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'"

But instead of answering this invitation to partake in "living Bread," people often get used to mediocre, stale substitutes, he said.

"We thought that conformism would satisfy our thirst, yet we ended up drinking only indifference and insensitivity," he said, and "We looked for quick and safe results, only to find ourselves overwhelmed by impatience and anxiety."

"Let us not be afraid to say it clearly: Lord, we are hungry."

Like the crowd which witnessed Christ's miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, people are hungry to experience the multiplication of Christ's mercy, Francis stated.

He explained that God's mercy "can break down our stereotypes and communicate the Father's compassion for each person, especially those for whom no one cares: the forgotten or despised."

Noting that later in the Mass, Catholics would be approaching the altar for Communion, he said: "In every Eucharist, the Lord breaks and shares himself. He invites us to break and share ourselves together with him, and to be part of that miraculous multiplication that desires to reach out and touch, with tenderness and compassion, every corner of this city, this country, and this land."

Earlier Tuesday, before saying Mass, Pope Francis visited the Mother Teresa Memorial House, which is built on the former site of Sacred Heart Church where St. Teresa of Kolkata was baptized. Mother Teresa's childhood home and Sacred Heart Church were both destroyed in an earthquake in 1963.

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There the pope met religious leaders and poor and said a prayer in honor of Mother Teresa.

"God, Father of mercy and all goodness, we thank you for giving us the life and the charism of Saint Mother Teresa," he prayed.

"In your boundless providence, you called her to bear witness to your love among the poorest of the poor in India and throughout the world," he said. "She was able to do much good to those in greatest need, for she saw in every man and woman the face of your Son."

Mother Teresa, the pope said, took up the words of Jesus on the cross: "I thirst," sating "the thirst of the crucified Lord by accomplishing works of merciful love."

Pope Francis prayed that St. Mother Teresa would intercede for the city of Skopje, her birthplace and the city in which she spent her young life.

"Here you learned from your parents to love those in greatest need and to help them," he said. "Here, in the silence of the church, you heard the call of Jesus to follow him as a religious in the missions."

The pope asked for her intercession for the grace to be watchful and attentive to the cry of the poor, those deprived of rights, the sick, the outcast, and the least.

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"May [Jesus] grant us a heart capable of loving God present in every man and woman, a heart capable of recognizing him in those who experience suffering and injustice," he said, praying that God would grant those present the grace "to become signs of love and hope in our own day, when so many are poor, abandoned, marginalized and migrants."

"Saint Mother Teresa, pray for this city, for this people, for its Church and for all those who wish to follow Christ, the Good Shepherd, as his disciples, by carrying out works of justice, love, mercy, peace and service," he concluded.

"To follow him, who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life for many: Christ our Lord. Amen."

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