“Give them some food yourselves.”

Christ satisfies the hunger of the heart of man through each and every Christian: a meditation on mission

Nell’immagine, gita dei parrocchiani di Annunciazione di Maria Vergine, affidata a Vienna alla Fraternità san Carlo.

“Give them some food yourselves.” (Mk 6:37). The entire meaning of mission is contained within  Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish on that day in which He was far from any inhabited place, together with His disciples and a huge crowd of people who had come to hear Him speak.

Give them some food yourselves. This phrase sums up the task that God entrusts to us, to every Christian: whether they are lay people, families, or priests.

Let’s think for a moment about the disciples, while they were looking at the crowd that was following Jesus and listening to Him. In their hearts, they hoped to be able to dismiss the crowd as soon as possible so that they could eat the bread and fish that would have barely been enough just for them. Thus, they ask Jesus to let the crowd go so that they can find, far from there, something to eat. Instead, Jesus says to them, “See to it yourselves. Don’t let them go look for food from just anyone but give it to them yourselves.”

The disciples’ reasoning is often our own. How often are we aware of the hunger that upsets and worries the people that we meet or those that we have known for a long time? How often would we like for someone to satisfy this desire? And how often must we, instead, take action in the desert of answers that surround us and the many people that we meet? And we are immediately taken hold of by the awareness of a task totally beyond our strength. Jesus, however, surprises us and says, “See to it yourselves.” What, then, does that phrase mean for us: “Give them some food yourselves”?

First of all, it means that Jesus wants us to participate in His work of salvation: it is He who satisfies the hunger in man’s heart, and yet, He decided to do so through us. He wants us to be co-responsible with His mission, He wants us to be animated by the same passion that moves Him. It’s as if He says to us, “If you yourselves don’t feed them with the bread that only I can give, the world will see to it with its own bread, with its words, with its ideology. If you don’t bring them to me, the world will bring them to itself.”

“Give them something to eat” means, therefore, bringing Christ to the people that we meet, through proclamation, education, charity, and witness –personal and as part of the community– to a life changed by the meeting with Him, which generates a new judgment on one’s own life and on reality.

One who has met Christ is no longer afraid of losing anything because he has already received everything.

It also means bringing to them the nutrition that only He can give, through the sacraments: Baptism, Confession, the Eucharist. “Give them something to eat” also means giving something of ourselves to others; it means spending ourselves for them, sacrificing ourselves for the salvation of the people that we meet: Christ doesn’t save man without our letting go of our fears and offering of ourselves as an instrument through which He can satisfy their hunger for meaning and for happiness. This is the law of existence: giving oneself. “Do this in memory of me” (John 22:19), says Jesus, which means: sacrifice your lives like I sacrificed mine for you.

Our lives are made for something great, and sacrifice is necessary so that they bear fruit. This is the meaning of the famous line of Paul Claudel: “What is life worth if it isn’t given?” For this reason, the model for every Christian is the martyr. If this is true for priests, called to offer themselves every day together with Christ in the sacrament of the Mass, it is no less so for every Christian, every one of the faithful, called to recognize that every moment of our lives is made to be given.

This is particularly true for families: as St. Paul says, the two spouses offer themselves for each other in the same way that Christ offers Himself to the Church, giving to each other even their most intimate possession: their own bodies. In this sense, the family is the vocation that best helps us to understand the task of every Christian, because there isn’t a single moment of the day, from when I wake up and my husband or wife is next to me, to when I come home to my children, to when I think about my vacation, that is “mine” alone. Rather,  each moment is “ours” –and this is true both for my work and my free time– and in each moment my life asks to be offered, reminding me of the fact that nothing that is mine is only for me, but that everything is given to me so that I offer it for someone else.

Finally, it’s beautiful to read how the Gospel story of the multiplication of the bread and fish finishes: when all the people have finished eating, the leftovers fill twelve baskets – twelve also being the number of the Apostles… Exactly those men who were afraid of having to go without eating, of losing the five loaves and two fish that they wanted to hold onto with jealousy, find themselves each with an entire basket! It’s the description of the life promised to each of us: one who has met Christ is no longer afraid of losing anything because he has already received everything from He who is ready to spend Himself without limit, offering all of Himself without fear, with the certainty that a joyful giver receives a hundred times more from God. Therein lies mission and its beauty.

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