Compassion, sharing, Eucharist: Steps on the path to heaven, pope says

Vatican City

Going forward for Communion at Mass, Catholics must do so with a desire to imitate Jesus' compassion for others and with a commitment to sharing what they have, Pope Francis said.

"One who goes to the Eucharist without having compassion for the needy and without sharing is not right with Jesus," the pope said Sunday before reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.

As a morning rain shower tapered off, tens of thousands of people gathered in the square to pray with the pope and listen to his reflection on the day's Gospel, Matthew 14:13-21, which recounts the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.

With a multitude of people surrounding him, Jesus takes the five loaves of bread and two fish, blesses them and gives them to the disciples to distribute. More than 5,000 people eat their fill and 12 baskets of leftovers are collected.

The miracle, the pope said, prefigures the Eucharist. "You see this in the gesture of Jesus who 'recites the blessing' before breaking the bread and distributing it to the people. It is the same thing Jesus will do at the Last Supper when he institutes the perpetual memorial of his redeeming sacrifice."

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"Compassion, sharing, Eucharist: This is the path Jesus indicates for us in this Gospel," the pope said. "It is a path that leads us to face the needs of this world with brotherhood, but one that leads us beyond this world because it starts with God the father and returns to him."

Pope Francis said the Gospel account, which begins with Jesus going off by himself but being followed by the crowd, is a lesson in compassion. "Jesus does not react with irritation, he doesn't say, 'these people bother me,'" because he knows they seek him because they are in need.

"Jesus teaches us to put the needs of the poor before our own," he said. "Our needs, while legitimate, will never be as urgent as those of the poor who do not have what they need to live."

The Gospel also is a lesson in sharing, the pope said. The miracle Jesus performs "is not magic, it is a sign, a sign that invites people to have faith in God, the provident father, who will not fail to give us our daily bread if we know how to share it as brothers and sisters."

Pope Francis asked the crowd to recognize "how often we turn away so we do not have to look at our needy brothers and sisters." In effect, he said, it amounts to telling the poor to find a way to help themselves. "But this is not Jesus' way, this is selfishness."

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June 16-29, 2017