“Give them something to eat yourselves”
A mission in Italy, among our fragile brothers
On the occasion of one of our meetings with a group of the Fraternity, we listened together to this extract from the Multiplication of the Bread (Mt. 14:15,21), and we had a common reflection on it.
Why did Jesus say to his disciples “Give them something to eat yourselves”? Four words: solidarity, tolerance, welcome and interculturalilty helped us to enter into this lively subject.
The sharing was animated. Often, indifference makes us say “others will do it”, “that doesn’t concern me”…We don’t allow ourselves to be challenged by the situation, and we don’t think to change our behaviour.
Each one felt challenged: Let us allow the Word to change our hearts, our feelings and our behaviours.
*Let us come out of our habits and our comfort zones, to open our eyes to the reality which is all around us.
*Let us allow ourselves to be questioned by the problems, by the solitude lived by so many people.
*Let us overcome our fears and our lack of trust, let us enter on the way of poverty and simplicity.
Lucia had suggested that this word will give us the opportunity to reread the experience we had during the time of Advent and Christmas, when we had encountered the residents of a home for the mentally ill.
In effect, there is in our sector, a home for mental illness which receives these fragile brothers, a great majority of them young, and some without family. We had strengthened our friendship with the manager of the place, Laura She told us of the need to help our friends, to set up an activity in the kitchen, because they didn’t always appreciate the meals they received each day from the public health services: it is a meal, of the same type as the hospitality establishment. That means the meal is ‘cold’, the residents are not engaged in the preparation of the meal, there is not a family spirit, and that does not encourage them to be involved, nor to animate their day. Anna had proposed to the group to prepare pastas in the oven and to give them sausages to cook. “To see the joy in their eyes because they were able to taste different meals, to break out of the habitual, the joy of receiving our attention, warmed my heart, that made me ‘taste’ the joy of the gift.
We also involved the parish Caritas who gave us the ingredients in order that our friends might have the possibility to launch into cooking, one or twice a week.
Some days before Christmas, we went to their place for a festive celebration. Maria, our pastry cook, had prepared two delicious cakes, well appreciated by everyone.
Some of the young residents had made little objects: paper weights, Christmas decorations, candles, which they sell to make a bit of money. We too, we bought some gifts to thank them and to encourage them. It was a lovely feast, Carmela witnesses: “we have sung and danced, looking to engage everybody, even those who remained isolated and sad, offering a moment of happiness to those who are truly in need of it. Thanks to this little gesture, we were able to see in their eyes a lot of joy and of serenity. That warmed our heart. The illness which lasts a lifetime, which makes them different to others, together with the solitude, makes our friends even more vulnerable, sometimes peevish and sad.”
This is the bread to share: time, attention, conversation, little gestures, a smile to overcome the distrust…
The Lord has multiplied our gesture and has made of it a deeper relationship; from now on we feel closer to them and our heart is struck by the attention, and the desire to meet them.
Lord, we are immensely grateful for the joy that we experienced in making a simple gesture of love.
Giovanna LSA, Lucia, Anna and Carmela