In the Mass he celebrated in Molfetta, Francis remembered the bishop who said: “‘Works of charity are not enough, if the charity of works is lacking. If the love from which the works leave is lacking, if the source is lacking, if the starting point that is the Eucharist is lacking, any pastoral commitment is only a stirring of things’.”
Molfetta (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis travelled today to the southern Italian city of Molfetta to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Don Tonino Bello. The Holy Father quoted the late bishop of Molfetta and president of Pax Christi during the Mass he celebrated in the city’s port in front of perhaps 30,000, on the last stage of his visit to mark the 25th anniversary of the bishop’s death.
During his life, the late bishop, the pope noted, spoke about “distributors of the Paschal alleluia” and “builders of peace”, about the “bread of life” which is the “bread of peace”, where “Peace is something more: it is conviviality’. It is ‘eating bread together with others, without separating, sitting at the table among different people’, where ‘the other is a face to discover, to contemplate, to caress’. Because conflicts and all wars ‘find their roots in the fading of faces’.”
Don Tonino focused on peace in December 1992, when, despite his failing health, he organised the "March of the 500", which broke the siege of Sarajevo. Without challenging anyone, he convinced soldiers to let the marchers through, consoling the victims on both sides, providing aid to the people of Sarajevo and to the Serbs.
"Don Tonino,” said the Pope, “claimed that “peace does not come when one takes only his bread and goes to eat it on his own. [...] Peace is something more: it is conviviality”. It is “eating bread together with others, without separating, sitting at the table among different people”, where “the other is a face to discover, to contemplate, to caress” . Because conflicts and all wars “find their roots in the fading of faces” . And we, who share this Bread of unity and peace, are called to love every face, to mend every tear; to be, always and everywhere, builders of peace.”
Inspired by today's readings, the pope stressed how they present two central elements for a Christian life: Bread and the Word. "The bread. Bread is the essential food for living and Jesus in the Gospel offers Himself to us as the Bread of life, as if to tell us: “You cannot do without me”. And he uses strong expressions: “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood” (cf. Jn 6: 53). What does it mean? That for our life it is essential to enter into a vital, personal relationship with Him. Meat and blood. The Eucharist is this: not a beautiful rite, but the most intimate, most concrete, most surprising communion that can be imagined with God: a communion of love so real that it takes the form of eating.
"Christian life starts every time from here, from this table, where God satisfies us with love. Without Him, Bread of life, every effort in the Church is in vain, as Don Tonino Bello recalled: ‘Works of charity are not enough, if the charity of works is lacking. If the love from which the works leave is lacking, if the source is lacking, if the starting point that is the Eucharist is lacking, any pastoral commitment is only a stirring of things’.”
“Jesus in the Gospel adds: ‘He who eats me will live for me’ (v. 57). As if to say: who feeds on the Eucharist assimilates the same mentality of the Lord. He is Bread broken for us, and who receives it becomes in turn broken bread, which does not rise with pride, but gives himself to others: he stops living for himself, for his own success, to have something or to become someone, but he lives for Jesus and like Jesus, that is for others. Living for is the mark of those who eat this Bread, the ‘trademark’ of the Christian. Living for. It could be displayed as a warning outside any church: ‘After Mass we no longer live for ourselves but for others’. It would be good if, in this diocese of Don Tonino Bello, there were this notice on the door of the Churches, to be read by everyone: “After Mass we no longer live for ourselves but for others”.
“Don Tonino lived like this: among you was a Bishop-servant, a Pastor who became a people, who in front of the Tabernacle learned to let himself be consumed by the people. He dreamed of a Church hungry for Jesus and intolerant of all worldliness, a Church that ‘knows how to perceive the body of Christ in the uncomfortable tabernacles of misery, suffering, loneliness’. Because, he said, ‘the Eucharist does not tolerate sedentariness’ and without leaving the table remains ‘an unfinished sacrament’.”
“Together with Bread, the Word. [. . .] What is the use of doing good in the midst of so much evil? [. . .] Don Tonino, precisely at Easter, wished to welcome this new life, finally passing from words to deeds. Therefore, he gave a heartfelt exhortation to those who did not have the courage to change: “The specialists of perplexity. The accounting pedants of the pros and cons. Calculators, who exercise the maximum caution before moving”. Jesus is not answered according to the calculations and conveniences of the moment; He is answered with the “yes” of all our life. He does not seek our reflections, but our conversion. He points at the heart.
“It is the same Word of God to suggest it. In the first reading, the resurrected Jesus turns to Saul and does not offer him subtle reasoning but asks him to put his life at stake. He says to him: “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9,6). First of all: “Get up”. The first thing to avoid is to stay on the ground, to suffer life, be gripped by fear. How many times did Don Tonino repeat: “Stand up!”, because “it is not lawful to stay before the Risen One other than on your feet”. Always stand up, look up, because the apostle of Jesus cannot get by on small satisfactions.
"We are all called, in any situation we find ourselves, to be bearers of Easter hope, “Cyrenians of joy”, as Don Tonino said; servants of the world, but resurrected, not employed. Without ever bothering us, without ever resigning ourselves. It is nice to be “couriers of hope”, simple and joyful distributors of the Paschal alleluia.
"And the Word of God does this: it frees, raises, and keeps us going, humble and courageous at the same time. It does not make us established protagonists and champions of our own skill, no, but genuine witnesses of Jesus, who died and rose again, in the world.”