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JRS Online Retreat: Day 14 – Give Them Something to Eat
Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Mutual accompaniment is an essential element of both our mission and of our methodology. To accompany means to be a companion – one who shares bread."

As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:

Ask God to recognize and know the Lord Jesus as your mentor for a life of love and service.  

Reflections for Prayer

Digna Maria Adames Nuñez
JRS Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, 14 November 2010 – In the days and weeks following Haiti’s earthquake, the Jesuit Centro Bonó in Santo Domingo became a collection center for receiving food and other basic supplies from private donors and other organisations participating in the Platform to Assist Haiti (Ayuda a Haití).

When the earthquake destroyed the city of Port-au-Prince in January 2010, our teams from Jesuit Refugee Service – Dominican Republic were hard at work preparing our annual plan. The reality of more than 300,000 dead, some 500,000 injured and almost two million people homeless burst unexpectedly into our lives and created new paths of solidarity, humanity and life for us.

"Give them something to eat," Jesus' mandate in the Gospel of Mark, seemed for us a command that was far beyond our capacity to accomplish in the face of the Haiti’s needs. We shared the same feeling of powerlessness that Jesus’ disciples had when they recognised they were unable to feed the large crowd by themselves. Like them, we soon came to understand that the call was simply to face the harsh reality without hesitation. We were invited to respond neither because we had great capacity to help nor because we had only a little. Quite simply, it was humanity in the throes of agony that immediately galvanised us into action.

God surprised us with his unnerving intensity. Now we understand that living the intensity of God’s kairos is possible only if our lives are founded on a deep spirituality and if we are attentive to when and how God chooses to reveal Himself. Not only in the Haitian people’s sorrow did we find God’s presence, but also in their impressive strength which rose out of their experience of weakness (Mark 6:38).

We have come to understand that accompaniment is a grace given by God who is the source of all love and tenderness. The invitation was to hand ourselves over unconditionally to God without trying to control the future, since the final outcome does not depend on us.

The decision to be close to another human being who is suffering is, in our experience, the only course of action we can take in these extreme situations. To allow the other to look into our eyes, to share their pain, tears, questions, as well as their frustrations with God, this is real solidarity.

Like Jesus (Mark 6: 45-46), we needed to learn the right moment to pull back. The ‘other’ is truly a subject capable of mobilising our deepest affections and convictions, but also the one who reveals to us our own personal limitations. In responding to the needs of the Haitian people we were stripped of all our pretensions of becoming "saviors." In reality, it was we who received strength from those victims who expressed to us their desire to live in dignity. We learned that the other is not the object of our charity. We cannot use them to fill our own emptiness or fears. We learned that, at the right moment, we had to pull back so the Haitian people could rise up and take their rightful place in the reconstruction of their country.

Address God as a friend speaks to a friend. 

Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.

End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Mark 6:32-46

Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat." He said to them in reply, "Give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Are we to buy two hundred days' wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?" He asked them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they had found out they said, "Five loaves and two fish." So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to (his) disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate of the loaves were five thousand men. 


"Mutual accompaniment is an essential element of both our mission and of our methodology. To accompany means to be a companion--one who shares bread."  ~ Mark Raper, S.J.