Bread, Fish… “Come and Have Breakfast!” 

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Our First Steps in France: Nimes, November 1, 1985

With our bags on our backs, we set out for Nîmes, holding in our hands the keys to a house whose owners we did not know and who were away at the moment.

That first morning, before venturing out into the heart of the city in search of that sheep who is most lost, before going out to ask for our daily bread, we knelt down to pray. Not knowing exactly where to go or what to do, we asked the Lord to enlighten us by His Word.  We opened the Bible and read: “When the disciples climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught. Venez déjeuner,” that is “Come, have breakfast.” (John 21:9-12) And with that, we took to the road.

Before long we found ourselves among neighborhoods under demolition. At about noon, we were walking the streets, murmuring the name of Jesus to the rhythm of our beating hearts, and all of a sudden we heard a child calling out to his friends and repeating, “Venez déjeuner ! Venez déjeuner !” meaning “Come, have lunch!” It was nothing extraordinary. After all, it was lunchtime- just past noon.  But the Word was dwelling in our hearts.  We could not help but turn ourselves toward… the Word!… Toward the child: “Come, have breakfast!” We went over to the children and, after getting acquainted, we asked them:

– Do you think your mother could give us a bit of bread for our lunch?

One of the children disappeared into a dark and unsavory looking house. A few seconds later, an Algerian woman came to the window, her face glowing with a big smile. “Yes, we’re coming!”  Then a young woman appeared out of the back of a dark hallway, holding in her left hand a beautiful loaf of bread. She offered it to us that we might break it and eat. In her right hand, she carried a plate of… five little fish.  Our hearts skipped a beat. It all happened in silent gestures, and our eyes filled with tears. It was as if a charcoal fire had illuminated that dark hallway.  “None of the disciples dared to ask: ‘Who are you?’ because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish.” (John 21:12-13).

To announce the Gospel from the depths of a Presence, that of Jesus Christ: this is our calling.

Later, it was time to say goodbye; a true  liturgy had taken place, a veritable feast. The children walked with us all the way to the end of the street.  They continued waving goodbye, the mother from her window, the young woman at the door, and  it was like a solemn blessing enveloping us.

And this is how our missionary fraternity in Nîmes received the name “Fraternity of Tiberias”, a name undoubtedly inscribed in Heaven, for it was on the shore of Lake Tiberias that all this took place, the morning of the Resurrection.

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