Our First Steps in France: Nimes, November 1, 1985
We set off with our backpacks, having received the keys of a house for two nights, the owners of which we did not know; as they were away at that moment …On the first morning, we knelt down to pray before going into the heart of the city, in search of the most lost sheep and the bread of this day. As we did not know where to go or how to go about it, we asked the Lord to enlighten us by his Word; we opened the Bible and read: “As soon as they came ashore, the disciples saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them: Bring some of the fish that you have just caught… Come and have breakfast”. (John 21:9-12)
And off we went!
Soon we were in the neighborhoods which were destined to be demolished. And around noon, as we were pacing the streets whispering the name of Jesus at the rhythm of our beating hearts, a child called out to the others, saying repeatedly: “Come and have lunch!” Nothing surprising, it was shortly after noon. But the Word dwelt in our hearts. We couldn’t help but go toward… the Word! … toward the child.
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path”. (Psalm 118:105)
“Come and have lunch”.
We came up to the children, and after making their acquaintance, asked them: “Could your mother give us a piece of bread for our noon meal?”A child rushed into the dark and squalid house ; a few seconds after, an Algerian woman appeared at the window, with a broad smile lighting up her face: “Yes, someone is coming.” Then from the far end of the dark corridor, a young girl was coming, holding in her left hand a beautiful loaf of bread, which she offered to us to break, and in her right hand a plate with… five small fish. Our hearts changed rhythm, everything happened with gestures only, tears had gathered in our eyes. It looked as if a charcoal fire lit the dark corridor… “None of the disciples dared ask him: Who are you? for they knew quite well 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)
“Proclaiming the Gospel out of the depths of a Presence, that of Jesus Christ, such is our mission”.
(Purpose of Life, Community of the Lamb)
We had to say goodbye to one another, it was a true liturgy, a real feast; the children only parted from us at the very end of the street; the mother from her window, and the young girl from the door went on making signs of friendship to us like a great blessing enveloping us right to the end.
That is why the fraternity on mission in Nimes received the name, no doubt engraved in Heaven, of “Fraternity of Tiberias” – for it was by the Sea of Tiberias that all those things happened on the morning of the Resurrection.