The challenge we see or the champion we know? Saturday, 5th Week in ordinary time – Mark 8:1-10
Read also https://www.pottypadre.com/providing-for-our-need-not-our-greed/
The disciples, like us, have short term memory lapse. In Mark 6:30 Jesus has fed the 5000 in a Jewish area. Now he is in Gentile territory with four thousand and his compassion does not change because these are not people of his race. At an ordinary human level, we are given a glimpse of Jesus’ tender concern for the crowd. They have left their homes, followed him into the desert and remained with him for days: he is full of compassion, being very conscious of their tiredness and pangs of hunger.
In the face of this pastoral need of feeding the hungry, Jesus airs a thought hoping that one of his disciples would say, ‘I know my Lord, he has done it before and will do it again.’ On the contrary, the disciples are self-absorbed and recoil at the challenge they are faced with. The see a challenge ahead yet they failed to recognize the champion they know. So, Jesus must step in and ask, “how many loaves do you have?”
We can begin today by asking ourself if we are like the disciples? They had plenty of common sense, but they had little faith that Jesus could do extraordinary things. They do not yet see that with Jesus all things are possible; even though Jesus performed a similar miracle a little while earlier.
So, Jesus begins from where they were and what they had. He began with what they had to offer. “How many loves do you have” is a question He asked them and He asks us. Don’t tell me what you don’t have, tell me what you do and let me work the miracle with you. Jesus asked them to give up their own food this time. A chapter and a half before they used the food of the little boy, but this time Jesus made the disciples give what they had.
Jesus did what He only could do, he worked a miracle. But Jesus left to the disciples to do what they could do; the distribution of the bread. The same is true today. It is our task to feed the hungry, both physically and spiritually. The kingdom of God is a partnership. We can’t throw up our hands because we perceive the job appears too challenging. We can’t roll over because ministry is daunting. We do what we can do; offer our meagre seven loaves or simply give a hand and distribute the food. Don’t sit on the side-lines or even worse, the centre of the Church and lament the situation at hand. What can I do for Jesus is the mantra of the day not what can he do for me!
Scripture now tells us something interesting; a little detail that gets lots with the familiarity of this miracle narrated for two thousand years. Ask any one and they will mention the miracle of the five thousand or the four thousand was the miracle of loaves and fish. Yet, so far in the narrative there is no talk of fish. We are only told that they gave Jesus their loaves not the fish.
By now, Jesus has given thanks, he broke the bread, he gave it to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. It is only after this that we are told in verse seven “they had also a few small fish.” It seems that the disciples kept the fish from Jesus until they saw that he multiplied the bread. Realisation then dawned; they needed to give Jesus everything and not hold back those ‘few small fish.’ Jesus does the same with the fish as he did with the bread. There is a learning in this for us…but it can’t be spelt out and I won’t do it; it has to be experienced and you know what you have to do. Where are you hiding the fish?
Jesus worked the miracle for them and the result was that they had scraps that filled seven baskets. Make no mistake; these seven baskets were not some grocery bags of the modern world. The word for basket in this text is spuris, which were platted red baskets used for commercial goods. Jesus is more than compassionate. He made sure they and we have enough and more for our needs yet he does not pander to our greed.
Think about it; we are still being fed with the leftovers! The feeding of the crowds continues today. Jesus feeds us with his word and with his body and blood. His word is the truth that enlightens our minds and at times sets us free. His body is our food for the journey of life, drawing us into the closest tender intimacy possible.