Saturday of Week 5 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Mark 8:1-10

Today we have the second of two multiplication stories found in Mark. The first, with 5,000 people, was in a predominantly Jewish area while this one, with 4,000 people, is in mainly gentile territory. Jesus is reaching out to both groups. The people have nothing to eat and are hungry. The meaning is both physical and spiritual.

Once again we see Mark indicating the emotional response of Jesus. He is filled with compassion for the people in their need.

I have compassion for the crowd…If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.

They will collapse “on the way”, i.e. on the road. Jesus is the Way, the ‘Road’. To walk the road of Jesus, we need a certain kind of nourishment. This is what Jesus came to give.

The disciples, interpreting Jesus literally, as they usually do, ask:

How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?

In the presence of Jesus, the question answers itself, but the disciples have not yet clicked. In Mark’s Gospel, they are often shown to be without an understanding of just who their Master is. That is because they represent us.

The disciples are asked what they can supply. Seven loaves and a few fish is all they have. There is a strong Eucharistic element in this, as in the former story (with the 5,000). The people are told to sit down.

…he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks [eucharistesas] he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd.

Again, we note that Jesus himself does not give out the food the people need. It comes from him, but is distributed by his disciples. The same is true today. It is our task to feed the hungry – both physically and spiritually. All were filled – 4,000 people altogether – and even so, there were seven (a perfect number) baskets left over. A sign of God’s abundance shared with his people.

As before:

…he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. [i.e. back to Jewish territory]

Jesus was leaving no room for any misinterpretations of what he had done. The disciples, too, are quickly removed from the scene. There was to be no self-congratulation or glorying in their connections with Jesus, the wonder worker. Through the miracle, the teaching had been given and that was it.

Lord, teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to labour and seek no reward,
save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

(Prayer of St Ignatius Loyola)

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