February 11, 2012
Mark 8:1-10 is a truly didactic moment for the contemporary society as well as the person seeking to know and understand the teacher and Son of God that we call Jesus. Again Mark puts before us a major event for the Gentiles in Gentile territory. It is Mark's second account of a multiplication of loaves moment. Some 3000 Gentiles were brought together. They, like the Jewish crowd in Mark's first mass feeding event, are without adequate food. They are hungry in both a spiritual and a physical sense. Jesus uses this particular human need to address the second but primary hunger in their lives. It is the same for us today.
Jesus shows us his humanity: "I feel compassion for these people.... They will collapse on the way." We meed to recognize that to follow Jesus on his way requires spiritual nourishment. It is the food of the soul that enables us to walk the walk with him. And as with this experience of the Gentiles where will the folks following Jesus get the nourishment they want and need? Even the disciples with Jesus seem to be lacking of Jesus and his powers, his desire to be God's gift to his people. Scripture scholars believe Mark portrays the disciples as lacking in their fully knowing Jesus for one particular reason: these men are symbolic of each of us.
The disciples do find a minimal amount of food among the Gentiles gathered around Jesus. But what can that do to feed so many? Jesus takes what they have and gives thanks for that much, breaks it up and has the disciples begin to distribute the food ... again a food that never is depleted.
Imagine seven loaves and a few fish feeding even a family fourth of July celebration! It just doesn't happen. This seems impossible for Jesus. Yet, as we read in Mark's account, there were seven baskets left over. Think of the money you would save on your July 4th event if you could multiply like Jesus! (Saturday morning humor!!!) What we should understand, however, is how abundant is God's care for those seeking to know him.
Now one might imagine that the crowd would gather around this miracle worker. But Jesus does not allow it. "He sent them away and, immediately, getting into the boat with his disciples, went to the region of Jewish Dalmanutha." Here is Jesus the teaching once again. He taught the people by means of the miracle. It was sufficient. He left no room for his antagonists to accuse him of being a self-aggrandizing preacher.
This brings to mind a particular prayer from my early days of formation. Leave it to Ignatius to produce a prayer that so abundantly satisfies many of our moments in the course of a day.
Lord, teach me to give and not count the cost;
to labor and not to seek reward
save that I know I have done your will.