Saturday, February 16, 2019
1) Opening prayer
watch over Your family
and keep us safe in Your care,
for all our hope is in You.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Mark 8:1-10
In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus summoned the disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd. They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets. There were about four thousand people. He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha.
The Gospel today speaks about the second multiplication of the loaves. The unitive thread of several episodes in this part of the Gospel of Mark is the food, the bread. After the banquet of death (Mk 6:17-29), comes the banquet of life (Mk 6:30-44). During the crossing of the Lake the disciples are afraid, because they have understood nothing of the bread multiplied in the desert (Mk 6: 51-52). Then Jesus declares that all food is pure (Mk 7: 1-23). In Jesus’ conversation with the Canaanite woman, the gentiles ate the crumbs which fell from the table of the children (Mk 7:24-30). And here, in today s Gospel, Mark speaks about the second multiplication of the loaves (Mk 8:1-10).
Mark 8: 1-3: The situation of the people and the reaction of Jesus. The crowds who gathered around Jesus in the desert had no food to eat. Jesus calls the disciples and presents the problem to them: I feel pity for this people, because for three days they have been following Me and have not eaten. If I send them away to their homes without eating, they will faint on the way; and some came from very far! In Jesus’ concern there are two important things: a) People forget home and food and follow Jesus to the desert! This is a sign that Jesus aroused great sympathy, up to the point that people followed Him into the desert and remained with Him three days! b) Jesus does not ask them to solve the problem. He only expresses His concern to the disciples. It seems to be a problem without a solution.
Mark 8: 4: The reaction of the disciples: the first misunderstanding. The disciples then think of a solution, according to which someone had to bring bread for the people. It does not even occur to them that the solution could come from the people themselves. They say: And how could we feed all these people in the desert? In other words, they think of a traditional solution. Someone has to find the money, buy bread and distribute it to the people. They themselves perceive that, in that desert, to buy bread, this solution is not possible, but they see no other possibility to solve the problem. That is, if Jesus insists in not sending the people back to their homes, there will be no way to feed them!
Mark 8:5-7: The solution found by Jesus. First of all, He asks how much bread they have: seven loaves! Then He orders the people to sit down. Then, He takes those seven loaves of bread, gives thanks, breaks them and gives them to the disciples to distribute; and they distribute them to the crowds. And He does the same thing with the fish. As in the first multiplication (Mk 6: 41), the way in which Mark describes Jesus’ attitude, recalls the Eucharist. The message is this: participation in the Eucharist should lead to the gift and to the sharing of bread with those who have no bread.
Mark 8: 8-10: The result: Everyone ate, they were satisfied and bread was left over! This was an unexpected solution, which began within the people, with the few loaves of bread that they had brought! In the first multiplication, twelve baskets of bread were left over; here, seven. In the first one, they served five thousand people. Here four thousand. In the first one there were five loaves of bread and two fish. Here, seven loaves of bread and a few fish.
The time of the dominant ideology. The disciples thought one way, Jesus thinks in another way. In the way of thinking of the disciples there is the dominant ideology, the common way of thinking of people. Jesus thinks in a different way. It is not by going with Jesus and living in a community that a person is already a saint and renewed. Among the disciples, the old mentality always emerges again, because the leaven of Herod and of the Pharisees (Mk 8:15), that is, the dominant ideology, had profound roots in the life of those people. The conversion requested by Jesus is a deep conversion. He wants to uproot the various types of leaven.
* The leaven of the community closed up in itself, without any openness. Jesus responds: The one who is not against is in favor! (Mk 9:39-40). For Jesus, what is important is not if the person forms part of the community or not, but if he/she is generous, available or not to do the good which the community has to do.
* The leaven of the group which considers itself superior to others. Jesus responds: You do not know what spirit animates you (Lk 9:55).
* The leaven of the mentality of class and of competition, which characterized the society of the Roman Empire and which permeated the small community which was just beginning. Jesus responds: Let the first one be the last one (Mk 9:35). This is the point on which He insists the most; it is the strongest point of His witness: “I have not come to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45; Mt 20: 28; Jn 13:1-16).
* The leaven of the mentality of the culture of the time. Jesus responds: Allow the little ones to come to me!. Jesus indicates that the little ones are the models of discipleship for adults: anyone who does not accept the kingdom of God as a child will not enter it (Lk 18:17).
The reading of the Gospel, done in community, can help us to change life and the vision and can help us to continue to convert ourselves and to be faithful to the words of Jesus.
4) Personal questions
We can always encounter misunderstandings with friends and enemies. What is the misunderstanding between Jesus and the disciples on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves? How does Jesus face this misunderstanding?
In your house, with your neighbors or in the community, have there been misunderstandings? How have you reacted?
Has your community had misunderstandings or conflicts with the civil or ecclesiastical authority? How did this happen?
What is the leaven which today prevents the realization of the Gospel and should be eliminated?
5) Concluding prayer
Lord, You have been our refuge from age to age.
Before the mountains were born,
before the earth and the world came to birth,
from eternity to eternity You are God. (Ps 90:1-2)