During this account of the miracle in Mark's Gospel we are told that the
disciples had encouraged Jesus to dismiss the crowd because - from
their limited perspective - they did not see how they could feed these
hungry people, even with two hundred days wages. They did not see the situation with the eyes of living faith. They did not receive the people as a gift. In
His Sacred Humanity, Jesus was moved with compassion for the crowd. The
Greek root of the word for compassion means "to suffer with". The
disciples viewed the matter - and the people in need - as a problem.
They approached it all through a lens of economic scarcity. Jesus
understood the economy of heaven.
The question He asks of all of us today is - do we?
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is recorded in all four gospels, emphasizing its significance. As is often the case, each of the four evangelists focuses on a particular aspect of the miracle - in order to emphasize for the reader the significance and implication of the event in their own lives.
St. Mark's account carries the theme I seek to focus upon in this article. That is why I offer it below for your reflection and prayer. It reveals the ongoing impact of the miracle and connects the miracle with the experience of the apostles immediately following the event.
"People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.
"When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
"He said to them in reply, "Give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Are we to buy two hundred days' wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?" He asked them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they had found out they said, "Five loaves and two fish." So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties.
"Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to (his) disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish.
"Those who ate (of the loaves) were five thousand men. Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake.
"He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (St. Mark 6:31-52)
During this account of the miracle in Mark's Gospel we are told that the disciples had encouraged Jesus to dismiss the crowd because - from their limited perspective - they did not see how they could feed these hungry people, even with two hundred days wages.
They did not see the situation with the eyes of living faith. They did not receive the people as a gift.
In His Sacred Humanity, Jesus was moved with compassion for the crowd. The Greek root of the word for compassion means "to suffer with". The disciples viewed the matter - and the people in need - as a problem. They approached it all through a lens of economic scarcity. Jesus understood the economy of heaven.
The question He asks of all of us today is - do we?
Jesus asked the disciples a simple question: "what do you have?" The disciples did not understand. They had been invited to participate in God's work by simply giving what they had in a Holy Exchange.
When they finally did, Jesus used the matter given by men, five loaves and two fish, to manifest the manna of heaven. He still does. The next day the instruction and the experience continued. We find them in the boat fishing. We find Jesus praying.
Their placement in the "boat" in the story was a favorite image for the early church fathers. It was seen as a figure of the ark of the Old Covenant and the ark of the New Covenant, which is the Church.
It is this Church, this communion of persons joined in Jesus through Baptism, which He came to found and over which He would later install these men in apostolic office. It is this Church, of which we are members, which continues His redemptive mission until He returns.
That is one of the many reasons why this lesson is so vitally important to learn.
The disciples needed to "understand about the loaves"- and so do we. In fact, we need to learn to live the miracle in our own daily lives. This kind of understanding only comes from communion with the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit. It is the fruit of a living, dynamic and authentic faith.
Jesus invited the disciples to believe that when they have Him, they have everything. Yet, here in a storm, they fled to the familiar, the fear of the circumstances. So powerful were their fears that they prevented them from even recognizing God Incarnate as He passed right before them! They thought He was a ghost!
How crippling our own fears can become when we do not commune in prayer but rely on ourselves and our mere human effort. They had not understood about the loaves. Do we?
Like the disciples, we are invited to live our lives now in and with the Lord. He has been raised from the dead and continues His work in and through His Body, the Church, of which we are members. Faith is a light that is meant to preside over our entire lives, even during those storms that inevitably come. When it does, we will see Jesus right there in the midst of the storm with us.
We will also come to experience authentic peace, even in apparent turmoil, as we learn to navigate the waters of daily life. The Lord heard the cry of the poor as it issued from the mouths of his own disciples and He spoke these beautiful words: "Take Courage it is I: Don't Be Afraid".
In addition, we will learn how to live our lives in the economy of heavenly scale. Jesus simply asks us to take the goods which we have been given - whether they be financial, spiritual, practical, relational or the gifts entrusted to us - and place them in His Holy Hands. They are all gifts to be given. There, they will be multiplied and given back to feed the crowds. Always with more than enough left over to provide for every one of our own needs.
St Joemaria Escriva wrote these insightful words in The Forge:
Our Lord wants to make us co-redeemers with him. That is why to help us understand this marvel, he moves the evangelists to tell us of so many great wonders. He could have produced bread from anything... but he doesn't! He looks for human co-operation: he needs a child, a boy, a few pieces of bread and some fish. He needs you and me: and he is God! This should move us to be generous in our corresponding with his grace.
If you help him, even with a trifle, as the Apostles did, He is ready to work miracles; to multiply the bread, to reform wills, to give light to the most benighted minds, to enable those who have never been upright to be so, with an extraordinary grace. All this he will do... and more, if you will help him with what you have. (The Forge 674,675)
We are invited to learn to understand the loaves today. Living faith can open our eyes to see all of life differently and participate in the continuing miracle.
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