1) OPENING PRAYER
Father, Your Son became like us
when He revealed Himself in our nature;
help us to become more like Him,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) GOSPEL READING - MARK 6:34-44
When Jesus 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.
• It is always good to look at the context in which the text of the Gospel is found because it enlightens us to discover the meaning more fully. A bit before (Mk 6:17-19), Mark narrates the banquet of death, organized by Herod with the great people of Galilee, in the palace of the capital city, during which John the Baptist was killed. In today’s text, he describes the banquet of life promoted by Jesus with the hungry crowds of Galilee there in the desert. The contrast of this context is great and enlightens the text.
• In Mark’s Gospel, the multiplication of the loaves is very important. It is mentioned twice: here and in Mk 8:1-9. And Jesus Himself questions the disciples on the multiplication of the loaves (Mk 8:14-21). This is why it is worthwhile to observe and to reflect, so as to discover what exactly is the importance of the multiplication of the loaves.
• Jesus had invited the disciples to rest a bit in a place in the desert (Mk 6:31). The crowds noticed that Jesus had gone to the other side of the lake, and they followed Him and arrived there before He did (Mk 6:33). When Jesus, getting down from the boat, sees that large crowd waiting for Him, He becomes sad “because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. This phrase recalls the psalm of the Good Shepherd (Ps 23). Faced with these people without a shepherd, Jesus forgets to rest and begins to teach. He begins to be a shepherd. With His words, He guides the crowds in the desert of life; and in this way the crowd could sing, “The Lord is my Shepherd! There is nothing I shall want!” (Ps 23:1).
• Time went by and it began to be late and dark. The disciples were concerned and asked Jesus to send the people away. They affirm that there in the desert it is not possible to find anything to eat for so many people. Jesus says, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they were afraid: “Do you want us to go and buy bread for 200 denarii?” (that is, the salary of 200 days!). The disciples seek a solution outside the crowds, for the crowds. Jesus does not seek the solution outside, but rather within the crowd and for the crowd and He asks, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” The answer is, “Five loaves and two fish!” It is very little for so many people! Jesus orders the crowd to sit down in groups and asks the disciples to distribute the bread and the fish. Everybody ate enough to be satisfied!
• It is important to observe how Mark describes this fact: Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, raised His eyes to Heaven, pronounced the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to the disciples to distribute it. This way of speaking makes the communities think about what? No doubt, this made them think about the Eucharist. Because these same words will be used (even now) in the celebration of the Supper of the Lord. Thus Mark suggests that the Eucharist has to lead us to share. It is the Bread of Life which gives us courage and leads us to face the problems of people in a different way, not from outside, but from inside.
• In the way of describing the facts, Mark recalls the bible in order to illuminate the meaning of the facts. To feed the hungry crowds in the desert, Moses was the first one to do it (cf. Ex 16:1-36). And to ask the people to organize themselves and sit down in groups of 50 or 100 reminds us of the census of the people in the desert after they left Egypt (cf. Num 1-4). In this way, Mark suggests that Jesus is the new Messiah. The people of the communities knew the Old Testament, and for one who understands well, a few words suffice. In this way they discovered the mystery which surrounded the person of Jesus.
THOUGHTS TO PUT INTO PRACTICE
When we think of feeding the world, or of all the need in the world, it can be overwhelming and might either give us a reason to put it off until we have a solution, or throw up our hands in the face of such an enormous task. Mother Teresa (St Teresa of Calcutta) offered advice throughout her life on this. It is necessary to first love those in your family. Love begins at home.
Some families have someone who is suffering or lonely, yet we don't even have time to smile at them. “If you really want to be God's love in the world of today, begin to be God's love in your own home first.” You must be hope of eternal happiness to your husband, your wife, your child, your grandparents, parents, and whoever is connected to you. Even among co-workers in the office or at the job, can they see Jesus in you? So many people go to their office meetings to defend their interests, rather than serve for instance.
She once visited what would be a care home for the elderly. It had everything they needed and was quite beautiful, yet she noticed everybody was sad and looking towards the door. When she asked a sister why, she was told they spend their time expecting, hoping, that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They hurt because they are forgotten.
Another time, a rich man visited from another country and asked her if she wanted him to give up his big house and nice car. She said “no” - but go back and see some of the lonely people where you live. Take them in your nice car and invite them in and entertain them in your big house for a short time. Make your house a center for love! “And when you buy some clothes, buy one for a little less and use the extra money to buy something for someone else.”
These are ways to start.
4) PERSONAL QUESTIONS
• Jesus forgets to rest in order to serve the people. What example does this set for myself?
• If we shared what we have today, there would be no hunger in the world. What can I do?
• Am I personally involved in serving and loving others, or is my effort just symbolic gesture from me?
5) CONCLUDING PRAYER
In His days uprightness shall flourish,
and peace in plenty till the moon is no more.
His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,
from the river to the limits of the earth. (Ps 72:7-8)