By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 8:1-10
1 In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, 2 “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3 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.” 4 His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 7 They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. 8 They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
My family enjoys the Dr. Seuss-esque story, Put Me in the Zoo, about a large animal (maybe a dog?) who wants to live in the zoo. To prove his worthiness, he does numerous tricks with his spots — turning them different colors, flying them around, etc. This is something like how I imagine Jesus in today’s gospel (hopefully not sacreligiously):
I fed the 5,000.
Now look at this!
I can also feed 4,000
with bread and some fish!
Because, really, didn’t he just do this? Didn’t he already prove himself to them as provider and Lord? Yes, yes he did. Even though his own apostles seem to have forgotten. Once again here is the bread and the fish, and the people in the wilderness who didn’t bring food with them, and the heavy baskets of leftovers.
Remember the Israelites constantly complaining about their food in the wilderness: nothing to eat, no meat, no cucumbers and garlic? Although God hates their complaints, he feeds them, literally every day. Or when David and his men are hungry, so they eat the Bread of the Presence? Or when Elijah flees into the wilderness and angels come to him with food? When Jesus institutes the Eucharist, what does he choose but once again to feed us? So it is when he feeds the 4,000. Yes, he just did that, but he wants to do it again. He delights to feed us. He delights, and he wants us to delight, because even when we get hungry over and over again every day, he doesn’t get tired of us. His love is inexhaustible, and he always has more than enough to feed us.
Like all our ancestors before us, we tend to forget — when we’re hungry, when the task before us seems impossible — that we’ve done this before. He’s done this for us before. So isn’t it beautiful that when he feeds us with himself, he says, “Remember?” Today, remember that he loves you, maybe most especially when you’re hungry.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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