Monday, January 03, 2011

Gospel for Tuesday after Epiphany

Memorial (U.S.A.): St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Married Woman, Religious

From: Mark 6:34-44

First Miracle of the Loaves
[34] As he (Jesus) landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. [35] And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; [36] send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat." [37] But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." And they said to him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" [38] And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." And when they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." [39] Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. [40] So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. [41] And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. [42] And they all ate and were satisfied. [43] And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. [44] And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

34. Our Lord had planned a period of rest, for himself and his disciples, from the pressures of the apostolate (Mk 6:31-32). And he has to change his plans because so many people come, eager to hear him speak. Not only is he not annoyed with them: he feels compassion on seeing their spiritual need. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos 4:6). They need instruction and our Lord wants to meet this need by preaching to them. "Jesus is moved by hunger and sorrow, but what moves him most is ignorance" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 109).

37. A denarius was what an artisan earned for a normal day's work. The disciples must, therefore, have thought it little less than impossible to fulfill the Master's command, because they would not have had this much money.

41. This miracle is a figure of the Holy Eucharist: Christ performed it shortly before promising that sacrament (cf. Jn 6:1ff), and the Fathers have always so interpreted it. In this miracle Jesus shows his supernatural power and his love for men--the same power and love as make it possible for Christ's one and only body to be present in the eucharistic species to nourish the faithful down the centuries. In the words of the sequence composed by St Thomas Aquinas for the Mass of Corpus Christi: "Sumit unus, sumunt mille, quantum isti, tantum ille, nec sumptus consumitur" (Be one or be a thousand fed, they eat alike that living bread which, still received, ne'er wastes away).

This gesture of our Lord--looking up to heaven--is recalled in the Roman canon of the Mass: "Et elevatis oculis in caelum, ad Te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem" (and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father). At this point in the Mass we are preparing to be present at a miracle greater than that of the multiplication of the loaves--the changing of bread into his own body, offered as food for all men.

42. Christ wanted the left-overs to be collected (cf. Jn 6:12) to teach us not to waste things God gives us, and also to have them as a tangible proof of the miracle.

The collecting of the leftovers is a way of showing us the value of little things done out of love for God--orderliness, cleanliness, finishing things completely. It also reminds the sensitive believer of the extreme care that must be taken of the eucharistic species. Also, the generous scale of the miracle is an _expression of the largesse of the messianic times. The Fathers recall that Moses distributed the manna for each to eat as much as he needed but some left part of it for the next day and it bred worms (Ex 16:16-20). Elijah gave the widow just enough to meet her needs (1 Kings 17:13-16). Jesus, on the other hand, gives generously and abundantly.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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