Tuesday - Christmas Time
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
So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, 'This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, so send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.' He replied, 'Give them something to eat yourselves.' They answered, 'Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?' He asked, 'How many loaves have you? Go and see.' And when they had found out they said, 'Five, and two fish.' Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass, and they sat down on the ground in squares of hundreds and fifties. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing; then he broke the loaves and began handing them to his disciples to distribute among the people. He also shared out the two fish among them all.
They all ate as much as they wanted. They collected twelve basketfuls of scraps of bread and pieces of fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered 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 in order to discover better the sense of it. A bit before (Mk 6, 17-19), Mark narrates the banquet of death, organized by Herod with the great persons 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 worth while to observe and to reflect up to the point of discovering in what exactly consists 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 perceived 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). Before the people without a shepherd, Jesus forgets to rest and begins to teach, he begins to be a Shepherd. With his words he orientates and 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: “You, yourselves give them to eat!” But they were afraid: “Do you want us to go and buy bread for 200 denarius?” (that is, the salary of 200 days!). The disciples seek a solution outside the crowds and 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 enlighten the sense of the facts. To feed the hungry crowds in the desert, Moses was the first one to do it (cfr. 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 (cfr. Nb 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, few words suffice. In this way they discovered the mystery which surrounded the person of Jesus.
4) Personal questions
• Jesus forgets to rest in order to serve the people. Which is the message which I discover for myself?
• If today we would share what we have, there would be no hunger in the world. What can I do?
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)