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Gospel text (Mk 6, 34-44):
As Jesus went ashore he saw a large crowd, and he had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began a long teaching session with them. It was now getting late, so his disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place and it is now late. You should send the people away and let them go to the farms and villages around here to buy themselves something to eat". Jesus replied, "You yourselves give them something to eat". They answered, "If we are to give them food, we must go and buy two hundred silver coins' worth of bread". But Jesus said, "You have some loaves: how many? Go and see". The disciples found out and said, "There are five loaves and two fish".
Then he told them to have the people sit down together in groups on the green grass. This they did in groups of hundreds and fifties. And Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish and, raising his eyes to heaven, he pronounced a blessing, broke the loaves and handed them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them. They all ate and everyone had enough. The disciples gathered up what was left and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces of bread and fish. Five thousand men had eaten there.
"They were like sheep without a shepherd"
Today, Jesus shows Himself to be sensitive to the needs of people who are in search of Him. He just cannot remain indifferent to the needs of those he meets on the way. He feels compassion when He sees the great crowd that has been following Him "like sheep without a shepherd" (Mk 6:34). The Master leaves His immediate plans aside and starts preaching. How many times have we allowed urgency or impatience manage our behavior? How many times have we not wanted to change our plans in order to help with immediate and unforeseen needs? Jesus gives us an example of flexibility, of the ability to modify plans and be available for the people who follow Him.
Time goes by quickly. When you love, it is easy for time to go by very quickly. And Jesus, who loves much, preaches at length. It gets late, the disciples remind the Master so. What worries them is how the crowd is going to feed itself. Then Jesus makes an implausible proposal: "You yourselves give them something to eat" (Mk 6:37). He is not only worried about spiritual bread but also about bodily food. The disciples find it difficult, very difficult. And it is true!: the cost would be "two hundred silver coins' worth of bread" (Mk 6:37). They see the material difficulties, but their eyes do not still recognize that He who speaks to them is almighty; they need more faith.
Jesus does not make them stand in line, he organizes them in groups. They rest and share together as a community. He asked the disciples for the food they had: only five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes them, invokes God's blessing and distributes them. Such a small amount of food will feed thousands of people and twelve baskets will exceed. This miracle introduces the spiritual bread of the Eucharist. The Bread of life that spreads freely to all the people of the Earth in order to give life and eternal life.
Fr. Xavier SOBREVÍA i Vidal
Audio: January 8th (Weekdays of the Christmas season)
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