I was reflecting during my prayer this morning on today’s Gospel, St. Mark’s account of the feeding of the multitude. Jesus has been teaching a large crowd and realizes they are hungry. With seven loaves of bread, he feeds all four thousand of them.
We tend to focus on the miracle aspect of this – how do we explain how four thousand (five thousand in other accounts) were fed with so few loaves. And that has certainly been true of me when I’ve focused on this passage in the past. But this morning when I read the passage, what struck me was not the miracle, but simply the feeding. People were hungry and Jesus fed them.
He didn’t say, “My teaching is more important than food. It won’t hurt them to go hungry for a while.”
He didn’t say, “They should have thought ahead and packed some food with them. If they had been more responsible they wouldn’t be hungry, so let them live with the consequences of their lack of foresight.”
He didn’t say, “Some of these people are freeloaders who just came for a free meal.”
He didn’t say, “There are a lot of people here with a lot more money than we have. Send them to find food.”
He didn’t say any of the things we might have been tempted to say in such a situation to avoid having to trouble ourselves with the need of others. And he didn’t ask any payment from anyone. He just fed them.
People were hungry and Jesus fed them.
Perhaps we ought to focus a bit more on that aspect of this reading and what it tells us about what it means to be as Jesus in the world.