Homily Mk 8,1-10 (Feeding of the 4,ooo)
Jesus took compassion upon the four thousand, and had his disciples feed them with only seven
loaves of bread – substantial, country-baked bread, we may hope – well, we find at least two different events when something like this happened, and I wonder if the disciples close enough to hear him were a different bunch each time, or if his disciples in general were something like myself, and a little slow to learn. It’s not a small event, feeding thousands of people with a few loaves, and doing it at least twice surely had a purpose.
However, something new caught my attention this time around, as I read the account, something implicit and a bit obscure. It’s a favorite topic of mine, one I’m forever re-learning, and sometimes mention, so I hope it won’t be too annoying for you, for me to point it out. I can’t help it; it’s what came to mind! And that would be: preparation.
You see, Jesus waited until the crowd had been with him for three days. On the first day, he didn’t have compassion and feed them. On the second day, he didn’t have compassion and feed them. It wasn’t till they were with him for three days, in the wilderness, or desert, or deserted places, that He finally had compassion and fed them. This begs the question “why?”. And that, of course, is because they had been feeding themselves the first two days, or went a bit hungry but didn’t mind. They were basically prepared to follow Him for quite a while. I think they’d heard He was given to wandering about, teaching in the wilderness; perhaps this was when it had already gotten too crowded when He’d teach and heal in the towns and villages – remember a couple times the crowds overflowed the house He’d be in, and no one else could get inside? His family would have to pass a message from outside, that they wanted to talk with him; or the friends of a paralytic would have to go around and climb up on the roof and open up a hole and lower the man down through the ceiling, for healing! So now he’s doing outdoor preaching – and still there are crowds, even from afar, willing to follow after Him.
It makes a world of good sense, if you hear of a famous preacher and healer out their in the wild country, to go prepared. There are some wild animals; there are bandits and robbers. Bring some friends and family with you, for strength. Bring some food, this may take two or three days!
But then, one runs low or runs clean out of food – so there became a good reason for Jesus to have
compassion on them, and to feed them.
God will provide – fair enough. Sometimes He provides with miracles; other times He provides by giving us the good sense to plan ahead a bit, and get ourselves ready. Preparation is not a bad thing.
Didn’t He tell us not to worry about what to eat or drink or wear? True enough; we’re not to become absorbed in following the latest fashion, in keeping up with the famous Jones family, and we’re not to get worried to where we cannot even pray. None of that avoidance prevents us, though, from looking ahead a bit, and planning a bit, and making ourselves ready, in the normal, usual way.
It’s not the focus of today’s passage, about the feeding of the four thousand, but it is implicit in the event. A few loaves, a few fish, and with these, four thousand people ate. It says “They ate, and were satisfied.” They ate enough. That’s another lesson we find, that’s only implicit: when we eat, or do ‘most anything, let it be enough to satisfy. It needn’t be more. We needn’t be gluttons, needn’t become overly filled; one can be content with a modest and moderate amount of food, and most often can be satisfied with a moderate, modest amount of perfection in our work. One can learn to enjoy contentment, without having to push so much that one over-does things.
The Boy Scouts have a motto that is famous: “Be prepared.” There’s a 67th Adjutant General
Battalion with the motto, “Prepared and Able.” (For Fr Theodore, there’s a 71st Airborne Brigade, with the motto, “Go, Texans! Go!”) . There’s a 320th Field Artillery Regiment with a motto, Volens et Potens (meaning, “Willing and Able”, which required preparation and plans). The 16th Aviation Battalion has“Parati Respondere”, or “Ready to Respond”. Mottos are popular! They are meant to reflect and re-enforce the values and traditions. I hear that among some devout folk, a good personal meditation ends by taking a “spiritual bouquet” as a reminder, a motto of the gifts received during the mediation. It might help with whatever one’s current spiritual work or endeavor one’s working on.