February 15, 2020
by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 334

1 Kings 12:26-32; 13:33-34
Psalms 106:6-7AB, 19-20, 21-22
Mark 8:1-10

Praying Ordinary Time

I am writing this reflection for a friend who wasn't able to do it. I am so glad. It gave me the opportunity to chew the gospel and hear it anew.

I like to watch Jesus and to see how he reacts to people. In this situation, his heart goes out to the people who have been out in a deserted place to hear him and find themselves with a journey home without food. I identify with the situation. I have found myself reluctant to follow Jesus out to a deserted place, for fear I might starve to death there. My self-sufficiency has keep me, at times, from encountering Jesus out to a special place he is trying to lead me.

The disciples give up, in the face of this seemingly impossible situation. They point out the obvious. They couldn't possibly feed this crowd and there is no place to get enough food, even if they wanted to. I identify with them. I've felt sent/missioned to a place or situation which seems overwhelming. I've observed the obvious. This isn't doable. There doesn't seem to be any room for grace here.

Jesus just asks what they do have. Seven loaves and a few fish. Jesus does what he will do in the Eucharist each time we celebrate it. "Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd." The people "ate and were satisfied." And from the seven loaves there were seven baskets of leftovers.

A miracle for sure, but also a message. When we feel empty and discouraged - in whatever situation we find ourselves - we can bring what we have - no matter how poor it seems - and Jesus with take it and bless it and break it to be distributed. I can't recount the number of times I've experienced my poverty in doing something and discovered that when I surrendered my control of it all and let go to let Jesus work through me, the result was far beyond what I could have accomplished on my own. Seven baskets of leftovers more.

We might be tempted to respond that we've experienced turning something over to Jesus and didn't get what we hoped, or didn't experience any "miracle." I have had that experience as well. I think that is when we bring our brokenness and weariness and fragility and inability to dare to hope any more to the Eucharist. That is where Jesus takes our ordinary offering and transforms it to feed us with his body and blood. He feeds us with his sacrifice of himself on the Cross. He nourishes us with the gift of life everlasting. It is his mercy on my sin and the sins of the world. And, it is his holy communion with us that not only comforts us - that we know we are not alone - but consecrates us with a union with him which allows us to be like him, even with him, in bringing faith and life to other discouraging desert situations. When I move from "Where's my miracle?" to giving thanks and praise for receiving the gift of union with Jesus in the Eucharist, grace happens. And, there will be seven baskets of leftovers.

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