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Immersed in Christ: February 13, 2021

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Mark 8:1-10. Year I: Genesis 3:9-24; Psalm 90:2-13. Year II: IKings 12:26-34; Psalm 106:6-22.

(For quotes and references below, see Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968).

Mark wrote for Gentiles (an “audience” because they couldn’t read, but heard his Gospel read to them). His first account of the multiplication of the loaves (6:35-44, skipped in the Mass readings), was filled with details that showed Jesus was feeding a Jewish crowd. His second account shows him in Gentile territory feeding the nations. Both accounts are previews and images of Eucharist. The parallel between the words and gestures of Jesus here and at the Last Supper is obvious in both, but the second is closer to Paul’s letter to the Gentile Corinthians (see 8:6 & 1Corinthians 11:24)

What is the good news here? First, that Jesus extends to the Gentiles everything Eucharist was presented in the first account as being for the Jews: the promised “rest” (6:3 & Deuteronomy 3:20); God’s presence to them in the desert (6:31-44 & Exodus 16:1-35); shepherding and feeding his flock (6:34 & Ezekiel 34:5); leading them to “green pastures” (6:39 & Psalm 23:2); organizing them (6:40 & Exodus 18:25), as the Dead Sea scroll (1QSa) says he will at the Messianic banquet); and the promise of the messianic abundance (6:42 & Isaiah 49:10, Psalm 132:15).

Using the same word (apolu: “send / sent them away”) at the beginning and end “brackets” the passage. In the opening Jesus does not want to send away the people lest they “give out” or “collapse” on the way. This verb is used only in Matthew 15:32; Galatians 6:9; and Hebrews 12:3,5, where it “has the connotation of slackening in one’s Christian faith.” At the end he sends them out in the spirit of the Ite, missa est at Mass. Eucharist is our strength.

We could say that the whole of the Good News is contained in the Eucharistic celebration. There, over a three-year cycle, passages from the whole Bible are presented to feed us with the word of God. There the mystery of our redemption — Christ’s dying and rising, and our inclusion in his sacrifice through Baptism — is made present to us so that we might be reminded of its promises, reaffirm our faith and recommit with unlimited hope and love to our responsibilities as the continuing presence of Jesus on earth. And there Jesus feeds us with the new “manna in the desert,” his own body and blood, the Bread of Life. The Mass is the renewal of the Covenant, on God’s side and ours, with everything that entails.

Initiative: Appreciate Eucharist. If you listen to the words at Mass you will.

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