Frequently in the gospels stories are repeated. The reason for this is that it is important to recite for sacramental reasons, and sometimes when the congregation is mostly Gentiles and the evangelist wants them to know what happened on behalf of Jews in Galilee.
In Mark’s Gospel the crowds are with Jesus for three days. When Jesus reflected on this he realized the crowds had been without food for those three days. Mark says Jesus’s heart is filled with pity/ compassion. The Disciples see this same event and they suggest that Jesu tell the crowd to go and find food for them-selves. When Jesus says: They have been with me for three days. Jesus also saw if he sent the people to go and search for food they were so weak already that they would collapse. Jesus asks the disciples what resources they had and they tell him they had five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Jesus also saw that the people were hungry not just for their bodies, but food for their spirits. Jesus says they are like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus and the crowd understood this to mean something even more profound. Jesus says their spiritual leaders, i.e. Their teachers, but also the Pharisees, scribes, and the rabbis. They killed the spirit of Moses and left the people with rigidity and letter of the law teachings.
Jesus asks the crowds to recline and enjoy the food readied for them. When the disciples collected the left overs, they had twelve baskets filled with food.
Mark suggests the faith of the Disciples was not as strong as was hoped for by Jesus. Like the disciples we need to know the gifts we have received should be shared as gifts from God. In Mark gifts are given to be shared. Our most important experience in life are crises where there is very little we can so for one another, but be there. There are extraordinary moments in life which we can’t always wait for.
The Gospel tells us we have to constantly allow ourselves to be available to our family, friends, neighbors, etc. Like Jesus’s compassion it is a virtue which never forgets the details of life, e.g. three days, the collapsing for the search for food in this deserted place. He saw what the Disciples missed in the crowd. For Jesus the crowds were lost souls in tired bodies. We are called to serve them.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is the local superior at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.