Sunday, 11 January 2015


First impressions can be so wrong! I used to think St. Mark’s Gospel account of Christ’s Galilean ministry was very disorganised. To me it seemed like a haphazard collection of unrelated incidents! But further study made me realise I’d done the evangelist a great injustice. In fact he’d marshalled his material with greater skill.

The sea of Galilee would seem to separate the largely Jewish community on the western side from the mainly pagan people on the eastern bank. But by crossing the sea four times Jesus united the Jewish and pagan communities. If you like, Jesus Himself became the bridge spanning the gulf between them.
Mark balances the work Jesus did among each group. On both sides of the sea He cast out demons and cured many people. On each side of the sea there was a massive miracle: among the Jews Jesus restored the life of Jairus' little girl, while among the pagans He cast out a legion of demons, which then drove the Gaderene swine headlong to their destruction.
Most importantly, for Mark's readers and for us, Jesus miraculously fed crowds of both Jews and pagans on either side of the sea. Certainly that was a sign of His compassion for the crowds, which had been listening to His teaching. By the end of the day they were hungry and had nothing to eat. Jesus could have followed the apostles’ advice and sent them off to buy their own food. But that’s not what He did. Instead, He asked the apostles to share the little food, which was available –a few loaves and fishes. That proved to be more than enough, even for the large crowd. By this miracle Jesus foreshadowed the much greater miracle of His feeding the world with His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
The bread He gave them would foreshadow His gift of Himself in the sacrificial meal of the Eucharist. That meal would make present for us the crucifixion, through which Jesus gave His very life for the salvation of the world. Now we are nourished by the Body and Blood of our crucified and risen Lord. By feeding both Jews and Gentiles Jesus has shown that all are invited to the heavenly banquet of the Lord. Jesus died for everybody.
The unity between the converts from Judaism and paganism was signified by the mysterious incident in the boat. While still crossing the sea the apostles complained that they had nothing to eat –except a single loaf of bread. Jesus replied that that was sufficient. What is more, He was amazed that they didn’t understand the symbolism of His feeding first the Jewish crowd and then the Gentiles. After both occasions there was more than enough for everybody. If Jesus could provide for such numbers He could certainly satisfy the hunger of His few fishermen followers! So why the fuss!?

But more significant than that, the incident of the loaf took place while Jesus was crossing the Sea of Galilee to break down the barriers between Jew and Gentile. That single loaf represented the unity Jesus had come to establish and which was foreshadowed through His miraculously feeding both the Jewish and Gentile crowds. Jesus would die for both of them. He would nourish both of them with the Bread of Life, as symbolised by the two miraculous feedings and the single loaf of bread! In His very person Jesus Himself would unite these hostile peoples. The barriers between Jews and Gentiles were broken down when they became Christians.

Whatever our background we should all be united in receiving the one Eucharistic Bread, Jesus Christ as foreshadowed by a single loaf in a small boat on the Sea of Galilee!

Isidore O.P.

1 comment:

  1. I have not visited this site for a while but it's like coming home!
    What seems wonderful to me is that I can visit any Catholic Church in the world and be offered God's Body even though I am a complete stranger. That seems to me a miracle of trust, sharing and brotherhood!