Good morning, happy Tuesday, and many blessings.
In this Gospel (Mark 8:14-21) Jesus puts no less than nine questions, one after the other, to his disciples. They had been witnesses to two extraordinary events: five thousand people fed with five loaves and four thousand with seven. The disciples were all Israelites who knew the story of how the Lord their God had fed their ancestors with manna in the desert. Yet they do not seem to have grasped the implication of the miracle they had just witnessed nor the divine identity of the One putting the questions to them.
Jesus is angry at the disciples’ inability to grasp who he really is. They cannot understand what he is capable of doing for them. He fires pointed questions at them, yet we can imagine them asking at the end, ‘What is it that we do not yet understand?’ They can’t break out of their all-too-human view of Jesus. And even after 2,000 years of Christianity, can I?
However, Jesus channels his anger in a constructive and challenging way. He asks the poor disciples nine pointed questions. Like the disciples, I too can be dull, mediocre, half-alive, confused. The divine drama is being played out around me, but I do not seem to know my God-given part in it.
Finally, Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand?”. Understanding, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is given to us to make sense of what is happening around us all the time. Let us ask for an increase in that understanding.
The disciples seem to still have one-track minds – fantasizing scenes of future political glory which seemed to be heralded by the popularity of Jesus in the wake of the miracle of the feeding the four thousand. When he tries to warn them against the expectations raised by the Pharisees and by Herod (yeast was the raising-agent used in baking) – they can only hear his words as something like a warning against themselves again running short of bread.
What they are missing out on is this: The only real future is the future that has already arrived before their eyes (and not any good-time future offered by politicians) – The Lord Of The Future is already present among them: how else is one to explain the sheer liberality of the mass-feeding that has happened before their very eyes?
Could these insistent questions of Jesus be addressed to me? I take these moments of prayer and ask Jesus to be honest with me. What questions does he ask me as his disciple? ‘Is your faith bland? Do you know what is it like to live by the gospel? If you want to be alive, why not follow me closely? You are limitlessly loved – do you know that? You are my friend and I want us to be close: but do you? Can you believe that the world needs you? I am offering you a new way of living: let’s go!’ Do I respond: ‘Jesus, do in me what needs to be done to set me in fire!’