November 28, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today is from Mark 8:1-9.
In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, he summoned the disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Still he asked them “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied. He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. 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. They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over — seven baskets. There were about four thousand people.
This is Mark’s second story of the loaves and fishes. The principle distinction that scholars have noted is that the first crowd was largely Jewish and the second probably Gentile.
What strikes me here is the attitude of the disciples. They had already witnessed the first miracle that Jesus performed with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Why didn’t they assume that Jesus would do it again? I think it was because their preoccupation was their own well being. They had seven loaves of bread and a few fish among them — enough to appease their hunger until the next day when they could move on and replenish their supplies. Instead of offering what they had to the great crowd spread out before them, they wanted to keep the little amount of food they had to themselves — and, besides, these were Gentiles, others not the chosen people of God. In the first account, the disciples’ excuse was that they didn’t have enough money to buy food for the crowd. This time their excuse is that there is no bread to be found in this deserted place. Their perspective was one of scarcity while Jesus’ was one of abundance.
I wrote an article several years ago for a professional journal. “Abundance…describes a state of mind, an attitude, or a paradigm. There are people who give and those who don’t. Among those who do, some are extraordinarily generous in proportion to their financial wealth. They exemplify what author Stephen Covey terms ‘the abundance mentality (which) flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody…. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.'”
I think that’s what Jesus is teaching me here. God has provided enough for us all. He calls us to approach life with an attitude of abundance, the certain faith that there is enough for us all. That means I have to share with others. I have to get beyond the disciples’ preoccupation with their own well being, feeding themselves first. I have to have compassion for those with less or nothing just like Jesus. I have to feel more than just pity; I have to take action. This advent season, of course, is an obvious time to do so. I am presented with many opportunities to act on the belief that there is plenty for everyone, that there is enough for my own needs and to share with others. I prayed at Thanksgiving as I do everyday in thanks for the blessings that God showers upon me. His love and generosity toward me is certainly abundant; He wants me to emulate Him and to share that abundance. That is how I can thank Him most sincerely instead of worrying if there is going to be enough for myself, letting my attitude of abundance overcome my fear of scarcity.